The Theil Fellowship: 20 under 20

Business Initiative Directions

Silicon Valley juggernaut Peter Theil challenges the idea of education at its core, and questions the value of young people putting themselves into years of debt before starting on disruptive new projects. He argues that the time spent in college could be far more productive and a truly groundbreaking ideas are not dependent on a college education.

The same man points out that the Apple iPhone is not disruptive when compared to moon landings, for example. Theil’s dispair at the lack of original and truly disruptive innovation pushed him to start the 20 under 20 Fellowships.

Each year since 2011, 20 brilliant young people are selected and given the support, mentors and $100,000 over two years for them to put their conventional education to one side and put their revolutionary ideas into action. Notable fellows from the first two years are Taylor Wilson, a 19 year-old nuclear scientist and the youngest person to achieve nuclear fusion; UnCollege founder Dale J. Stephens and Laura Deming, who plans to cure the aging process.

Fellows from 2011 and 2012 have so far founded 30 companies and raised a reported $34 million in outside funding.

This year’s group includes a fashion designer and a poet and fellows hail from Canada, Britain, China, India and Singapore, as well as the U.S.

As the debate continues on the role of tertiary education and whether or not it will become the next “bubble” to pop as Theil has predicted, these brilliant young minds keep working at disrupting our world, moon-landing style.

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