Published by The Harvard Crimson
By age 11, Sujay Tyle was already conducting serious lab research, a project to make bioethanol more efficient. By 13, he had contributed his research to several biofuel publications. And by 15, he was a freshman at Harvard.
“I got lucky that I had facial hair,” he jokes. “No one questioned me about it.”
The Organismic and Evolutionary Biology concentrator is a couple of large strides ahead of the game, and he knows it, too. Tyle speaks freely and confidently; he’s been interviewed before.
During his junior year, Tyle left Harvard for a Thiel fellowship, funded by technology entrepreneur Peter Thiel. The fellowship gives 20 students under 20 years old $100,000 grants to leave school for two years and pursue their own research or entrepreneurial projects.
Tyle describes the “big shock ” that he experienced when he first left Harvard for the fellowship. At school, he explains, “you have this syllabus, a laid out plan of how you want to go about doing school,” but, he continues, “when you go out to the real world, especially startups, you have nothing.”
Tyle ended up at Scopely, a mobile gaming company in Los Angeles headed by the cofounder of the Google program Adsense. “It wasn’t changing the world in any way,” Tyle says modestly. But at Scopely, he had the opportunity to meet with high-profile investors and travel around the world.
“I got to make so many mistakes,” Tyle adds. “That was the coolest part.”
During his second year off, Tyle helped launch a startup, now called hire.com, that matches engineers to companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter. “We ended up creating the first marketplace for highly technical talent,” he explains.
As things were going pretty well for him in the real world (he had already made it on to the Forbes “30 under 30” list) Tyle considered not returning to Harvard. His parents, who moved to the U.S. from India to attend graduate school, urged him to consider the value of education, too.
Tyle did not need too much convincing. “It’s Harvard,” Tyle adds. “I’m also young…it’s a great opportunity to think about what I want to do.”
Back at school, Tyle is taking six classes, organizing networking events with his older brother Sheel, a JD-MBA student at Harvard, and working on a research project with Law professor Larwrence Lessig, a job that has shown him just how valuable a university environment can be despite the fact that Harvard is not known to be especially pre-professional. He recalls sitting with Lessig when the professor’s G-chat window popped up with a message from Edward Snowden. The two communicated via cyber-slang (“u’s” and “r’s”) right in front of the undergrad’s eyes.
“This will only happen at Harvard,” Tyle says.
This article has been revised to reflect the following corrections:
CORRECTIONS: Dec. 4, 2014
An earlier version of this article misstated the URL of the website of the startup that Sujay Tyle ’15 launched while taking time off from Harvard. In fact, the startup’s website is hired.com. The article also incorrectly stated that Tyle is organizing networking events with his older brother, while in fact, they are organizing dinners.