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PayPal Co-Founder Gives Out $100,000 To Not Go To College 418

Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel says the key to quicker business innovation is skipping college. His foundation is handing out $100,000 to 24 people under 20 to drop out of college for two years and start companies. From the press release: "As the first members of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship, the Fellows will pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, learn entrepreneurship, and begin to build the technology companies of tomorrow. During their two-year tenure, each Fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs and innovators. The project areas for this class of fellows include biotech, career development, economics and finance, education, energy, information technology, mobility, robotics, and space."
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PayPal Co-Founder Gives Out $100,000 To Not Go To College

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  • So tell me (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:24AM (#36250462)
    Has he gotten $2 million worth of publicity from this stunt yet?
    • Re:So tell me (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Culture20 ( 968837 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:26AM (#36250484)
      No, but he'll prevent some of his future competitors from being more educated than him.
      • The skills that college teaches are different from those that are used in industry. college taught me less about best practices, like source controller or TDD, and more about abstract concepts of computing, like classes in comparative languages and operating system. the skills are from two difference perspective, both perspective are useful and aren't necessarily are mutually exclusive.
        • Re:So tell me (Score:4, Insightful)

          by jdpars ( 1480913 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:46AM (#36250724)
          It's even valuable to get a degree not entirely related to what you want to do. If this guy feels that college stifles innovation, why not encourage people to get degrees in things they enjoy? Get a degree in history, and focus on businesses of the past. Now, you're an expert in what works and what doesn't, over long-term, history-writing years. Get a degree in a foreign language, and open up more countries you can work with effectively. Get a degree in anything, and learn to think!
          • Re:So tell me (Score:4, Insightful)

            by yarnosh ( 2055818 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:49AM (#36250770)
            Maybe he feels like student loans hold people back from starting new businesses... compelling people to get a full time job as soon as possible. Just a thought.
            • Maybe he feels like student loans hold people back from starting new businesses... compelling people to get a full time job as soon as possible. Just a thought.

              If so, he could just pay the college for those people, instead of paying them for not going to college.

            • by Fjandr ( 66656 )

              Student loans were a crushing burden to many people who didn't belong in college before the economy collapsed. Now that many people have no better option, it's going to get even worse.

              Of all the people I know personally who have graduated from college in the last several years, only 2 have jobs in their field. The rest are either unemployed or working in the same service industry they worked through college in. At commercial schools (U. of Phoenix, etc), it's even worse. There are almost no scholarships or

          • I got a degree in what I love. Now I make good money doing what I love. I remember a classmate telling me how they hated every aspect of the same degree. They loathed it. I asked why they were in the major. They wanted the money. "Get degrees in things they enjoy?" Ditto. Also, don't assume there has to be a degree for what you enjoy. Don't assume you have to pursue a college diploma to be great in business and life. College is an just an option.
          • Re:So tell me (Score:5, Insightful)

            by flyingsquid ( 813711 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:37PM (#36252258)
            I think that the 20 Under 20 program is probably a really good idea... if you're Peter Thiel. I imagine his thought process went something like this: "Man, investing in Zuckerberg and Facebook was the smartest thing I ever did. Half a million dollars turned into two. billion. f***ing. dollars. How in the hell can I possibly do that again?" It's a long-shot gamble that paid off huge. 4000 times his original investment, or 400,000% return. That's one of the best investments in history. Imagine giving a friend 250 dollars for his company and becoming a millionaire. How can you replicate that success?

            The answer is to recruit as many wannabe Zuckerbergs as you possibly can, throw money and some guidance at them, and if any of them show promise, you're in a position to invest heavily in them and get in on the next FaceBook or Google from day 1. It's a long-shot bet, sure. But long-shot bets are worth taking, if the potential payoff is large enough and the amount you wager is low enough. Imagine a lottery where it costs 1$ to play, and the odds of success are 1%, but the payoff is 4000:1. What would you do? You'd buy as many tickets as you can. Spending a modest (by Thiel's standards) $2 million dollars for a 1% chance of making another $2 billion dollars is a damn clever investment. The downside is fixed (2 million) and not enough to hurt, but the potential upside is virtually unlimited.

