SAN FRANCISCO — Peter Thiel, the billionaire investor at odds with much of Silicon Valley, will have President Trump’s ear on tech issues.
He won’t be moving to Washington, Mr. Thiel made clear in an interview Wednesday afternoon. He is unlikely to have a formal role. He has no desire to fulfill his youthful dream of joining the United States Supreme Court.
But he will have a voice.
“A page in the book of history has turned, and there is an opening to think about some of our problems from a new perspective,” Mr. Thiel said. “I’ll try to help the president in any way I can.”
Mr. Thiel’s potential next steps in politics are being heavily scrutinized because the tech investor was one of the few businesspeople — and the only prominent one in technology — to publicly support Mr. Trump’s presidential run. Mr. Thiel spoke at the Republican convention and later gave $1.25 million to support the Trump campaign. That is not much, as presidential donations go, but it happened when the candidate was widely perceived to be floundering.
In the process, Mr. Thiel was denounced by much of Silicon Valley. There were calls for Mr. Thiel to step down from Facebook, where he serves on the board, and Y Combinator, a start-up incubator where he is a part-time adviser.
But now that Mr. Thiel’s bet on Mr. Trump has paid off, he seems to be in a position to reap some rewards.
Mr. Thiel said that he never doubted the Republican candidate would triumph despite predictions from pollsters and the news media.
“His odds were very badly underestimated,” Mr. Thiel said of Mr. Trump. “Trump voters were not being captured by the polls. A lot of the dynamics were very similar to the Brexit vote in the U.K.,” which also took many commentators by surprise.
Hillary Clinton’s campaign, Mr. Thiel said, forgot the motto that Bill Clinton had won the presidency with in 1992: “It’s the economy, stupid.”
“Somehow the Clintons did not remember,” he said. “It was a blind spot.” Mr. Thiel said that against Senator Bernie Sanders, who competed against Mrs. Clinton for the Democratic nomination, it “would have been much tougher for Trump to win, and a healthier race for the country. It would have been two candidates who agreed about the country’s stagnation but had very different policy prescriptions.”
One of the supposed rules of American presidential politics is that the candidates must be upbeat — a decree ever since Ronald Reagan trounced Walter Mondale in 1984 with the slogan “It’s morning again in America.”
Mr. Thiel said he sensed this year that the rule would not hold.
“I’ve thought for quite a long time that the happy clappy Panglossian Republican politics that we had over the last few decades was deeply out of touch,” he said. “In some ways, a more pessimistic candidate would do better, because they would resonate with these broad economic realities.”
Even as Mr. Thiel’s bet on Mr. Trump was proved right, many in Silicon Valley’s tech industry on Wednesday reacted negatively to the presidential victor. Some venture capitalists floated the idea of a California secession.
The tech community was heavily invested in Mr. Trump’s defeat, not so much because it loved the prospect of Mrs. Clinton but because the Republican stood for so much it abhorred. For a community struggling with diversity and often criticized for its treatment of women, a candidate who boasted about his groping was someone to be shunned. On policy grounds, the industry’s embrace of free trade and immigration was exactly the opposite of Mr. Trump’s.
Mr. Thiel had a different view. In interviews and a widely publicized speech at the National Press Club in Washington on Halloween, he argued that voters should look beyond Mr. Trump’s personal failings and wild statements and focus on the need to revamp a system that was enriching the coastal elites but alienating many others.
The investor said Silicon Valley was not completely opposed to Mr. Trump; there was also some secret support.
“I was having dinner last week with a high-profile venture capitalist and he said, ‘I’m voting for Trump but I have to lie and tell everyone I’m voting for Gary Johnson,’” the third-party candidate, said Mr. Thiel. “He was stunningly matter-of-fact about it.”
Now, he said, it’s “all hands on deck.” That includes the technology community.
“It’s important for it to be able to work with the rest of the country and the world,” he said. “At the end of the day, it would be crazy to simply spend four years issuing denunciatory tweets on Twitter. For a day or two, that’s fine. But I hope Silicon Valley will be more productive than that.”
The enormous wealth created by the tech industry has not been widely shared. It’s a problem the community needs to reflect on and address, the investor said.
Mr. Thiel, whose net worth of nearly $3 billion partly derives from being the first outside investor in Facebook and being a cofounder of the electronics payments company PayPal, has a history of making contrarian bets.
Before Mr. Trump, the investor backed other outsiders: Rand Paul in 2008 and 2012, and Carly Fiorina, the former chief executive of Hewlett-Packard, during the 2016 primaries. None of those bets paid off.
Another, quite different bet was secretly bankrolling the wrestler Hulk Hogan’s invasion of privacy lawsuit against Gawker Media. That sparked another controversy, although generally outside of Silicon Valley. Gawker lost the suit, and the flagship website closed and the others were sold. Last week, Gawker and Hogan reached a $31 million settlement.
Mr. Thiel said he not only spoke out for Mr. Trump and gave him money, but voted for him in a state — California — where the candidate was bound to lose.
“I did vote,” he said. “I don’t always vote, but I thought you might ask, so I did.”