Peter Thiel, famous for being Facebook’s first investor and the co-founder and former CEO at PayPal, is giving 20 teenagers $100,000 to drop out of college.
Here’s the catch: They have to start a company.
During the two-year program, fellows cannot work or be enrolled in school. Instead, they receive mentorship from the Thiel Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, futurists, and innovators.
In the last two years, Thiel fellows have launched over 30 companies, and raised more than $34 million from outside investors.
“When we created the fellowship more than two years ago, our intention was to help a small number of creative people learn and accomplish more than they might have otherwise,” Thiel said in a statement. “To their great credit, they have exceeded our expectations, and inspired people of all ages by reminding them that qualities like intellectual curiosity, grit, and determination are more important than a degree in determining success in life.”
For some of these young entrepreneurs, it’s not their first company.
Note: All descriptions are courtesy of the Thiel Foundation.
Hometown: Regensburg, Germany
Daniel Zulla is a software engineer who is about to introduce a secure computing architecture used for servers and desktop computers alike.
Darren Lim came to love scientific innovation while studying in China, and remains a consumer at heart who is obsessed with cutting-edge gadgets. He is currently working on a startup that focuses on how we interact with technology.
Hometown: Salt Lake City, UT
Delian Asparaouhov wants to help improve health care. As a Thiel fellow, he will work on leveraging technology to help manage disease and improve patient outcomes.
Hometown: Palo Alto, Calif.
Diwank Singh Tomer dropped out of his college in India to work on an online platform for learning to code. Aside from his love of poetry, he is an exceptional hacker and engineer who was awarded the Mozilla WebFWD fellowship for his efforts to improve learning online. He has since moved to the Bay Area to further his efforts and is currently working on a collaborative learning platform.
Hometown: East Brunswick, NH
Gary Le envisions a safer, cleaner, and more trusting Internet. He is working on a real-time online identify verification system for various applications in e-commerce, online communities, and collaborative consumption businesses.
Hometown: Armonk, NY
James Schuler started his first company when he was 12 and hasn't stopped since. In high school he founded a health care company called Eligible and attended Y-Combinator as one of its youngest entrepreneurs. Recently, James left Eligible in order to focus on a bigger market: politics. As a Thiel Fellow, James will be focusing on implementing crowd funding in order to revolutionise the campaign finance market.
Hometown: Vernon Hills, IL
Kevin Wang began developing games and applications when he was 9. Since then, he has moved into entrepreneurship, applying his highly technical background to solve bigger problems. As a Thiel Fellow, he aims to simplify the world of law and open source software to end the wasteful litigation epidemic.
Hometown: Wauwatosa, WI
Laura Ball is researching value in neural systems. She would like to determine how information becomes important, and how important information maintains dominance over other information in order to define our conscious mind-states and behavioural responses.
Hometown: San Diego, Calif.
Maddy Maxey began interning in the fashion industry when she was 16 for companies like Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Ricco, Peter Som, and Nylon Magazine. After founding a popular fashion blog while in France and then winning a scholarship from the CFDA & Teen Vogue for her work, she started a clothing company of her own. As a Thiel Fellow, Maddy will focus on optimising the clothing patterns and the enterprise software that make our current garment industry inefficient. Her goal is to make domestic production profitable through better integrating software, not just hardware technologies, into our manufacturing system.
Hometown: Nashville, Tenn.
Mark Daniel co-founded social goal achievement site GoalHawk in 2011. Since then, he has been building StatusHawk, a workplace accountability tool that changes the way that companies handle status reports. As a Thiel Fellow, Mark will focus on taking the early stage company and building it into a profitable and sustainable business.
Hometown: Toronto, ON, Canada
Nelson Zhang has always loved making things. He has been tinkering with electronics since he was 10, and designed, manufactured, and sold several hardware products during high school and college. He is currently working on a desktop fabricator for electronics, aimed at lowering iteration time and costs for hardware companies. He hopes to make the design and production of physical things accessible to everyone.
Hometown: Vancouver, BC, Canada
Nick Liow believes everything is a remix and information wants to be free. Now, he's challenging copyright by building ways for creators to get paid for giving their work to the public domain.
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Riley Drake has been conducting scientific research since she was 15 years old. She has studied immunology at Johns Hopkins University and infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. During her fellowship she intends to focus on applying physical principles to virology: utilising biophysics to create broad-spectrum viral therapies.
Hometown: McLean, VA
Riley Ennis founded Immudicon, an early-stage biotechnology company that has developed a novel cancer vaccine platform and telemedicine sweat-monitoring device in order to improve how we treat and diagnose diseases. The company was spun out of his research in high school at Georgetown University and the Sheikh Zayed Institute at Children's National Medical centre in Washington, D.C. HIs ultimate goal is to exercise empathy within health care to revolutionise and personalise the future of treating patients.
Hometown: New Delhi, India
Ritest Agarwal is one of the youngest entrepreneurs from India to raise angel investments. He runs OYO Inns, a chain of affordable, tech-enabled inns, and Oravel, a rising popular alternative to hotels in India. As a Thiel Fellow, Ritesh will leverage technology to bring affordable and standardized accommodations to emerging economies across the world, starting in India.
Hometown: Hudson, MA
Thomas Sohmers is a technology geek and hardware hacker who has been working at a MIT research lab since he was 13, developing everything from augmented reality eyewear to laser communication systems. Currently, Thomas is working on developing a new computing platform that utilizes very low powered processors in a cluster to revolutionise the server, cloud, and research computing industries.
Hometown: Marietta, GA
William LeGate is an entrepreneur and computer scientist. He taught himself programming at age 14 from online Stanford lectures and has since created more than a dozen mobile apps, which have been downloaded more than 5 million times and are now used by 1 in 16 U.S. teens. During his fellowship he plans to change the way that we discover apps for things around us.
Hometown: Beijing, China
Xinyi Chen is passionate about entrepreneurship and technology. She participated in the Tigerlabs accelerator last summer and developed prototypes for her project Helios, which attempts to make telepresence devices accessible to average families.
Hometown: London, U.K.
Andrew Brackin co-founded a marketplace for designers that grew to 100,000 signups. Andrew runs Tomorrow's Web, an event for young technologists with hundreds of attendees and major sponsors. He will be working on Bunchy, a funding platform that allows organisations to raise money from their audience on their social platforms and websites.
Hometown: Newport Beach, Calf.
Austin Russell has a passion for developing innovative optoelectronic technologies for industries. His projects range from high-efficiency far-field wireless power transmission to low-cost early cancer detection systems. As a fellow, Austin will be focusing on 3D depth mapping and projection of interactive holograms through a compact laser-based module.
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