Thiel’s scholarships for bright students to leave university are proving, against all odds, a success

Peter Thiel is one of the most controversial VCs in the US. Co-founder of Paypal and the first external investor of Facebook, his fortune is around 7,000 million dollars. But what is controversial is not his investments, which are usually successful, but his ideas. The most questioned act of his was support Donald Trump during his presidencywhich few in Silicon Valley have dared to do.

A project that goes out of the established is your Thiel Fellowship, which pays $100,000 for bright students to drop out of college and pursue another path. The funny thing is that the scholarship recipients are having quite a bit of success.

The Thiel scholarship, its origin

A 2010 Peter Thiel announced at the Techcrunch conference his scholarship, which was originally called “20 under 20”. The idea was clear: choose 20 people each year to leave the university and develop their projects. In return I would give them $100,000 and mentorships.

His argument is purely anti-establishment: the university is useless in the modern world. And not only that, but brilliant students see that later they cannot develop their ideas due to the debts acquired while studying and this forces them to work for third parties as soon as they finish.

This idea is not helped by the fact that two of the world’s most famous founders, Bill Gates y Mark Zuckerberg, will leave the university before finishing their studies to found their companies. But of course there is always. survivor bias and we love the stories more than the data, which indicates that having a good education and starting a company when you have some work experience (and older) give more chances of success.

Celebrity Thiel Scholarship Recipients

But despite Thiel’s false preconception and arrogance, the truth is that Thiel scholarships… They’re working. We are going to highlight some scholarship recipients who are having success in their business life.

Vitalink Buterin He was a recipient of the scholarship in 2014 and left his studies to dedicate himself full time to his new company, Ethereum. Right now is the project crypto largest that exists after Bitcoin. His net worth is estimated to be around $1.5 billion.

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Dylan Field he was not completely satisfied with his computer engineering studies in 2012 when he applied for the Thiel scholarship. Despite the fact that his parents were not happy with the idea, he accepted it and left his studies to found Figma, an online software for graphic design. Recently Adobe has bought Figma for $20 billion. It is estimated that Dylan still owns 10% of Figma, so his assets would amount to 2,000 million dollars.

Other success stories are Ritesh Agarwal, who received the grant in 2013 to found OYO Rooms, whose estimated value is around 10,000 million dollars. Also Austin Russell, who founded Luminar in high school and received the Thiel Scholarship right out of college in 2013, dropped everything to focus on his company and recently went public with a capitalization of $2.73 billion. Austin still owns a third of the shares.

And so up to 14 receivers successfully of scholarships. A not insignificant figure for a program whose founding motives are purely ideological and that they are not supported by evidence from the data.

The key to success?

However, let’s not get carried away again by the survivor’s bias. Thiel has awarded 20 scholarships a year since 2011 and therefore there are more than 200 recipients of them, of which 5% stand out. It is a considerable success rate, but of those 5%, of those 14 famous receivers, still not everyone has managed to monetize their success or really succeed such as Buterin, Field, Agarwal or Russell.

The Thiel Fellowship has been able to seek out exceptional people who early in life had ideas and drive to develop them. Just as VCs look for good founders to fund them, Thiel has gone a little further than seed rounds and has focused on a very specific audience.

In short, Thiel has failed, in my opinion, to show that the university is useless (in fact, on the contrary, he has shown that universities attract talent, very good students). What he has shown is that Thiel is a good VC who knows how to smell success among the projects that are proposed to him.

Source: El Blog Salmón by

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