Co-founder of PayPal, Peter Thiel, is encouraging going cold turkey. Instead of fighting the war against drug addiction, the vice here is conservatism, being ordinary and taking the safe route in life.
The Thiel Foundation is now sponsoring the Thiel Fellowship, also known as 20 Under 20. It seems it's never too early to be done with school or to forget about the cushy corporate life and take the incredibly brave plunge to become an entrepreneur.
The Thiel Foundations' press release launching 20 Under 20 cites success stories like Elon Musk:
Musk himself stopped out of his graduate program before classes began to co-found his first company Zip2, which he sold to Compaq for $307 million.
And Scott Bannister:
Banister left the University of Illinois before taking a degree and founded ListBot, the largest ASP for business email, and IronPort, the anti-spam company that Cisco acquired for $830 million.
And William Adregg:
"Because education seeks to impart past knowledge, when you are trying to create a technological breakthrough, you have to create new knowledge, and there is no way to teach that. There was no course at University of Arizona on 'how to cure aging.' Hopefully, this program will allow others to work on ambitious projects themselves, before they've taken on a crippling amount of student debt," said William Andregg, CEO and co-founder of Halcyon Molecular.
Here is a real opportunity for young bloods to justify their life-changing decisions to hesitant parents who would absolutely be robbing their child of an unparalleled experience such as this.
With an exciting idea in mind, or one that is already in the works, the distraction of studies and part-time jobs to pay off student loans eliminated, a new life in sunny California where startups thrive, support from seasoned mentors, and a life-altering two year commitment, the selected 20 teen entrepreneurs are luckily not taking a gamble on life, but are instead taking massive advantage of life's beautiful opportunities.
Eligibility is for anyone between the ages of 14 and 20 (admittedly, I think 14 is a bit on the low-end, but I am sure there are exceptional 14 year old entrepreneurs -- I just haven't met them yet) who will be awarded up to $100,000 in grants over the two year period with a commitment to cease studies and other employment (unless by special permission of the fund) to do something amazing, whether that be the creation of new scientific developments and technologies, an improvement on existing scientific theories or technologies, or the completion of a defined goal. Simply put, this is a chance for fresh entrepreneurs to Innovate.
When you're ready to take the leap, you're ready. While you may think it's important to fulfill filial duties, stay within the confides of societal standards, and beg off your entrepreneurial and innovative itch until you've become a 'tried and true adult,' you are doing a disservice to yourself and the world by holding yourself back. While I am not exactly taking my year off with the aim to do the world a good service, I am doing it for personal reasons, which might allow and encourage me to do more exciting things with my life later on (perhaps some things that might be less self-serving).
I'd be interested to see the full lineup of young entrepreneurs that will be selectively picked to begin a wild two-year journey. I'm more excited to see how the two years make out for the participants who will most certainly be just beginning to introduce their innovative ideas to the world.
Follow Danny Wong on Twitter: www.twitter.com/dannywong1190