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Say this for PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel: He is not afraid of a little confrontation.
The entrepreneur and investor recently was quoted in the Financial Times giving a fairly harsh assessment of European startups and entrepreneurs, saying the continent’s culture lacked the necessary optimism for a strong tech ecosystem.
“If you’re a slacker with low expectations, those low expectations are likely to be met,” Thiel was quoted as saying.
Those remarks caused a stir in Europe. And yet, it didn’t stop Thiel from traveling to the Web Summit in Dublin this week, Europe’s largest startup conference. Thiel is scheduled to speak on stage later today. But in a press conference earlier in the day, he was asked about the “slacker” comment.
Thiel said the issue was, in fact, highly personal for him. He was born to German parents who immigrated to the United States. He said he often wonders how he and his life would have been different if he had been raised in Germany, which he considers to be more pessimistic about the future, than the U.S.
The U.S., Thiel said, is a place he sees as being “optimistic and desperate,” a combination that drives people to change the future. By contrast, he sees Europe as a place where people are comfortable with their lives and pessimistic about the future.
“If you have a culture that’s full of pessimism about the future of the world, and that feeling is very profound in a place like Europe, that ends up being very de-motivating,” he said. “Especially if you think you will not be able to do as well as your parents, and if you have low expectations.”
Thiel did say he felt Ireland and the U.K. were somewhere between Europe and the U.S. in terms of their outlook for the future.
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