Attention, young entrepreneurs: In San Francisco, Peter Thiel, who is a co-founder of online home run PayPal, has started what could be a revolution in the higher education community. He is offering $100,000 to students–high school graduates and college students under age 20–not to go to college. So, what do you have to do for the money? Have a good idea, and try to turn it into business.
As recipients of the “20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship,” fellows embrace the life of young entrepreneurs for two years–they develop new scientific and technical projects, learn about business models, and begin to build the technology companies of tomorrow. In addition to the cash, these kids receive another huge payday–they spend their time working with real life entrepreneurs and scientists, as mentors for their projects. Project areas this year include biotech, career development, economics and finance, education, energy, information technology, mobility, robotics, and space.
Being selected may be less likely than being struck by lightning, but for those young people out there who are smart and creative, and have a great idea, why not try? As Thiel promotes his scholarship, he reminds students (and their parents) that college will still be there waiting after the two years are over; and with $100,000 stipend in the bank, these Thiel Fellows can actually pay for it.
Applicants are asked to “design a project to change the world.” Okay…that’s not intimidating, right? But when you are 18, maybe it’s not! Kids are so full of promise and creativity, perhaps it’s the perfect time for them to take a swing. Thiel is all about innovation–his plan is to shake things up, challenge the traditional ways of doing tech business, and disrupt the status quo. Although he finished college, and grad school, before making his own business millions, he thinks that the current college debt load is such a risk to future entrepreneurs that he encourages young entrepreneurs to skip that step, if they can.
This year, the inaugural year of the program, Thiel chose 24 students from more than 400 applicants, who came from many different countries, high schools, junior colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges, and grad schools. For these kids, the next two years will be life changing, whether they launch their fortune-making businesses or not.