Win a chess match, earn a $1,000,000 for your startup

7/20/2012 – A.J. Steigman is the chief executive of Soletron, a social e-commerce platform. Peter Thiel is a legendary venture capitalist and co-founder of PayPal. Both are internationally ranked “life master” of chess. In perhaps the oddest investment strategy ever seen, Steigman has challenged Thiel to a match. The loser invests a million dollars or provides equity in Soletron. Will it happen?

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Business Insider: Entrepreneur Challenges Peter Thiel To Million Dollar Chess Game

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.

Venture Beat: Win a chess match, earn a $1,000,000 investment in your startup

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.”


Peter Thiel

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 report

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.


A.J. Steigman


Steigman (second from left) together with the founders of Soletron with Bruce Chizen,
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, Brazil,
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 LA Times


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.

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