Written by Jonathan Cain Wednesday, 13 June 2012 17:47
Two-Part Special on the Fellowship Will Air on CNBC July 11 and 12 at 10PM ET
SAN FRANCISCO – June 13, 2012 – Peter Thiel today introduced the 2012 class of twenty new Thiel Fellows. The second set of young entrepreneurs to be awarded 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowships, these fellows will pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, learn entrepreneurship, and begin to build the innovative companies of tomorrow.
“Pundits and hand-wringers love to claim that universities are the only path to a successful life. In truth, an inquisitive mind, rigorously applied to a deep-rooted problem can change the world as readily as the plushest academic lab,” said Thiel. “In 1665 when Cambridge University closed due to the plague, Isaac Newton used his time away to pursue self-directed learning and ended up inventing calculus. The drive to make a difference is what truly matters.”
During the two-year program, each fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, thought leaders, and innovators. Projects pursued by this class of fellows span numerous areas of cutting edge technology, including energy, robotics, 3D printing, biotechnology and medical breakthroughs, software and digital communication, education, public health, artificial intelligence, and open source ecology.
“We continue to be blown away by the quality of ideas coming from 20 Under 20 applicants,” said Jonathan Cain, president of the Thiel Foundation. “The mentors in the Thiel Network are very excited to work with the 2012 class as they explore new frontiers, experience the setbacks and successes of entrepreneurial pursuits, and begin changing the world one idea at a time.”
CNBC’s “20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow,” a two-part special capturing every step of this amazing journey and telling the stories of the extraordinary young men and women each vying for the Thiel Fellowship, premieres July 11th and July 12th at 10PM ET. Previews and program information are available at 20under20.cnbc.com.
“The world needs a renaissance in entrepreneurship and game-changing ideas,” said Susan Krakower, SVP, Strategic Programming and Development, CNBC. “20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow is a celebration of the ambition, achievement, and intelligence that it takes to re-invent industries in ways never before imagined.”
Nearly a thousand young people have now applied for a 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship. During the recent application period, applications arrived from more than 40 countries, and from more than 350 high schools, junior colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges, and graduate schools. At a time of increasing concern over the value of a college education and a national student debt burden that tops $1 trillion, the Thiel Fellows are part of a growing national movement exploring alternative ways to build successful futures.
“Since becoming Thiel Fellows over the last year, members of our inaugural class have already done some amazing things,” said Jim O’Neill, co-founder of the Thiel Fellowship. “They’ve started and sold companies, closed million-dollar funding rounds, won international entrepreneurship and scientific awards, spearheaded innovative social movements, and begun to transform fields like education, software development, clean energy, electric vehicles, robotics, medical technology, and finance.”
“We’ve all had a wonderful year working with the first group of Thiel Fellows, as they’ve dug into their projects, established lifelong connections with the mentor network, and provided peer feedback to each other’s work,” said Danielle Strachman, program director for the Thiel Fellowship. “It’s incredibly rewarding to be part of the professional and personal maturity of these exceptional young men and women as they pursue their interests and dreams full-time.”
ABOUT THE 2012 FELLOWS:
Clay Allsopp (20, Raleigh, NC) thinks people should be able to forget about technology and simply focus on being creative. His start-up, Apptory, helps individuals and businesses create and distribute content for touch-screen devices, using an intuitive, easy-to-understand interface.
Dylan Field (20, Penngrove, CA) envisions a world where people define themselves by what they create rather than what they consume. Currently stopped out of Brown University, Field is working with his former classmate Evan Wallace on making better creative tools.
Kettner Griswold (19, Bethesda, MD) and Paul Sebexen (19, Staten Island, NY) are stopping out of school to work on a benchtop genome synthesis device, which will allow individual laboratories and medical practices to synthesize large genetic constructs in-house for an unprecedented low recurring cost. This product would massively disrupt the fields of biotechnology and health care, fueling innovation and stimulating interest and research sector-wide.
Anand Gupta (20, Palo Alto, CA) and Tony Ho (19, San Jose, CA) are using their expertise in biology and computer science to transform the way doctors diagnose patients. Their service will enable doctors and researchers to receive quantitative analysis of biomedical images, allowing for faster, more accurate diagnoses of complex diseases – and more lives saved.
Spencer Hewett (20, Bryan Mawr, PA) has an insatiable passion for inventing that extends far beyond the confines of one particular industry. As a Thiel fellow, he will focus on No-Q, a fusion of radio-frequency identification (RFID) and mobile payment technology that will eliminate both checkout lines and shoplifting.
