Peter Thiel Calls for Applicants – 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowships (2014)

Fellowship Application Launched at HackMIT – a Massive Undergraduate Hackathon – Featuring a special Thiel Fellowship “Under 20” Prize

The Thiel Foundation announced this weekend that it has begun accepting applications for a new class of 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellows. The announcement was made at HackMIT, a weekend-long collegiate hackathon held at MIT that attracted more than 1,000 undergraduate tech enthusiasts.

“Standing here, I find hope in your inventiveness, hard work, and passion for technology, because you are proof that the most peaceful, effective way to change the world is by building wonderful things,” said Jonathan Cain, president of the Thiel Foundation, during his address. “Hackathons are a powerful expression of this idea, and show us that the best way to learn isn’t by sitting in a classroom, but by doing. If this excites you, I hope you’ll apply for a 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship so we can help you bring your most audacious ideas to life.”

Thiel Fellowships include grants of $100,000 each 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. In exchange, Thiel Fellows agree to take a two-year hiatus from the classroom and focus their energy and attention on creating innovative startups, technologies, and nonprofits.

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 often means starting a company, but could also entail 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 sixty young people have been awarded Thiel Fellowships and pursued projects to push back the boundaries of fields such as nuclear and alternative energy, mobile health, robotics, biotechnology, 3D printing, synthetic biology, public health, education, finance, scientific equipment, gaming, network security, data storage, electrical transmission and software.

“The world is made by those who do, and Thiel fellows have shown that true accomplishment needn’t wait on institutional credentials. In just over two years, Thiel fellows have started dozens of companies, created more than a hundred jobs, and raised more than $43 million in outside funding. They’ve achieved this funding by attracting outside investment, earning grants and sponsorships, shipping products, generating revenue, and even by selling the companies they’ve created,” said Jim O’Neill, cofounder of the Thiel Fellowship and partner and chief operating officer at Mithril Capital Management. “The Thiel Fellowship has affected the lives of many more people than just the fellows and their employees. They have also developed products that help other people get better jobs, empower students and teachers, and energize the world. Whether a fellow starts or joins a company, researches ideas, enables social change, or does something entirely new, the common thread is how they improve not just the world, but the lives of others.”

Though applicants may already have a scientific, technical, or nonprofit project underway, Thiel Fellowships are not limited to those with established companies or developed innovations. Teams of up to four may also apply.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to create additional value for our applicants, including those who are not awarded fellowships. To that end, we have incorporated a few new elements into the screening process this year,” said Mike Gibson, VP of Grants for the Thiel Foundation. “For example, applicants will be able to indicate whether they’re interested in potential internship opportunities within the Thiel Fellowship mentor network. During the application review, our mentors will likewise be able to indicate whether they’d be interested in interviewing an applicant for an internship or job opportunity, whether that applicant gets a fellowship or not. Since we can only award around twenty fellowship spots each year, this will allow us to create real and lasting connections with a much broader pool of talented young people.”

New York Under 20 Summit – November 9 and 10, 2013
In conjunction with the new round of Fellowship applications, the Thiel Foundation will be hosting its fall/winter “Under 20 Summit” in New York City on November 9 and 10, 2013. Under 20 Summits are twice yearly events that foster creative spaces – online and off – for young entrepreneurs to collaborate, learn from and inspire one another. The event will feature speakers from the Thiel Fellowship mentor network, breakout sessions on topics important to young entrepreneurs (many led by summit attendees themselves), office hours, and special collaborative activities. Under 20 Summits are open to anyone 23 and younger working on a project to better the world. Admission is by invitation only.

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“New York will be our fourth Under 20 Summit, and our second summit on the East Coast,” said Danielle Strachman, Thiel Fellowship program director. “With each event we’re able to bring more young people into the world’s largest community that celebrates young tech entrepreneurs. It’s amazing to witness firsthand the incredible energy coming out of the summits – for many attendees it’s the first time that they’ve been given the opportunity to truly interact and collaborate with likeminded peers. And it’s particularly gratifying to see summiters take that momentum back to their home communities, forging their own Under 20 Meetups for young entrepreneurs and mentors in cities like Chattanooga, Boston, Toronto and London.”

HackMIT Under 20 Prize
At the HackMIT event the Thiel Foundation also awarded a special HackMIT “Under 20 Prize” to Francis Hinson and Andrew Ng for their project “Silkspeak,” a realtime speech analysis application that helps people improve their speaking skills. Francis and Andrew will each receive priority review of their 2014 Thiel Fellowship applications, airfare and hotel accommodations to an upcoming Under 20 Summit, and a special meeting at the summit with members of the Thiel Fellowship leadership team.

Applications and more information about the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship and the current fellows are available now online. Applications for the 2014 class are due by 11:59 P.M. (UTC–12) on December 31, 2013. New fellowships will be announced in spring, 2014. Applicants must have been born after December 31, 1993 to qualify. The Foundation welcomes applications from people around the world.

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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.

SOURCE: Thiel Foundation