Investment banker-turned-entrepreneur A.J. Steigman is hereby challenging venture
capital legend Peter Thiel to an epic chess match. If he loses, Steigman will
give up a share of streetwear social network and e-commerce platform Soletron.
Exactly how much equity Steigman would be willing to give up would be determined
by the two parties – if Thiel accepts the challenge. If he wins, Steigman
wants the PayPal founder to pay him $1 million to go towards his company's series
A fundraising round.
High finance is often referred to as a chess match, but now it could be literally
true. “If I win, Peter would invest a million dollars at a pretty decent
valuation,” Steigman told VentureBeat. “If I lose, I would give
up a chunk of equity to Peter.” Soletron’s curious investment strategy
has its roots in the fact that both Steigman and Thiel have been chess masters
for many years. Thiel is currently ranked 919 in the US; Steigman is 456, so
perhaps he has an edge. But win or lose, Steigman expects charity to be a big
beneficiary. “My goal is that the event will be sponsored, and that revenue
will go to charity,” he said. The million-dollar question, of course,
is whether Peter Thiel has responded. “I haven’t heard back from
Peter yet,” Steigman told me. “We’re trying to get the word
out to reach his people.”
Managing partner in Founders
Fund, President of Clarium Capital,
Former CEO and Co-founder of PayPal, Financial backer in Facebook.
Peter Andreas Thiel, born October 11, 1967, is a German-born American entrepreneur,
venture capitalist, and hedge fund manager. Thiel co-founded PayPal with Max
Levchin and served as its CEO from 2000. He currently serves as president of
Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund with under $700 million in assets
under management; a managing partner in The Founders Fund, a $275 million venture
capital fund that he launched in 2005; and co-founder and investment committee
chair of Mithril Capital Management. He was the first outside investor in Facebook,
the popular social-networking site, with a 10.2% stake acquired in 2004 for
$500,000, and sits on the company's board of directors.
Thiel was ranked #293 on the Forbes 400 in 2011, with a net worth of $1.5 billion
as of March 2012.However, this number now understates the value of his 2.5%
stake in Facebook at the May 2012 IPO, which amounts to around $1.9 billion
as of July 2012, at the Facebook market capitalization of just over $75 billion.
Thiel lives in San Francisco, California.
Garry Kasparov and Peter Thiel in an Arte-TV
With Max Levchin and Garry Kasparov Thiel has worked on a book entitled The
Blueprint, with ideas on how to get innovation back on track. You can get
an impression of his views on technology from this
article in Forward Thinking.
Steigman (second from left) together with the founders of Soletron with
Former CEO of Adobe, who is currently on Oracles and Soletrons board (far right)
Allen “A.J.” Steigman (born June 23, 1985) is an American entrepreneur,
an international chess champion, and former investment banker. Steigman is currently
CEO of Soletron.com.
Steigman was born in Orlando, Florida but grew up in Coral Springs, Florida.
A childhood prodigy, Steigman was an international chess champion, and one of
the best in the United States. He attended University School of Nova Southeastern
for high school. In high school, he contracted Lyme Disease and almost died.
He had to take a year off from school. He credits chess in helping his mind
recover from the disease, and went on to win in the 2002 US Junior Open one
year after being diagnosed.
Ten-year-old Allen Steigman playing with Anatoly Karpov at Sao Lourenco,
during the World Youth Chess Championships in 1995, ...
... and together with Garry Kasparov at the New York Intel GP the same year
A.J. learned chess at the age of four, and played in his first tournament at
age five. He was coached by Bill Cornwall, a nationally-known chess teacher
and award-winning columnist. Steigman has numerous chess accomplishments such
as: being ranked #1 in the US for his age group for eight years in a row (1993–2001),
being awarded the title of Chess Master at age 13 (the same age as when Bobby
Fischer became a master), being the first Floridian ever to make the All-America
Chess Team of which he was a member for eight years. He has represented the
U.S. in the World Youth Championships in Sao Lourenco, Brazil (1995); Cannes,
France (1997); and Oropesa del Mar, Spain (1999). Though currently inactive,
Steigman is ranked in the top 1% of all chess players in the US.
With Pal Benko, Peter Leko and his coach Bill Cornwall, columnist for the
With GM Judith Polgar and his coach Bill Cornwall
Steigman attended Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. He was
awarded the Goodrich C. White academic scholarship and was involved in student
government as well as the development of Emory’s award-winning chess program.
He was known for playing simultaneous exhibitions involving as many as 40 individuals.
Steigman has been an advocate of chess. He was a donor to the World Chess Hall
of Fame and Sidney Samole Museum in Miami, Florida. He was also involved in
a community service program where he played inmates in high security prisons.
A.J. Steigman's highest
rating was 2291 in 2006. Peter Thiel is listed
by FIDE at 2199.