Who Is Eduardo Saverin?

Question: Who is Eduardo Saverin?

Peter Thiel: Eduardo was one of the early people at Facebook. He worked with Zuckerburg in getting the site started, and was responsible for trying to get advertising revenues for the company in 2004, and also helped provide some of the very early seed capital in getting the business started.

Question: What kind of capitalism is it that cuts Eduardo Saverin out of Facebook?

Peter Thiel: I think the portrayal of the film is probably slightly too favorable to Eduardo and slightly too unfavorable toward the people who actually put in the incredibly hard work of building Facebook over many, many years. It is sort of a bit of a caricature of capitalism, that it’s always this zero-sum game where you have winners and losers. That is certainly the way a lot of Hollywood works, where it is this thing where there are only so many celebrities, and you can only become a new celebrity by tearing somebody else down. Silicon Valley, the technology industry at its best, creates a situation where everybody can be a winner. I think Facbook is an extreme example of this where all the people, the early employees, the late employees, the investors, and the world as a whole has benefited tremendously. All the stakeholders have done really well, including Eduardo. The issue the movie was alluding to was in the summer of 2004, when I invested in Facebook. It was structured as a partnership, which is not a way you can actually build a tech company, where everybody has a fixed equity percentage. You need to have some flexibility. You need to have vesting schedules, where the people actually working on the company get equity overtime. So, a lot of effort was spent reorganizing the company from a partnership into a corporation. And I think this sort of structural reorganization where Sean Parker played a critical role in the summer of ’04 was indispensable towards creating this much, much larger company that exists today, in which Eduardo’s stake is worth far more than it otherwise would have been. Well, I think Eduardo has made on the order of a billion dollars at current Facebook valuation, and he should see that as he has done incredibly well and he should try to figure out a way to invest that money and contribute it to things that will make the world a better place in the decades ahead.

Recorded November 15, 2010
Interviewed by Victoria Brown

 

***

 

Correction.  On the morning of November 19, 2010, we put up the wrong video take of Peter Thiel's answers to the questions "Who Is Eduardo Saverin?" and "What kind of capitalism is it that cuts Eduardo Saverin out of Facebook?"  The correct take—and corresponding transcript—were put up the evening of November 19, 2010.  The transcript of the correct take replaces the transcript below:

Question: Who is Eduardo Saverin?

Peter Thiel:  He was a student at Harvard who was affiliated, quasi-employed at Facebook in 2004.

Question: What kind of capitalism is it that cuts Eduardo Saverin out of Facebook?

Peter Thiel:  Well, it is the kind of caricature of capitalism that one sees in Hollywood, where... I think the movie was wrong on many levels.  It was basically a description of sort of a zero-sum world that is mainly the way Hollywood works, where people gained at the expense of other people.  You know I think Face... the story of Facebook has been one where it’s been an incredible positive sum gain for everybody involved for the investors, for the employees, and for the world at large.  All the stakeholders have really gained tremendously.   

You know, I don’t think... I don’t think that Eduardo was cut out.  You know, he was not doing his job. And therefore you know... his job was to sell advertisement for Facebook and he was not remotely doing that job.  You know, he ended up making a lot of money because he was partially involved and had helped in some small financial ways in getting the site started at the very beginning at Harvard.  But I think the overall context of it was that it is a story where he did extraordinarily well relative to what he had done and I think there’s a very... there’s a very different perspective on it.

Hollywood caricatures capitalism as a zero-sum game. But all of Facebook's stakeholders have done extraordinarily well—including Eduardo Saverin.

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