Billionaire’s Failed Education Experiment Proves There’s No Shortcut To Success

By Vivek Wadhwa for

Frustrated that Silicon Valley’s entrepreneurs “were not on focused on breakthrough technologies that will take civilization to the next level”, Peter Thiel announced the Thiel Fellowship in September 2010.  He paid children $100,000 not to complete their college education.  His plan was to have them build world-changing companies instead of wasting their time at school and being burdened by “incredible amounts of debt”.

In an article that I wrote when I first heard about this, I pleaded, “Friends don’t let friends take education advice from Peter Thiel”.  The best path to success is not to drop out of college, but to complete it, I argued.  Stanford Engineering Dean Jim Plummer said he expected that “Thiel’s experiment will increase the probability of success for the students he selects because of the mentoring and the financial help they will receive”.

Indeed, with all the connections and hand-holding that they receive, Plummer and I had both expected that the Thiel Fellows would achieve success exceeding that of other Stanford engineering graduates and dropouts—and of those who joined incubators such as Y-Combinator and TechStars.  We thought that because the deck was stacked, there would be many wildly successful Thiel startups—“the extreme examples that we would look at in amazement”.

But three years later, there don’t seem to be any Thiel startups to be amazed at. The few successes lauded seem to be a mirage—or just plain silly.  After all, is a “caffeine spray”, which Thiel Fellow Ben Yu developed with venture capitalist Deven Soni, a world-changing innovation that will “take civilization to the next level”?  I don’t think so.

Read more here.

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