Peter Thiel is famously loyal to his employees and vice versa. Many of the dozens of people employed by his venture firm, Founders Fund, once worked for Thiel at his hedge fund, Clarium Capital. He even cofounded a late-stage venture firm, Mithril Capital, with one former Clarium managing director, Ajay Royan.
Little wonder, then, that Thiel is reportedly pulling one principal at Founders Fund – Trae Stephens – into President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team, which Thiel himself officially joined two weeks ago. According to Bloomberg, Stephens, who isn’t expected to take a role in the administration, will help shape defense and vet Defense Department staff.
Stephens’s addition to team seems both peculiar and perfectly unsurprising at once. A comparative studies graduate from Georgetown, Stephens held a couple of internships in Washington as an undergraduate student, then joined LexisNexis as a data analyst for two years, and spent the next five-and-a-half years as an engineer with the Founders Fund-backed analytics company Palantir Technologies before joining Founders Fund itself in January 2014.
In short, Stephens may be very smart. But like Thiel and numerous other members of Trump’s transition team – including Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner; his children, Eric, Donald, and Ivanka Trump; hedge fund manager Anthony Scaramucci, and surgeon Ben Carson (who has been offered a post as head of Department of Housing and Urban Development and is still mulling whether or not to take it) — Stephens lacks any meaningful government experience.
Nor is it surprising that one of his newest colleagues on Trump’s transition team should come from within one of his own companies. Not only does Thiel highly value his own hiring capabilities, but he’s reportedly having trouble enlisting the help of others in Silicon Valley who operate outside the confines of those circles.
According to a recent Washington Post report, Thiel has been “carrying around an iPad with an editable list of possible candidates” for Trump’s administration, and on his short list are Blake Masters, who co-authored the business book “Zero to One” with Thiel; Joe Lonsdale, who founded Palantir with Thiel; and Jack Abraham, a serial entrepreneur who is executive director of the Thiel Fellowship.”
According to that same Washington Post report, others have turned Thiel down out of distaste over how Trump campaigned and fear that association with Trump could have toxic repercussions on their own businesses.
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