            If you're one of the people applying for Thiel's grants, however, the risk:benefit calculus works out a bit differently. Thiel is hedging his bets, he's got 24 grantees, if he runs the program for four years he would have almost 100 startups. He only has to have one modest success to break even, and if every single company is an abject failure, he hasn't really lost much. Heck, the whole thing is a foundation, so I assume it's even tax-deductible. He has a reasonable shot of winning and can hardly lose. The grantee is in a very different situation. I'm totally pulling numbers out of my ass, but I would guess that 90% of these companies will fail to ever break even, 10% will make some profit, and 1% will be real successes. So you're trading 2 years of your life, and 2 years of college, for a fairly modest sum of money and an extremely remote chance of starting a major company. It's kind of like dropping out of college and a conventional career path to run off to L.A. and become a rock star or an actor. Sure, you could win huge, but odds are you won't. On the other hand, the real-world experience gained in starting and running a company, and the mentorship, are arguably more useful than what you'll learn in college and would probably be attractive to a lot of companies, especially if you could show that you did manage to produce and learn something in those two years. And hell, maybe one of them will even invent the Next Big Thing.

            And of course, this kind of gambling is probably stupid at the individual level but it's vital at a societal level. If everyone took the conventional path then we'd have a nation of actuaries, doctors, bankers, management consultants, and lawyers, and no movie directors, rock stars, artists, novelists, or visionary CEOs. If nobody took these kinds of risks, you wouldn't have companies like Google, FaceBook, Apple, and Microsoft. You wouldn't have the Beatles, Tom Hanks, or Harry Potter, either. For most people, you'd be a fool to take Thiel's wager, you'll be safer and happier staying on the safe path. But for a small percentage, it's a hell of an opportunity and an experience, and encouraging this type of risk-taking could produce a lot of benefits for the whole of society, for all the doctors and lawyers and bankers and management consultants and actuaries. Overall, I think that Thiel is probably right, that a lot of our best and brightest are being encouraged to play it too safe, that we're probably squandering a lot of talent pushing really smart kids into safe career paths in management consulting, investment banking, and medicine. And at the same time, I hope he's encouraging these kids to have some backup plans.

        • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
          How about starting a business AND going to school? Seriously. I'm still running my home computer repair company even after college. It was actually more successful while I was in school - I was more motivated to get new customers and make a profit and put myself through school. Now that I have a full-time job, I only keep the customers I like and some referrals. (Those who are in the business know why.)

          I'm not unique in this. I have a few dental student friends who run a window washing service (for
      • Re:So tell me (Score:4, Insightful)

        by TrisexualPuppy ( 976893 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:46AM (#36250726)
        These days, you don't go to college to get an education. You go to college to get a piece of paper that gets you a job.

        When that's the mentality, everyone has the assumption that you have to go to college to get a job, everyone goes to college, and college standards have to be lowered to give everyone an equal opportunity. At the same time, colleges have realized what a cash cow "educations" are and have been jacking up rates [] like no man's business. Let me tell you another secret. I went to GT for my bachelor's degree. Everything that I learned came from my own studying. I could have sat in my basement with textbooks and a computer, table, and desk lamp and learned the same materials because I was always either in the classroom or library anyway. Nothing special about these places. The only "special" thing required is to have a curriculum designed which amounts to little more than having a syllabus. Trade secrets from the professor? Didn't learn any. The lecturer's PowerPoint slides? Please. The few lab resources that I actually used? Sorry, but I had a more capable lab built by the time I was a sophomore with funds from my summer/part-time jobs and purchasing old equipment on eBay.

        I'm still $42k in debt, and the wife is going crazy about it. I think that Pete Thiel is trying to make the statement that this whole college process is completely haywire and that you don't need a college degree to be successful. Just some intelligence, creativity, some books, and a desire to learn on one's own and a drive to innovate. But what would I know having been through this twice already?
        • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

          by Lumpy ( 12016 )

          IF you want to be an executive? he is 100% correct.

          All you need to do is schmooze and network to get your name known by rich people. Abilities and skills are not important, It's who you know not what you know.

          If you want to be a productive citizen that actually does things? College is a good idea.

          • Re:So tell me (Score:5, Insightful)

            by 1s44c ( 552956 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:11AM (#36251024)

            I agree about the pointless brain-dead professional manager types that turn up everywhere. However:

            If you want to be a productive citizen that actually does things? College is a good idea.

            Education is a good idea. College is fine but it's only one way to get an education.

          • I Disagree,

            Most productive citizens get college degrees because the job that they want to do asks for it. Do most of those jobs really need a college degree... No. However companies ask for college degrees not because the crap they learned is that much more valuable, but because it shows they are willing to stick it out and get the degree besides having to take a bunch of pre-requisite classes that bore them to tears, but they are hard working and ambitious enough to finish the job.

