Breaking Boundaries: Young Entrepreneurs Forge Paths Beyond Academia with Thiel Fellowship

The Thiel Fellowship program, led by billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel, offers $100,000 to entrepreneurs under 22 years old drop out of college to pursue their ventures. In 2024, it saw its largest applicant pool yet. Bloomberg News interviewed three of the 20 fellows to understand their motivations and aspirations.

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Gavin Uberti, along with his co-founders, left Harvard to start Etched, a company focusing on specialized AI chips for transformers. Despite the risk of leaving Harvard, Uberti values the opportunity the fellowship provides for real-world experience and networking in the hardware industry.

Diogenes Casares, having worked in crypto market makers, founded Stream to centralized exchanges with decentralized finance, aiming for greater efficiency and security. He found college irrelevant to his learning interests and sees the fellowship as validation for his unconventional path.

Alexandra Debow, also a dropout from University, co-founded Swsh, a social app using AI to deepen relationships through shared photo albums. She believes in the diminishing value of college over time and sees the fellowship as an opportunity to tackle loneliness by fostering deeper connections through technology.

While these entrepreneurs face skepticism for leaving academia, they are driven by the belief that traditional may not suit everyone, especially in rapidly evolving fields like AI and crypto. They see the fellowship as a platform to pursue their passions, gain credibility, and build valuable networks within their industries.

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