Chess is a contained universe: there are only 32 pieces on the board and 64 squares those pieces can occupy. But starting up a company takes much more than raw intellectual ability; it requires what Thiel calls "The Mechanics of Mafia," or the understanding of complex human dynamics. Linking the two worlds is Thiel's passion. Here are some of the chess concepts he highlighted in his class, thanks to notes from one of his former students, Blake Masters:
Know the relative value of your pieces:
In chess, the queen is the most valuable piece on the board. In the standard valuation system, it is given a 9, whereas the rook (5), bishop (3), knight (3), and pawn (1) are lower. In his lecture Value Systems, Thiel mentions Guy Kawasaki’s equation on how to assess the value of a company based on the types of people you have:
Pre-money valuation = ($1M x Number of Engineers) – ($500k x Number of MBAs).
So engineers are more valuable pieces than MBAs.