Keeping Tabs on Peter Thiel's College Dropouts


Keeping Tabs on Peter Thiel's College Dropouts

Feb 9, 2015

"Whatever happened to the teenage entrepreneurs whom Peter Thiel paid to forgo college?" asks The Chronicle of Higher Education. Now into its fourth class, the "20 Under 20" fellowship that is humming along, but with considerably less of the hype--and consternation--that accompanied its launch.

Among the edtech startups founded in the 2011 inaugural class, one collapsed and another is still going strong, having recently raised Series A funding. (Another, the UnCollege organization started by Dale Stephens, is spreading Thiel's gospel of "unschooling" around the world.) Altogether, the foundation says the 83 fellows have raised $72 million in VC funding, made $29 million in revenue, and two companies have sold for a combined $17 million. Two fellows left the program early and six went back to school afterwards.

These results may be less dramatic that some expect, but The Chronicle credits the fellowship for potentially "becoming a cultural barometer that reflects uncertainty students feel about the value of a college education." Many universities, the author notes, have started their own clubs and business incubators to encourage and support student entrepreneurs.

The piece may not fully answer the question in the title, but one of the few Thiel fellows interviewed, Eden Full, sums up the experience best:

"Both my college education and my Thiel-fellowship experience were very valuable to me. I don’t think any less of one or the other," says Ms. Full. "But we need to encourage students that they can step off the conveyor belt whenever they want."
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