            The schmoozers and netw

          • Re:So tell me (Score:5, Insightful)

            by robathome ( 34756 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:38AM (#36251424)

            As a blanket statement? For the IT field? Bullshit.

            You can be very successful in technology with no degree whatsoever. You just have to be willing to put in the time and the work yourself.

            If you're computer literate, can write basic code, have a reasonably broad exposure to different OS and hardware platforms (enthusiastic hobbiest), you can get an entry-level job. You'll spend the four years that you would have spent in college in the field, doing grunt work. At the end of that time, chances are good that you and the recent college grad may be competing for the same jobs. They'll have skipped the cable-monkey/printer-minder stage, and you'll have skipped out on OS theory. However, you as an enthusiast are probably hanging out in the same community of user groups and nerds that they are, and that's where a lot of the real practical learning is - in the sharing of new information amongst peers, not the dictation of established doctrine in the classroom.

            The hard part for the non-degreed is establishing credentials, and it's all up to you to do that. Your degree is a certification that you're (supposedly) not an idiot, and it's tangible. As someone without that piece of paper, you have to establish that cred yourself - by contributing to FOSS projects, writing your own tools, getting your name known in the community. I'm more likely to hire the guy with no degree and five OSS projects to his name than someone with a freshly minted BS in comp-sci, to be honest.

            I've no degree - all my credentials come from my body of work, professional network and peers. I did my time as a field tech, parlayed my experience with my hobby pursuits into a systems management job, learned all I could in the process, then moved into systems analysis and engineering, picking up skills as needed on the fly. Now, I'm sitting nicely in a position with a solid six-figure salary and 17 years of an established reputation backing me up.

            A BS is an ante into the game, but after that both the academic and the street-smart have to play their cards well to advance.

        • Re:So tell me (Score:5, Insightful)

          by ozziegt ( 865751 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:07PM (#36251802)

          I went to GT for a BS and an MS. Could I have learned about 80% of what I learned there by getting some syllabus off the internet and hunkering down in my basement? Maybe. Would I have been motivated to do so? No, especially when I was 18. Would I have had a network of people around me for moral support and to answer questions? No. Would I have been in an environment which helped me stay focused and learn what I needed to? No. Were there times when I asked myself if it was worth it? A few. Would I have done it again? Absolutely. I have an awesome job and a great resume of education and employers and I really don't know what things would have been like if I had dropped out of high school. I am pretty sure I wouldn't be where I am now. I didn't have the wisdom or maturity when I was 18 that I do now.

          Just a caveat: I was an instate resident and I got out of school without a single cent of debt.

          I think most people who have been through college and are working in the field where they got their degree have no right to say anything against it. It's easy to deny one's reality in hindsight and talk about how things "could have been different" but we really won't ever know...when starting college most people are pretty "green", and that needs to be taken into account when thinking back on it as well. People are bitter right now because the job market sucks as well...imagine being in this job market without a degree at all. Yeah.

      • by hackus ( 159037 )

        Education is a personal decision.

        It isn't a college application form, or a Building that says "UW-Madison" on it for example.

        You make the decision to become educated every day of your life.

        College is a requirement in our society because it is tied into what could best be described as a fascist economic dictatorship model, where it is a corporate requirement in many cases to have "your papers" in order. (i.e. diplomas)

        Not because corporations want the best or the brightest. If you want the best in the bri

    • It is more than a publicity stunt. I skipped college. That did not mean I skipped a continuing education. I leaned electronics as a hobby. I went into the Navy out of high school into the advanced electronics program and continued my education. I took and passed the Apprentice and Journeyman ISCET exams. []

      I leaned refrigeration while working cryptology as we avoided bringing in outside contractors into classified spaces (huge shutdown of operations to do so). Again lots of book lear

  • Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I wonder how many people with college degrees they will hire

  • Neat! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DWMorse ( 1816016 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:26AM (#36250480) Homepage
    That's forward thinking right there! Why beat the competition if you can pay them a pittance to fail outright early in life?
    • Yeah, good point. These students should avoid failure by blowing $150k in college to qualify for a entry level job. Much more successful.

      • Re:Neat! (Score:5, Interesting)

        by LordLimecat ( 1103839 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:55AM (#36250822)

        These students should avoid failure by blowing $150k in college to qualify for a entry level job. Much more successful.

