Back to School – My First Class Since Graduating 4 Years Ago

I was never the student that actually completed the readings before lecture. It was always way too many pages and there were better things to do with my time like playing soccer in the hallway. I am now that student.

This quarter I am taking Stanford’s CS183. The title of the course is “Startup”, which sounds right up my alley. Here is the course description:

Conception, launch, scaling, and growing of a successful tech company. Bridging the subjects of engineering, science, business, finance, and world history, topics will include: the technology revolution of the 20th century and prior eras; the economics of business; founding a startup; the importance of team vision and passion; long-term strategic planning; building a successful founding team; financing and the VC perspective; secrecy vs. openness; recruiting, managing growth, marketing, regulation and other operational topics. Assignments are designed to explore key concepts at greater depth, using real-world and hypothetical example companies. Inner accounts from the early days of startups including PayPal, Google and Facebook will be used as case studies. The class will be taught by entrepreneurs who have started companies worth over $1B and VCs who have invested in startups including Facebook and Spotify. Students can expect to be proficient in the core skills critical to the founding and growing of a tech company upon completion of this course.

Sure sounds interesting, but there are plenty of interesting courses, none of which I have actually attended since graduating in 2008. So what made this such a compelling opportunity that I wasn’t going to let it slip? The course is taught by Peter Thiel, one of the biggest ballers in the Silicon Valley. The guy drops knowledge like Snoop drops hot items.

Yes, I am finally willing to admit my intellectual man crush on Peter Thiel. And if you are reading this, I think you would probably like him as well. He is a free thinker that isn’t afraid to state his mind in a time that groupthink and conformity reign supreme. But what separates him from other freethinkers is that he is a man of industry rather than a politician or behind the scenes puppet-master (like many other billionaires). He has founded two billion dollar companies (Paypal and Palantir) and been heavily involved in another (Facebook).

Here are some readings to check out to get a feel for what Peter Thiel is all about:

Let me know if you are interested learning some of the nuggets of wisdom that Professor Thiel teaches in class.

Question for you: do you have any intellectual man/woman crushes?

Bonus points from me: dude likes New Zealand

No, I did not add the flowers to that picture. I think it is really how it was shot! Source

11 thoughts on “Back to School – My First Class Since Graduating 4 Years Ago

  1. Scott H says:

    Good for you and your crazy ambition! As for your question: I have a pretty serious mancrush on Neil deGrasse Tyson. That man is outta this world.

    • Skinner says:

      With that glowing recommendation I will have to learn all about him. He does look familiar … I probably saw him on Colbert or the Daily Show years ago!

  2. Analise M. says:

    I just discovered that you have a blog– This is so cool. I would say I have a literary crush on Nathaniel Hawthorne. I find Peter Thiel incredibly interesting— I watched a bunch of Peter Thiel’s youtube interviews after I learned about him in The Social Network. That class sounds incredible.

  3. Matt D says:

    My one issue with him – well, two, related, is that (1) he seems like an egomaniac who actually needs constant reminders of how great he is because of his success, and (2) he seems elitist and happy to say “I only win if you lose and I’m going to win”

    • Skinner says:

      No doubt the man is flawed, but a flawed man is nothing to write home about. And almost everyone has created their own success is some form of egomaniac, otherwise they would be fine on the standard path everyone takes. I’m curious where you see his need for constant reminders of how great he is? I’d posit that he needs people to tell him how crazy his ideas are so that he can feel like enough of a contrarian.

      He is definitely elitist and extremely competitive – I’m not sure I’d personally knock him for those either. It does appear that his recent investment philosophy is in technology that will change the world for the better rather than just making a buck (globalization). But while not selfish, it’s not necessarily selfless.

  4. Blindy says:

    Skins, you paying for this course? Sneaking in and sitting in the back of the lecture hall? Are you going to try and look as much like an undergrad as you can to blend in?

    • Skinner says:

      I will be doubling, maybe even tripling my alumni donation this year. There are a couple hundred people so no sneaking required, plus I naturally blend!

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