Young Entrepreneur Challenges PayPal Founder to Chess Match
July 19, 2012
On July 17, A.J. Steigman, founder of Soletron, a social networking and ecommerce platform, challenged billionaire & Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel to a $1 million Series A chess match. Both Steigman & Thiel are chess masters that were childhood prodigies.  They are currently in the top 1% of all U.S. players. 

Steigman told CLO, “Some of the things that (chess) has helped me with educationally & career wise, are: being able to strategize, making quick & informed decisions, memory retention, ability to read people & detect patterns, mental toughness, being able to predict outcomes, mental stamina, and most importantly never giving up.”    

If Thiel accepts the challenge and were to win, Steigman would lose a pre-negotiated amount of Soletron equity. If Steigman were to emerge victorious, Soletron would receive a $1 million investment.  

Steigman has represented the United States in numerous World Youth Chess Championships. He pinpointed a game from the 1997 World Youth in France as one of his favorite games, partly due to the stakes—he was in medal contention. “My coach Bill Cornwall & the team coach GM Ron Henley made the decision for me to play for the first time in my history (even to this day) 1. D4.  It was a very gutsy move.  The look on my opponent's face was priceless though, as all of his preparation went down the drain. The game was seven hours long.”


A.J. Steigman

If Steigman does face Thiel, he thinks that it will be a Sicilian, likely a Dragon if Thiel is White and a Closed Sicilian if Steigman plays White. “If Peter were to accept, I think the match would be extremely exciting and entertaining. We are both very tactical players.  We were both one of the top youth players in the U.S. for our respective generations. I hope that he accepts the challenge, as it would be a great event for highlighting entrepreneurship & chess.”

Specific terms & details of the match would be discussed if Thiel accepts the challenge.  

Steigman also thinks that chess can be beneficial to budding entrepreneurs. “The strategy element is so important in business with forecasting and predicting outcomes in a structured way. You have to see the variation trees.” He also thinks that chess teaches you persistence: “You might be in a bad chess position for hours in a tournament, and you have to train yourself to fight through the mental pain. Conversely, if you are winning in a game, you might have the tendency to become overconfident, and blow it.  The game isn't over until its over is the bottom line.  This mental precision that comes from chess preparation is extremely applicable for business deals. Until the deal is signed, the game isn't over.”

Find out more about soletron at and and see an interview on the soletron blog with CLO editor Jennifer Shahade.