Thiel Fellowship

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Thiel Fellowship
Thiel Fellowship Logo.png
Type Fellowship
Funded by Peter Thiel through the Thiel Foundation
Amount $100,000 (USD)
Frequency of selection Annual
Number of recipients 20-25 per year
Website thielfellowship.org

The Thiel Fellowship (originally named 20 under 20) is a fellowship created by Peter Thiel through the Thiel Foundation. The fellowship is intended for students under the age of 20 and offers them a total of $100,000 over two years as well as guidance and other resources to drop out of school and pursue other work, which could involve scientific research, creating a startup, or working on a social movement. Selection for the fellowship is through a competitive annual process, with about 20-25 fellows selected annually.

History[edit]

Peter Thiel announced the fellowship at TechCrunch Disrupt in September 2010.[1] The first round of fellows, based on applications made at the end of 2010, was announced in May 2011.[2][3] The second round of fellows, based on applications made at the end of 2011, was announced in June 2012.[4][5] The third class (announced in May 2013) includes 22 fellows working on projects from garment manufacturing and B2B web products to ARM powered servers and biomedicine. The class includes 7 fellows from outside of the US. [6] In December 2013, Lora Kolodny wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal reviewing the Thiel Fellowship, where she wrote: "64 Thiel Fellows have started 67 for-profit ventures, raised $55.4 million in angel and venture funding, published two books, created 30 apps and 135 full-time jobs, and brought clean water and solar power to 6,000 Kenyans who needed it."[7] The 2014 Thiel Fellows were announced in June 2014.[8]

Recipients[edit]

Notable recipients[edit]

A full list of recipients is available on the Thiel Fellowship website.[9] Notable recipients include:

  • Eden Full, founder of Roseicollis Technologies, and inventor of a solar panel tracking system called SunSaluter. After the completion of her two-year fellowship period, Full decided to return to Princeton University (where she had secured admission prior to becoming a Thiel Fellow) to pursue mechanical engineering.[10]
  • Laura Deming, who plans to work on commercializing anti-aging research. Deming started her undergraduate studies at Massachusetts Institute of Technology at age 14.[11] After becoming a Thiel Fellow, Deming co-founded Floreat Capital, which describes itself as "a specialty life science venture capital firm focused on early-stage pharmaceutical companies developing therapies for aging-associated pathology."[12]
  • James Proud, founder of GigLocator, a website aggregating live music shows, which was subsequently sold in June 2012 to Peter Shapiro.[13]
  • Sujay Tyle, COO of Developer Auction, former employee of Scopely, an educational gaming startup.[14][15]
  • Andrew Hsu, founder of Airy Labs, an educational gaming startup that raised over a million dollars but was later reported to have run into problems due to its management style.[16]
  • Paul Gu, co-founder of Upstart, a platform that allows people to raise money in exchange for a percentage of their future income.[17]
  • Dale J. Stephens, founder of UnCollege, a social movement that aims to change the notion that going to college is the only path to success.[18]
  • Kevin Wang, FOSS activist and founder of TLDRLegal, a community project to summarize complex software licenses and de-risk Open Source usage in an enterprise setting. [19]
  • Thomas Sohmers, who unveiled a new super fast computer server that was highly energy-efficient at the Open Compute Summit organized by Facebook.[20]
  • Adam Munich, a serial entrepreneur currently working to mobilize radiography.[21]

Documentary series following some recipients[edit]

The Thiel Fellowship launched a website called "20 Under 20 Documentary Series" that features an online documentary series of four Thiel Fellowship recipients. The students featured in the series are Laura Deming, Chris Rueth, Sujay Tyle, and Alex Kiselev.[22]

Goals[edit]

Encouraging more breakthrough innovation[edit]

Peter Thiel has expressed the view that there has been much less cutting-edge innovation in recent years than there should be and this lack of technological progress is responsible for the slowdown in economic growth, which is at least partially responsible for recent bubbles and downturns.[23] The Thiel Fellowship, by providing money to people to pursue radical innovation, is an attempt by Thiel to help address the problem.

Many recipients of the Thiel Fellowship are planning to work in some of the areas where Thiel thinks that radical breakthroughs would be most beneficial. For instance, Laura Deming, one of the Thiel Fellows, plans to work on the commercialization of anti-aging research,[11] one of the causes to which Thiel has been a regular donor.

