Published by Forbes
In 2011 Peter Thiel embarked on an audacious plan: He’d give a group of teenagers $100,000 each to forgo college–and build their own startups from scratch. It quickly generated immense buzz as applications poured in. In the end, 24 young entrepreneurs became the first Thiel Fellows. Over the next five years that freshman class followed a number of different paths. Some stuck with their initial idea, while others changed course completely. And only a handful completed a key Silicon Valley rite of passage: raising money for their startup.
Only four fellows, or about 16% of the original Thiel class, have raised more than $1 million since taking Thiel up on his offer. Paul Gu, cofounder of Upstart, leads the pack, having raised $53 million for the online-lending marketplace. Andrew Hsu, meanwhile, was the first to get funding, scoring $1.5 million for his Airy Labs, a maker of educational games for kids.
Stuck With Their First Plan
Roughly half have kept going on their original projects. Dale Stephens, for example, has stayed at the startup he founded, UnCollege, which puts together gap-year programs, while Laura Deming remains at her biotech-focused venture capital firm, the Longevity Fund.
Went to School
There’s no rule that Thiel Fellows can’t eventually attend college. At least five fellows have done so, including David Luan, who graduated from Yale and has a new machine learning company, Dextro.
At least three fellows besides James Proud have continued to stay connected in some way to Thiel: Eden Full Goh, who started a solar company before leaving for Palantir, the data-mining firm Thiel cofounded; Tom Currier, who joined Thiel’s Founders Fund as an entrepreneur-in-residence after starting Black Swan Solar; and Daniel Friedman, who received funding from FF Angel, one of Thiel’s VC firms, for Thinkful, his startup that offers online coding classes.
A dozen or so fellows have moved on from their initial concepts. For his part, Sujay Tyle worked on founding Hired, a job-search website, then left to join one of Hired’s investors, Sherpa Ventures.