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Candidates must be 19 years old or younger as of December 31st of the application year. The ideal candidate has ideas that simply cannot wait. She or he wants to change the world and has already started to do it in some fashion. We want fellows who dream big and have clear plans, who take risks and learn from mistakes, who think long-term and like to tinker. Inspire us.
Yes. We encourage candidates from around the world to apply. Foreign candidates are responsible for obtaining their own visa into the United States. If you receive a fellowship you must be up for navigating this challenge.
No—neither the Thiel Foundation nor any of its affiliates receive any equity in return for the fellowship grants.
Thiel Fellowship applications take about a month per round to assess. The whole process is about four months. There are four rounds to the Thiel Application:
The Thiel Foundation helps fellows to design their own paths; each fellowship will be a unique experience. We expect that each fellow will grow and develop over two years, and so the nature of the work may change substantially as the fellows’ goals shift and mature.
We encourage fellows to move to the San Francisco Bay Area for the opportunities and resources that the area provides, such as mentors in our network, other like-minded entrepreneurs, and many learning and cultural opportunities. However, fellows are welcome to work on their projects from any location.
We ask fellows to take two years away from college so that they can fully focus on their projects without the time and expense of college. Fellows may take or audit classes that are specific to their project areas, though all class participation through a university or college must be approved by the Thiel Foundation.
Fellows are paired with mentors who have business, vision, or industry expertise, subject to both fellow and mentor approval. Fellows schedule meetings once a month to go over action items from the last month and set new goals and discuss challenges. We believe that mentoring is a very important part to becoming a successful leader. We encourage all people, whether fellows or not, to seek out mentors.
Grant awards are distributed in monthly installments beginning on the fellow's start date. Compelling spending plans that require a greater percentage of the grant during initial stages will be considered.
We expect fellows to think about how they want their work to shape the world ten years from now, not just three months from now. Over the two years of their fellowship, we expect them to immerse themselves fully in their projects, while keeping in mind their longer-term goals, and to develop the following skills both on their own and through the fellowship.
We are looking to the fellows to bring breakthroughs to the world, and so we have very high expectations. Fellows must:
The fellowship is chance to explore many different paths as fellows determine how to realize their long-term visions for changing the world. Entrepreneurship may be the right focus for many fellows, but it may take some fellows several years to solidify their project focus, flesh out their research, develop prototypes, or build teams. Fellows can also spend time in internships or work opportunities, with Foundation approval, to get experience and learn how startups work. Ultimately, we want to ensure that each fellow is working on something that will meaningfully advance science and technology, and change the world for the better over the next decade.
Start dates can vary based on the fellows’ individual situations and commitments. We expect that fellows will select a start date that falls between June and September, inclusive. All grant recipients are considered Thiel Fellows, even if they have not yet started their fellowships.
Of course. If an idea isn’t working, or something more compelling arises, it may make sense to change a project. Should a fellow decide to pursue other ideas, the Foundation will discuss this with him or her and help make a decision.
All fellows must forgo all other employment or educational enrollment during the two year fellowship, except as approved by the Thiel Foundation. In some cases, an internship may help a fellow learn about an industry before working on a project, and the Foundation will be happy to discuss this.
Absolutely. A core component of the fellowship program is the opportunity to build valuable, lifelong connections.
If a fellow decides to leave the Thiel Fellowship and return to school during the two-year fellowship, he or she will forfeit the remainder of his or her fellowship. After their fellowships end, fellows can go to school if they choose.
The Thiel Foundation strongly encourages, though does not require, all Thiel Fellows to move to the Bay Area for the cohort collaboration, mentoring, networking, conferences, and other opportunities that arise on a regular basis. We believe that moving to the Bay Area is the best way to maximize the benefits of one’s fellowship.
All fellows are responsible for their own housing and living expenses, though mentors will have a great deal of knowledge about how to live and work in the Bay Area.
Grant awards are distributed in monthly installments beginning on the fellow's start date. Compelling spending plans that require a greater percentage of the grant during initial stages will be considered. The grants can be used for anything, including living or business expenses. Parents are welcome to support their children; however, it is not expected. In fact, we believe that as a life accelerator it is best for fellows to learn about boot-strapping on a limited budget.
If you are under 20, we encourage you to apply to the Thiel Fellowship. The Fellowship does not review applications from people who are 20 or older.
We also fund revolutionary early-stage science and technology research through Breakout Labs.