Last week at Dublin Tech Summit, I had the pleasure of spending some time with Fred Thiel. I am sure many of you reading this will see his surname and be curious whether Fred is related to Pay Pal co-founder Peter Thiel, however, he isn’t and the surname is very common amongst people of German, Dutch or Scandinavian descent, So maybe there’s some shared lineage, but they most definitely aren’t closely related, although coincidentally Fred does have a brother called Peter, so if he were to say yes when many people ask him, he would be telling the truth.
Fred is a seasoned professional with over 30 years experience building high-performance businesses, internationally and in the U.S. His expertise in industrial technology, including IoT (Internet of Things), digital transformations of industries and businesses, mobile technologies, smart systems, and predictive analytics, helps companies create value through innovation and revenue growth.
As Founder and Chief Advisor of Thiel Advisors, Fred works directly with CEO’s, Boards of Directors, Venture Capital and Private Equity firms, understandably due to NDA’s Fred is unable to disclose his clients, although he is listed on his Linkedin profile as an Advisor for EQT Partners, who are a Swedish Private Equity Group with €31Bn AUM, so I feel that gives a good indication of the level of client that Fred works with.
I had the privilege to spend a year of my own career based at the London office of the Abraaj Group, who are the world’s leading private equity firm in growth markets, with US$10Bn AUM, I worked alongside and experienced first-hand the level of talent within leading PE Groups, which is at a world elite level, so I understand that Top Tier PE funds only seek advice from the world’s sharpest minds and experts, based on my time with Fred, I am certain his extensive knowledge and experience would be invaluable for almost any organisation.
Thiel Advisors helps clients benefit from disruptive trends affecting industries globally including Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation. Working with management teams and boards of directors to evaluate, develop and execute strategies to transform and grow operating businesses and product lines, drive innovation initiatives, and leverage technology to create new revenue and value streams to generating growth in revenues and value.
Their PE/VC practice helps develop and execute investment theses and growth strategies for portfolio and target companies, working primarily with middle market growth oriented PE firms with > $1B AUM across a wide variety of sectors and VC firms focused on technology and technology-enabled businesses and their Leadership and Excellence practice mentors and coaches a limited group of CEOs and boards of directors on developing best in class organisations across all disciplines.
— Fred Thiel (@fgthiel) February 15, 2017
Fred, it’s a pleasure to catch up with you and thanks for taking the time for the interview.
You’re welcome! My pleasure.
Can you give our readers some background on what it you have done in the past and what you do now?
I spent nearly 30 years either building or leading and transforming technology companies across nearly all sectors of s/w, systems, data coms, storage, digital media, Internet, online and video games, ad tech and search. I also spent 6 years as the managing partner of a boutique PE firm running their s/w and IT investing practice, after which I became an advisor to leading global PE/VC firms and corporate clients and on the topics of strategic value creation, deal rationale, investment themes, management team and board effectiveness, and sit on numerous boards of directors. I’ve created nearly $1B in value for shareholders over the years.
Your career spans 30 years, what is your most challenging professional experience.
Dealing with the orderly wind down of a $100M public company, which was completed without a single law suit.
How do Thiel Advisors differ from other advisory firms?
We have a hybrid of extensive operational “been there done that” expertise on leveraging technology to create strategic enterprise value together with extensive experience from the inside of PE and VC firms, so we are unique in our understanding and approach to value creation and advisory to both the operating company and its investors/owners and board of directors.
You are a regular speaker and panel member at expos and summits all over the world, how are you finding Dublin Tech Summit?
DTS has been an amazing event, unlike any other I’ve spoken at. For a first time conference to attract 10,000 attendees is a great success. The mix of speakers and topics was great – kind of like TED and SXSW in one.
Where else in Europe can you listen to experts and thought leaders share their thoughts on fashion, FinTech, MedTech, IoT and innovation.
As a speaker at DTS you spoke about The Six Key Dimensions of Innovation framework can you give an overview of the framework?
Basically, the framework helps define strategic goals for innovating and disrupting with the objective of providing customers with “amazing” experiences that drive adoption and activation. Most businesses approach innovation from an incremental perspective – make an existing solution better. My framework starts with defining the ultimate customer experience and working backward to the how to do it, and it can be applied equally to products as services and even business strategies. The six dimensions are 1) Automate, 2) Accelerate, 3) Anticipate, 4) Adapt, 5) Amaze, 6) Activate. By setting goals and measuring how well you’re doing compared to competitors in each of the dimensions, you can identify exactly what you need to do to be successful and disruptive. Anyone interested in learning more can contact me.
In the last two weeks companies such as Microsoft, Accenture and Indeed have announced over a 1500 new jobs in Ireland and in my article with the Founder and President of Huawei Mr Ren Zhenfei, he said that “Beautiful Ireland is the cradle of software development” What are your thoughts on the strength and potential of the Irish technology eco-system?
I have worked with technology teams in Ireland since the mid-1990s and have seen first hand how entrepreneurial and diligent Irish teams can be. For this reason, one of my former companies chose to set up their software development for advanced platforms in Ireland instead of the US, China, India or continental Europe. The benefits of Irish legal and corporate system together with membership in the EU, a common language with the US and one hour less time difference than continental Europe make Ireland a logical choice for technology companies to create a toe hold in Europe. Seeing all the exciting activity going on at DTS is further proof that the tech start-up and entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving in Ireland.
In our discussion we discussed Venture Capital, you said that today many Investors are spreadsheet jockey’s and you question if many can pick a horse.
Do you feel that with the advancement of AI that like most industries there is a strong possibility many layers of VC/PE will head towards being fully automated?
AI will likely replace human analysts whose jobs require pattern recognition skills – a basic skill of a VC. They see trends and invest ahead of the trend. AI is never tired or emotional, and AI does need to like somebody to make a decision. There are already many companies in the financial sector that are fully algorithmically driven – aka DAO (decentralized autonomous organization) which is a form of investor-directed automated venture capital fund. One of the early versions of this failed but, like all new ideas, it takes a couple of tries to get it right. Google was search engine #21 after all and Facebook was not the first social network by any means.
Fred, it has been fascinating talking to you, I look forward to catching up again soon.
Likewise Henry, Thank you.
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