        Whenever I see this I have to ask, "what posessed that young student to go to an out-of-state college"?

        I mean, I am right now attending college part time (trying to convert an awful associates to a full bachelors). Im just finished freshman / sophmore levels at a community college at a whopping $95 per credit hour, and will be going to a state university this fall at an astounding $500 per credit hour. My bill at the end of all of this will be less than $45000, for a full bachelors degree.

        I could, of course, have chosen to go to an out-of-state ritzy school like Georgetown, lived on campus, and blown $45000 per semester... but then, I really wouldnt have anyone else to blame for my debt but myself, would I?

        • Re:Neat! (Score:4, Informative)

          by DurendalMac ( 736637 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:53AM (#36251626)
          THIS. The guys railing against college always cite insane amounts of debt. I don't know where the hell they dropped out, but most state schools won't leave you with anywhere near that much debt. I'll be graduating next year and figure I'll have less than $25k. Not ideal, but student loans aren't exactly back-breaking in their payment plans, at least they aren't if you avoided private loans like the goddamned plague. Payments are pretty low, interest usually isn't that bad, and they usually are willing to work with you if you fall on hard times.
      • I would hope that if you're dropping $150k on college, you're ready to start a lucrative career in something. If you don't, however, have plans to do anyting big, $150k is probably way too much to be spending on school.

        Anyway, the failure rate of new businesses is MUCH higher than that of college graduates.

        • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
          Question: What is the failure rate of a new business compared to the failure rate of a college student?
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      I'm amusing that the summary means $100,000 for each person, not $5000 each. Even so you can't do that much with $100k. Maybe get one really low wage member of staff and rent on a shipping container sized room for a year (obviously you have to pay yourself too).

      PayPal is hardly a good example of a successful company either, because no-one would use it unless forced to by eBay. It is far and away the worst way to buy or sell online, the website is slow and poorly designed, the system insecure and they are co

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        If you cant turn that $100,000 into $1,000,000 in investments and startup capitol in 3 months you're a failure. This is the new internet business.. The guy is not looking for someone to start a traditional mom and pop small business. He is looking to fund the next cut-throat scam artist bullshitter that can make big promises and talk others into working for free or working for a promise of the big pie that is just around the corner (Think Zuckerberg) Some pan out like facebook. Some fall on their face

    • You really should check out the people who got awarded the 100k, then. Unless you're already a billionaire, it's pretty hard to say they're failures - in fact, the reverse is much more likely to be true. The 100k is given to people who don't need the college education.
    • That's forward thinking right there! Why beat the competition if you can pay them a pittance to fail outright early in life?

      A pittance to fail? He's giving high school grads $50k/yr for 2 years to not go to college. After that, they can either succeed at whatever or go to college. Where else is a high school only degree going to make this much right away without inheriting it? Sure, people with high school only have succeeded later, but making that much to start? I would have traded two years between high school and college for $100K to experiment in failing at some business.

  • When I first saw this on Fark I got excited that he was going to give people money to do an apprenticeship or maybe start their own hands on company. No, he's paying people that he hopes will be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. We need a whole lot more of the former and a whole lot less of the latter.

    • the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. We need a whole lot more of the former and a whole lot less of the latter.

      I'd be happy with neither tbh.

      • by RMingin ( 985478 )
        "When I first saw this on Fark I got excited that he was going to give people money to do an apprenticeship or maybe start their own hands on company. No, he's paying people that he hopes will be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. We need a whole lot more of the former and a whole lot less of the latter." "I'd be happy with neither tbh." You misread. Let me spell it out for you. A. "Apprenticeship or hands on company" B. "next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg" We need more A than B.
  • Seems like a gimmick, to me. You know, as opposed to an innovative idea.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by serano ( 544693 ) *
      He argues from the fact that a few people buck the trend and succeed despite dropping out of school. That does not mean they succeeded because they did not go to school. That's like Oprah getting up on her final show and saying she owed her success to her prayers to Jesus. Well tens of thousands of people around her prayed too and none of them were up there, so that logic should mean prayer failed in nearly every case rather than prayer is what made her succeed. Looking at the exceptions without looking
  • Funny Thing (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sonny Yatsen ( 603655 ) * on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:27AM (#36250502) Journal

    For a guy who's claiming that college impedes innovation, Peter Thiel sure had a lot of it. He has a BA in Philosophy and a Juris Doctor from Stanford.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Toksyuryel ( 1641337 )

      Which means he's fully qualified to claim it did him absolutely no good, having actually gone through and done it.

      • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

        Well duh.. BA in philosophy.... WTF use is that other than to get the "has degree" box checked on the resume.

        • by MikeRT ( 947531 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:24AM (#36251220)

          Well duh.. BA in philosophy.... WTF use is that other than to get the "has degree" box checked on the resume.

          That's precisely how most people see their degrees and why we need to get rid of the concept of most jobs needing a degree. Liberal educations used to be hardcore... closer to modern engineering majors in work loads than what we have today. 100 years ago, a liberally educated student could claim competence in classical languages, math, basic science, music, economics, rhetoric and writing. In other words, such a graduate actually was a good candidate for a serious career in government or the private sector because it took a "somebody" to make it through such a diverse and rigorous program. Today, they're a $50k+ second high school diploma (where a high school diploma back then was equivalent to a B.A. today).

          As to this guy, he has a B.A. and a J.D. from an elite university. If anyone can actually comment on the wisdom of this more normal path (his choices in majors, if not university, is closer to what most Americans choose in college), it's him.

        • Re:Funny Thing (Score:4, Informative)

          by arb phd slp ( 1144717 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:38AM (#36251430) Homepage Journal

          (A lot of people said the same thing, but replying to you because you're the non-AC).

          A B.A. in philosophy + a J.D. is a common combination of degrees. Philosophy is increasingly becoming the undergrad foundation for graduate studies in Law. It's like being a premed major, which doesn't qualify you to do much of anything except go to med school.

      • Hardly. How can he know what skills he picked up without being fully conscious of it?

      • by ari_j ( 90255 )

        Which means he's fully qualified to claim it did him absolutely no good, having actually gone through and done it.

        I disagree. Most people, regardless of experience, are innately bad at introspection and self-reflection. It's just human nature.

  • by kellyb9 ( 954229 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:28AM (#36250510)
    100,000 dollars really isn't that much money.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      It is if you're a 20 year old trying to get a generic business loan from a bank for the next hottest social networking fad instead of $5-$20k of student loans at a state/community college. Hello bankruptcy. But I guess the idea behind this experiment is you'd get the money from a VC. And if a VC wants to give you huge amounts of money for a likely lesson in failure, I see no problem with letting them take the risk. You can always re-enroll after 2 years.
    • by anagama ( 611277 )
      100k when you are 19 is a boatload of money.
      • It's not a lot of money to start an "innovative company" no matter how old you are. Let's start from the premise that you can live on 20K a year as a 20 year old with very little responsibility, and a willingness to eat a lot of Ramen. Let's further assume that a "next great technology" company is going to need, at a minimum, 20k worth of servers, at least one decent workstations (2K), Hosting (At least a few hundred dollars a month for a reliable colo service with a redundant high speed pipe, redundant p

        • Not to mention these kids are building businesses in fields like biotech, robotics, and aerospace. They're probably all bright and have an interest/aptitude in these areas, but I doubt any of them are experts (except maybe the kid with 3 degrees and practically a PhD). So who do they actually hire to implement their grand ideas and overcome the technical challenges? People who went to school to study these fields in depth, who are going to demand more than $100k for a year of work.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 ) <delirium-slashdot.hackish@org> on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:44AM (#36250708)

      The fact that you become one of 20 people introduced to Peter Thiel's network, and get his support/promotion, is probably more valuable than the cash. Which is also why this isn't really a scalable replacement for college: he can do this for 20 people, maybe 50, but not thousands or millions.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      He's offering it to 20 somethings... that's a lot of pot, and one hell of a trip to burning man.

    • by L4t3r4lu5 ( 1216702 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:11AM (#36251020)

      My first innovative idea: Band together with the other 19 people and make use of the $2m you've been given.
  • by BBCWatcher ( 900486 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:32AM (#36250558)
    The net present value of a college degree in the U.S. is greater than $100,000 plus the two years of tuition saved. However, if you were going to drop out anyway, it's a good deal. Or, if you can drop out for a minimum period of time, take the gamble, then go back, it might be a somewhat good deal.
    • No, that's (at best) the net present value of the difference in earnings between the average holder of a college degree and the average person who doesn't have one. The two groups of people are not equivalent in ambition or intelligence, which is what Thiel is counting on.

