An Unorthodox Take on Philanthropy

Peter Thiel co-founded electronic-payments service PayPal and currently runs hedge fund Clarium Capital and venture-capital fund Founders Fund, which has invested in start-ups such as Facebook Inc. Now the entrepreneur-investor has also turned his energy to philanthropy.

That doesn’t mean Mr. Thiel is giving to traditional causes. Instead, his Thiel Foundation supports futurism and liberty through organizations such as the Sens Foundation, which is focused on regenerative biotechnologies, and Imitatio, which concentrates on a theory that people imitate others and desire objects that others own, thereby spurring competition and violence. Underlining his unconventional approach, Mr. Thiel recently sponsored a program to give $100,000 each to 20 students to forgo college and instead spend their time on innovative projects.

Last week, the 43-year-old held an event dubbed “Breakthrough Philanthropy” in San Francisco to build awareness for some of those causes. His efforts come as Bay Area tech entrepreneurs such as Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg and others announced last Wednesday that they had agreed to give the majority of their wealth to charity.

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