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Program awards $100,000 grants to innovative, driven young people with creative ideas who want to make a difference for the world
SAN FRANCISCO, Oct. 15, 2012 – Silicon Valley entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist Peter Thiel announced today that his nonprofit foundation has begun accepting applications for a new class of 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows.
“Our world is suffering from a tech innovation drought,” said Thiel. “We think young people are capable of tackling hard problems and building big things, and we hope to enable more of them to work on cool projects for two years and push the boundaries of what’s possible not just a decade from now, but today.”
“The Thiel Fellowship is a way for driven young innovators to experience the entrepreneurial world by taking bold risks and learning for themselves what it takes to bring their dreams to fruition,” said Jonathan Cain, president of the Thiel Foundation. “You don’t need anyone’s permission to change the world, just an adventurous spirit and a passion for technology. The Thiel Fellowship’s mission is to give these rising visionaries the freedom, support, and time to develop their ideas as soon as they are ready.”
Thiel Fellowships consist of separate grants of $100,000 to 20 people under 20 years old, so that they can leave the classroom and pursue innovation. In addition to the financial support, Thiel Fellows are mentored by hundreds of highly accomplished entrepreneurs, scientists, investors, thinkers, and innovators of the Thiel Network.
During the two-year fellowship, the Thiel Foundation and its network of mentors provide guidance and support to help the Thiel Fellows build their scientific, technical, and entrepreneurial ideas. While fellows are expected to work on their innovative ideas full-time, they determine their specific paths; this might mean starting a company, but could also mean doing freelance work, developing a social movement, interning at another company, or pursuing research and development independently.
Since the Thiel Fellowship began in 2011, more than forty young people have been awarded Thiel Fellowships for project ideas that push the boundaries of industries such as nuclear and alternative energy, robotics, biotechnology, 3D printing, synthetic biology, public health, education, finance, scientific equipment, gaming, and software. The Thiel Fellowship has been featured in news outlets all over the world and was the subject of a two-part CNBC special in August 2012 entitled “20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow,” now available on Hulu and iTunes.
“As a Thiel Fellow I’ve experienced an incredible outpouring of advice and assistance from professionals with great expertise in a variety of different fields,” said 2012 Thiel Fellow Noor Siddiqui. “I really enjoy the flexibility and creative freedom the Fellowship provides,” she added, “not to mention broad exposure to the kinds of people, places, and ideas that can help me make a difference in the world.”
￼Though applicants may already have scientific, technical, or nonprofit ideas,
Thiel Fellowships are not limited to those with established companies or developed innovations. Teams of up to four may also apply.
In conjunction with the new round of Fellowship applications, the Thiel Foundation will be hosting an invitation-only “Under 20 Summit” in New York City on November 10 and 11, 2012. Modeled after the success of July’s “Under 20 Summit” in San Francisco, this event will be an opportunity for young entrepreneurial people to collaborate and inspire one another. Young people interested in attending can request an invitation through the Fellowship’s website.
“Although we only accept around 20 new Thiel Fellows each year, we stay in touch with many of our previous applicants who did not receive Fellowships, some of whom have been paired with mentors in Silicon Valley as a direct result of this application process,” said Danielle Strachman, Thiel Fellowship program director. “A number of applicants who were not accepted have told us that the application process helped them to form their goals more concretely, and have begun the process of building out their companies, nonprofits, and personal networks to tackle the future today. Through events like the Under 20 Summit, local meet-ups, and virtual connections on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn, we’re excited to help build such a robust community rallying around youth entrepreneurship.”
Applications and more information about the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship and the current fellows are available now at ThielFellowship.org. Applications for the 2013 class are due by 11:59 P.M. (UTC–12) on December 31, 2012. Fellowship recipients will be announced in spring, 2013. Applicants must have been born after December 31, 1992 to qualify.
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, champions 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, 20under20.org, and Breakout Labs.org.
Ross Gillfillan for the Thiel Foundation