      In some fields, education is essential - engineering isn't really something you can pick up on the side these days. But not all fields are like that. In particular, you'll learn a lot more about business from running one than from going t
      • The two groups of people are not equivalent in ambition or intelligence, which is what Thiel is counting on.

        No, that's what he ensured in his group. He got applications from 400 of the most talented and motivated students from all over the world, and took the best of those. He's starting with a range of people, some who already have degrees, some who already have businesses, some who have had all the opportunities in the world and are already doing great. One of the kids already wrote an autobiography!

        So he's starting with this self selected pool of geniuses, giving them $100 grand, mentorship, and probably all t

    • Luckily they haven't yet learnt to calculate the net present value.

      Though, in all fairness, NPV can be quite subjective, and modeling it for any reasonable period of time makes it extremely sensitive to the estimated variables. Most of which when estimated, have really low correlation coefficients.

  • by morcego ( 260031 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:32AM (#36250560)

    This is just stupid. Yes, some people will do better starting a company instead of going to college (myself included), but that is not the rule, that is the exception.
    The vast majority will do worst if they drop college to start a company. Heck, most will crash and burn starting a company even after college.
    The numbers of factor determining "success without/instead of college" is staggering, and it is not about $100k (heck, I did it with a quarter of that).

  • University/College is only an educational institute. It teaches you nothing that you can't learn yourself in your chosen field through self-study and research.

    But if you do choose to attend later, after you gain some real-world experience, you have a much better capacity to understand and learn what it is you are being taught.

    That has some real value.


    • by slim ( 1652 )

      University/College is only an educational institute. It teaches you nothing that you can't learn yourself in your chosen field through self-study and research.

      College gives you:
        - A well stocked library
        - A ready made peer group, with whom you can discuss the subjects
        - A structured approach to the content
        - Ready access to experts (tutors, lecturers and professors)
        - time

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Rob Kaper ( 5960 )

        University/College is only an educational institute. It teaches you nothing that you can't learn yourself in your chosen field through self-study and research.

        College gives you:

        - A well stocked library

        - A ready made peer group, with whom you can discuss the subjects

        - A structured approach to the content

        - Ready access to experts (tutors, lecturers and professors)

        - time

        Internet is a better stocked library. Where you can find a greater amount of peers with similar interests. With many levels of structure to match your own learning preferences. With actual experts amongst your peers in open source participation (maybe also in university but in colleges? no way). And you'll have plenty of time for all that when you drop out of college.

      • As a current student, I'll have to disagree with you...

        College gives you: - A well stocked library

        Full of textbooks that you bought for $200, most likely won't use again, and would sell, but the bookstore will only give you $10.

        - A ready made peer group, with whom you can discuss the subjects

        A majority of the students who really don't care about the class or material, they are just trying to get their diploma as quickly as possible.

        - A structured approach to the content

        Possibly, depending on the professor, though usually just reading through powerpoint slides in class, and following the books chapter by chapter.

        - Ready access to experts (tutors, lecturers and professors)

        Ok, I'll give you that, but there'

        • Full of textbooks that you bought for $200, most likely won't use again, and would sell, but the bookstore will only give you $10.

          Beyond the physical books in the library, a University Library can get you pretty much any book in the world you desire within a couple days. Further, you have access to the digital libraries of almost every journal and periodical out there, depending on your University's subscriptions.

          I think the fact that I'm taking Cisco/Unix/C++ classes should negate that class

          You're taking a class in "Cisco"? What exactly are you studying that requires a class like this?

          • Beyond the physical books in the library, a University Library can get you pretty much any book in the world you desire within a couple days. Further, you have access to the digital libraries of almost every journal and periodical out there, depending on your University's subscriptions.

            I read this as a personal library. The availability of the books in the campus library has impressed me though.

            You're taking a class in "Cisco"? What exactly are you studying that requires a class like this?

            The degree is Computer Science Technology, for SysAdmins. The Cisco classes are for CCNA certs as well as some VOIP and Security classes.

    • As someone who has attended college after becoming an established professional, I can say that this is both correct and incorrect. If you go back to gain education in a field in which you're already competent it's 90% frustration and 10 educational. You have to deal with all the bullshit courses for one thing. I can see these having value for someone with a narrow perspective - say the average college-bound teenager. For a reasonably well-read and experienced adult, they're a waste of time and money.