Yoonseo Kang (18, Mississauga, ON, Canada) recognizes that society’s potential for innovation and abundance can only be achieved if knowledge and the factors of production are accessible for everyone. With that in mind, Yoonseo sees open-source hardware as the key for enabling communities around the world to vastly increase their productive potential and together engage in strategic economic collaboration. To that end, he is working with Open Source Ecology to develop the Global Village Construction Set, the 50 industrial machines that it takes to build a civilization with modern comforts.
Jimmy Koppel (20, St. Louis, MO) has a passion for software engineering – and a plan to make it much more efficient. Modifying software today often involves hundreds of thousands of small, similar adjustments that require a great deal of time and money. James will fix that problem by developing new tools to automate the process.
Ryan Lelek (19, Schererville, IN) developed a passion for entrepreneurship at the age of 15, when he established his first “instant streaming” start-up. Now he’s dedicated to disrupting the computer industry, using new advances in hardware, software, and network technology. As a Thiel Fellow, he’ll continue to change the world by creating simple technology tools that empower people.
Ritik Malhotra (19, San Jose, CA) Ritik began programming at age 8; started a popular web forum at the age of 12 that grew to over 32,000 members; and ran a web hosting and software consultancy business at the age of 13, garnering over a 600x return on his initial investment. Now he wants to provide a streamlined way of discovering, sharing, and distributing content over Facebook, Twitter, and other social media services. As a Thiel Fellow, he’ll first work to build a service that allows users to share interesting media, scraped from all around the web, focusing primarily on user growth in order to build a thriving community.
Chris Olah (19, Toronto, ON, Canada) wants to use 3D printing to reduce the scope of scarcity. His goal: empower anyone with a 3D printer to make educational aids, basic scientific equipment, and tools that improve their quality of life. He is currently working on a project called ImplicitCAD, which is a math-based attempt to reinvent computer-aided design and make it more affordable.
Semon Rezchikov (18, Hillsborough, NJ) is eager to explore how synthetic biology and nanotechnology intersect. As a Thiel Fellow, he wants to develop more flexible bioautomation technologies to improve design cycle times, and then use those technologies to create a library of truly reliable parts – making synthetic biology more like engineering and less like science.
Omar Rizwan (18, East Hanover, NJ) wants to change the world through the control and analysis of information. Specifically, he plans to speed up progress in the field of artificial intelligence by working on the analysis of big data sets. He will aggregate large sets of data from many different Internet sources and use them to tease out trends and draw conclusions.
Tara Seshan (19, New Fairfield, CT) is dedicated to improving public health worldwide, using technology, simple solutions, and community-based change. To that end, she is developing a tool that influences analysis of data, monitoring and evaluation, and public health decision making. As a Thiel Fellow, Tara will explore developing tools that enhance public health programs that can be implemented in low-resource settings.
Noor Siddiqui (17, Clifton, VA) is inspired to galvanize people for the good of others. As a Thiel Fellow, she will work to give students across the globe access to upward mobility – and industries access to an untapped work force – with the goal of mobilizing one billion people in the next decade.
Charlie Stigler (19, Pacific Palisades, CA) has years of experience as an entrepreneur and engineer, having written the popular open-source study application, SelfControl, and founded two Web start-ups. Now he’s working on Zaption, an application that improves the usual workflow for educators and collaborators by allowing video to be integrated into interactive Web experiences and studies. He believes this technology can help solve fundamental problems, starting with that of the U.S. education system.
Ilya Vakhutinsky (20, Fair Lawn, NJ) wants to revolutionize the way the technology and health care communities work together. He is working to create a more open and transparent health care system, drastically lowering the cost of care and empowering patients to make better decisions.
Taylor Wilson (18, Texarkana, AR) became the youngest person in history to create nuclear fusion. Since then, he has produced the lowest-cost and lowest-dose active interrogation system for the detection of enriched uranium ever developed. As a Thiel Fellow, Taylor will focus on both counter-terrorism and the production of medical isotopes for use in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer.
Connor Zwick (18, Waukesha, WI) is passionate about education – which is why he has set out to revolutionize our country’s antiquated system using technology. As a Thiel Fellow, he will focus on Flashcards+, a mobile educational platform with a base of over 1.5 million downloads that allows anyone to learn anything using crowd sourced generated content from a database of more than 400 million flashcards.
All fellows were under the age of 20 as of the December application deadline.
ABOUT THE THIEL FOUNDATION The Thiel Foundation defends and promotes freedom in all its dimensions: political, personal, and economic. The Thiel Foundation supports innovative scientific research and new technologies that empower people to improve their lives, champion organizations and individuals who expose human rights abuses and authoritarianism in all its guises, and encourages the exploration of new ideas and new spaces where people can be less reliant on government and where freedom can flourish. For more information, see ThielFoundation.org and ThielFellowship.org.