Questioning the education bubble[edit]

Thiel has expressed the view that one of the top candidates for the next bubble in the United States is higher education. He says: "Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus."[24]

Thiel has argued that although education is definitely useful for some career paths and people do learn many valuable things in college, there are many career paths, such as entrepreneurship, for which higher education is not useful and it simply leads them to waste years when they may have been doing something more productive.[25] He views the Thiel Fellowship as one of many alternate paths to success that would undermine the social pressure that people feel to go to college even if they are not deriving value from it. A similar view was expressed by Thiel Foundation members Jim O'Neill and Michael Gibson in a piece for Fast Company magazine.[26]

Reception[edit]

Initial reception[edit]

Thiel's announcement of the Thiel Fellowship met with a diverse array of responses. Some, such as Jacob Weisberg, criticized Thiel's proposal for its utopianism and attack on the importance of education.[27] Others, such as Vivek Wadhwa, expressed skepticism about whether the success or failure of the Thiel Fellowship would carry any broader lessons regarding the value of higher education or the wisdom of dropping out.[28]

Others, such as Bryan Caplan and Steven Bell, praised Thiel for undermining the education bubble and encouraging people to consider alternative paths to success.[29][30]

In May 2011, shortly after the announcement of the first batch of Thiel Fellows, the admissions office at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology congratulated two MIT students for receiving the Thiel Fellowship. Both students would need to drop out of MIT to receive the fellowship, but would be able to return to MIT to resume their studies after completing the two-year term of the fellowship if they so desired.[31]

Later reception[edit]

A year after the announcement of the first batch of Thiel Fellows, opinions on the program ranged from the skeptical and critical to the laudatory and optimistic, as seen in the answers to a Quora question about the achievements of the first batch of Thiel Fellows.[32]

Eric Markowitz offered a mixed review of the Thiel Fellowship in Inc Magazine.[33]

In April 2013, an article by Richard Nieva for PandoDaily took a close look at how the first batch of Thiel Fellows had fared.[34]

A Quora question asked in 2013 about the final results for the Thiel fellows had received one response as of September 2013, attempting to trace each of the Thiel Fellows.[35]

In September 2013, Vivek Wadhwa wrote that the Thiel Fellowship had failed to produce any notable successes to date, and even its limited successes were instances where the Thiel Fellows were working in collaboration with more experienced individuals.[10]

On October 10, 2013, former Harvard University President Larry Summers was reported as having said at the Nantucket Project conference: “I think the single most misdirected bit of philanthropy in this decade is Peter Thiel’s special program to bribe people to drop out of college.” His remarks were reported on by many media outlets ranging from TechCrunch to Valleywag.[36][37][38] On October 13, TechCrunch published a response to Summers co-written by a Thiel Fellow and a mentor for the Thiel Fellowship program.[39]

In December 2013, Lora Kolodny wrote an article for the Wall Street Journal reviewing the Thiel Fellowship, where she wrote: "64 Thiel Fellows have started 67 for-profit ventures, raised $55.4 million in angel and venture funding, published two books, created 30 apps and 135 full-time jobs, and brought clean water and solar power to 6,000 Kenyans who needed it."[7]

