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Peter Thiel on the contrarian non-profit question: looking good, unpopular causes

The contrarian business question is “What great business has no-one started?”

The contrarian investment question is “What great investment does nobody like?”

The contrarian non-profit question is “What great causes are deeply unpopular?”

This is how I always deflect requests for money, I ask people “Why is your cause popular? Why is your cause unpopular?” because I only want to fund unpopular causes. I assume popular causes are funded relatively well relative to good unpopular causes.

You’ll have a lot of impact if you’re able to push a good, worthwhile but unpopular cause. The zen paradox is that it’s very hard to market it and get money to do it. That’s the tension that I think it’s worth thinking through really hard.

I think most non-profits fail at this, where they end up supporting things that are super conventional, they can get funding for them, but if they didn’t do it there’d be a hundred other people doing it.

So I think always having a counter-factual sense of mission is important: “If we weren’t doing this nobody else in the world would be doing this.” To the extend that’s not true, you want to make that more true. Maybe it’s a spectrum, but you want to always tilt more in that direction.

Peter ThielConversations with Tyler episode 1

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