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Jessica Mathews

Inside Peter Thiel’s powerful Silicon Valley network which started with a student paper

Pixelated image of Peter Thiel giving a thumbs up. (Credit: Photo illustration by Fortune; Eva Marie Uzcategui—Bloomberg/Getty Images)

Forget about the PayPal Mafia. There’s another elite network in Silicon Valley you need to know about—and it all started at a student newspaper called the Stanford Review.

The conservative student newspaper cofounded by Peter Thiel in 1987 has been riling up the left-leaning Stanford community for more than three decades. But it’s also quietly become one of the surest paths to an enviable job in Silicon Valley.

Here’s a look at the extensive network of tech investors and founders who got their start writing for the Review:

Infographic shows links between Stanford Review alumni and Silicon Valley companies

As I write in my latest feature story:

A look back through the archived mastheads of the Review shows how vast—but also how tight—the legendary investor’s orbit is. Several of PayPal’s cofounders or early executives—Thiel, Craft Ventures’ David Sacks, and former U.S. ambassador to Sweden Ken Howery—wrote for the paper, as did three founders of Palantir, a defense technology company with a market capitalization of nearly $33 billion as of mid-August. You can add Founders Fund investor Keith Rabois, who had stints at LinkedIn and Square, and Founders Fund principal John Luttig to the mix as well. Joe Lonsdale, who worked for Thiel after serving as editor-in-chief of the Review and now runs venture capital firm 8VC, has hired a number of the conservative paper’s staffers, including Alex Moore, one of Lonsdale’s longest-running investing partners, and, just last year, recent Stanford alum Maxwell Meyer. (Lonsdale married another Review editor, Tayler Cox, and Lonsdale’s brother wrote for the paper, too.)

Thiel himself continues to be influential in cultivating the paper’s community: 

Thiel remains involved to this day, hosting dinners for staffers for more than three decades now—at his home, or at places like the Sundance steakhouse in Palo Alto—where he discusses world events and political philosophy and asks students questions about college life and what ideas are circulating around campus. In 2017, there was a 30th anniversary party for Review alumni, and the Stanford Review’s current editor-in-chief, Walker Stewart, told Fortune he had attended a dinner for Review writers hosted by Thiel in just the past year.

I spoke with 10 current or former Review editors and staffers, including Thiel, and reviewed hundreds of pages of nonprofit filings as well as an extensive network of company websites, LinkedIn pages, and archived newspaper articles to understand how the student newspaper became such a prominent, yet controversial, launchpad into the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem—and to piece together the common thread that bound them together. You can read the full story here.

Until Monday,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
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Joe Abrams curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

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