In late December 2013, Thiel Fellow Delian Asparouhov published a lengthy article giving advice on how to select a project and present it to maximize one's chances with the Thiel Fellowship application.[40]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Siegler, MG (2010-09-27). "Peter Thiel Has New Initiative To Pay Kids To "Stop Out Of School"". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  2. ^ Wauters, Robin (2011-05-25). "Young Entrepreneurs Rule: Meet Peter Thiel's First 20 under 20 Fellows". TechCrunch. 
  3. ^ Wieder, Ben (2011-05-25). "Thiel Fellowship Pays 24 Talented Students $100,000 Not to Attend College". Chronicle of Higher Education. 
  4. ^ "Peter Thiel Announces 2012 Class of 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows". Thiel Fellowship website. 2012-06-13. 
  5. ^ Cutler, Kim-Mai (2012-06-14). "Nuclear Fusion, 3D Printing, Biomedical Imaging: What Thiel’s New 20 Under 20 Fellows Are Attacking". TechCrunch. 
  6. ^ "This Year’s Thiel Fellows Include A Fashion Designer, A Poet, And A Harvard Dropout "". 2013-05-13. 
  7. ^ a b Kolodny, Lora (December 18, 2013). "Why a Nonprofit Backs Dropping Out of School: PayPal Founder's Foundation Encourages Learning by Doing". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  8. ^ "20 Teens Win $100K: Announcing the 2014 Thiel Fellows". TechCrunch. June 5, 2014. Retrieved June 12, 2014. 
  9. ^ Thiel Fellowship website: Meet the Fellows
  10. ^ a b Wadhwa, Vivek (2013-09-11). "Billionaire's Failed Education Experiment Proves There's No Shortcut To Success". Forbes. Retrieved 2013-09-15. 
  11. ^ a b "Meet The Teen Who Got Paid $100 000 To Drop Out Of School". Forbes. 
  12. ^ "Floreat Capital: People". 
  13. ^ "A First Exit For One of Thiel’s 20 Under 20: GigLocator Sells To Brooklyn Bowl’s Peter Shapiro". TechCrunch. 2012-06-20. 
  14. ^ Butcher, Mike (2012-06-26). "Sujay Tyle of Scopely [TCTV]". TechCrunch. 
  15. ^ "Profile of Sujay Tyle". Thiel Fellowship. 
  16. ^ "Big Cuts at Airy Labs, Ex-Employees Blame Management". TechCrunch. 2012-02-11. 
  17. ^ "Upstart: Where You Can Hope to Stake the Next Mark Zuckerberg". CNBC. 2013-04-28. 
  18. ^ "Dale Stephens: ‘Unschoolers create their education’". Washington Post. 2012-08-12. 
  19. ^ "Kevin Wang will drop out of Berkeley to build company". Chicago Tribune. 
  20. ^ Bort, Julie (January 29, 2014). "This 17-Year-Old Dropped Out Of High School For Peter Thiel And Built A Game-Changing New Kind Of Computer". Business Insider. Retrieved January 28, 2014. 
  21. ^ "Peter Thiel Announces 2014 Class of Thiel Fellows". Yahoo Finance. SFO Businesswire. Retrieved 16 June 2014. 
  22. ^ "About the Series: 20 under 20". Retrieved 2013-04-20. 
  23. ^ Rip Empson (2011-09-12). "Max Levchin and Peter Thiel: Innovation In The World Today Is Between Dire Straits And Dead". TechCrunch. 
  24. ^ Sarah Lacy (2011-04-10). "Peter Thiel: We're in a Bubble and It's Not the Internet. It's Higher Education.". TechCrunch. 
  25. ^ Thiel, Peter. "College Doesn’t Create Success". Room for Debate, New York Times. 
  26. ^ "Thiel Foundation To New Crop Of College-Bound Grads: Don't Go". 
  27. ^ Weisberg, Jacob (2010-10-18). "What's Wrong with Silicon Valley Libertarianism". Newsweek. Retrieved 2010-10-19. 
  28. ^ Wadhwa, Vivek (2011-04-12). "Friends Don’t Let Friends Take Education Advice From Peter Thiel". TechCrunch. 
  29. ^ Caplan, Bryan (2010-10-20). "Thiel's Priceless Publicity". Retrieved 2012-06-08. 
  30. ^ Bell, Steven (2012-01-12). "The Big Question of 2011: Who Needs College?". 
  31. ^ McGann, Mike (2011-05-26). "Incentive to Drop Out". MIT Admissions Blog. Retrieved 2012-06-23. 
  32. ^ "What were the results of the first Thiel Fellowship Class?". Quora. 
  33. ^ Markowitz, Eric (2012-10-16). "Examining the Thiel Fellowship: Is It Worthwhile?". Inc Magazine. Retrieved 2012-11-27. 
  34. ^ Nieva, Richard (2013-04-24). "Examining the Thiel Fellowship: Where are they now?". PandoDaily. Retrieved 2013-04-25. 
  35. ^ "What were the results of the first Thiel fellowship class as of 2013?". Quora. Retrieved 2013-09-15. 
  36. ^ Ferenstein, Gregory (October 10, 2013). "Thiel Fellows Program Is “Most Misdirected Piece Of Philanthropy,” Says Larry Summers". Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  37. ^ Tiku, Nitasha (October 11, 2013). "Summers: Thiel Fellows Is 'Most Misdirected Piece Of Philanthropy'". Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  38. ^ Weinstock, Samuel Y. (October 14, 2013). "Summers: Thiel Fellowship 'The Single Most Misdirected Bit of Philanthropy in This Decade'". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  39. ^ Silver, Darrell; Friedman, Dan (October 13, 2013). "Of Course Harvard’s Larry Summers Hates The Thiel Fellowship". TechCrunch. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 
  40. ^ Asparouhov, Delian (December 26, 2013). "Thiel Fellowship Application Advice". Retrieved April 14, 2014. 

External links[edit]