  • I mean, some of these kids already have degrees. One of them I read attended classes at a university since he was 10. Or how about this one:

    "Andrew Hsu started doing research in a pathology lab when he was 10. By the time he was 12, he had matriculated at the University of Washington. Soon after, he graduated with honors degrees in neurobiology, biochemistry, and chemistry. He was a 19-year-old 4th-year neuroscience Ph.D. candidate at Stanford University when he left early this year to pursue his start-up, Airy Labs."

    So this kid is under 20, but he already had 3 Bachelor's degrees and was a year from finishing a Ph.D. These kids are all smart and highly motivated, and it seems they're going to receive a significant amount of mentorship through this fellowship.

    But just considering the failure rate of new startups, how would the Thiel Foundation look if 18/20 of their proteges are out of business in a year? My guess is the Foundation will be injecting money and talent into these ventures to avoid such a PR disaster.

    • by Lumpy ( 12016 )

      And are social pariahs. They need to use that cash to get social training on how to interact with people and rub elbows with the rich. Brains+education+ understand social interaction and use it to your advantage? that get's you bigger than bill gates ever was.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @10:47AM (#36250746)

    Every time the college vs. no college debate comes up, examples of highly successful dropouts or people who didn't ever go to college are rolled out. The default assumption is that everyone is destined to be a successful entrepreneur. In his defense, he does mention further down in the article that not everyone is cut out for this.

    Think about it this way -- to be a successful business owner, you can't just be smart or a hard worker. You have to have some sort of entrepreneurial spark that most people don't have. Every business owner that I've dealt with who is reasonably successful is also a type-A nutjob (mostly meant in a good way...) who works 130 hour weeks and never lets up. Sending the message that everyone can do this if they just try is wrong in my opinion. It produces a lot of small business failures and subsequent bankruptcies as people keep trying to make their business float despite obvious signs it'll never work. It also produces a lot of rhetoric that standard employees are a bunch of lazy people who have no drive and can't cut it in the "real world." Also, there's only so many small businesses that the economy can absorb -- if everyone is out running a frozen yogurt shop or pizza place or small-time startup company, larger companies don't have a workforce. Finally, the entrepreneur class plays the rugged individualist card a little too much IMO when pushing for things such as reduced regulations on business. Example: States who try to enforce sick time requirements on medium-sized small businesses are labeled socialist and hostile to business.

    I will be the first to admit I'm not an entrepreneur. I have a good job doing systems engineering work for a large employer, I work hard, and my contribution is valued (after all, they keep paying me.) A smaller company could run rings around this one, but there would be a problem making that transition:
    - I can't sell. Period.
    - I'm not your typical "slimy used car salesman" personality that most small business owners tend to be
    - I'm not willing to risk my livelihood or work insane hours for something that will probably fail. (Isn't it 90% of small businesses failing within a year still?) What would I fall back on?

    For everyone else who isn't these things, the formal education route is the way to go. Just like your average unemployed factory worker would be ill-advised to cash out his retirement to go buy a Subway franchise, high school grads would be ill-advised to completely ignore the safer path to a decent living.

  • Skipping it can be just fine if someone has the right idea and the capabilities to transform into a product. However, because it is a mean to an end, it can provide knowledge and inspiration to achieve the same goals. I see a very demagogic move here, that doesn't take into account the numbers. The very few that made it without college cannot be compared to the thousands that did it BECAUSE of college. Besides, I have seen many of the startups that Peter Thief is sponsoring, and while there are good ideas f
    • . . . while you can easily establish a software company with no training (in fact training may be going against you), I just don't see how you can do it in the bio- or nano-tech, with completely no exposure to basic concepts or science and technology.

      Here's how: You simply define "innovation" as creating the next facebook or twitter or whatever -- stuff that can be easily demoed by a kid using the programming/network stuff he picked up in high school (You hire pros to redo the whole thing on a business scale with the VC money). Cars, vaccines, boring industrial processes, optical and radio modulation schemes -- that's stupid stuff that just "comes into being" by itself, it's not innovative.

  • A number of people I knew in University dropped out and did rather well. Some found jobs in software. Some started businesses. The thing was that they were able to get into a more or less real university and succeed for some period of time. The mere fact atht they were able to do this mean they have some ability to work and plan and do paperwork and other silly things simply because they need to be done. It also means that they sat for their SAT or ACT and did rather well. You don't get into Harvard o
  • It does make for an interesting experiment because going to college gives you a formal, theoretical background but doesn't actually prepare you for the workplace nor does it make you necessarily a better employee or manager. There are poor managers that have business/managerial degrees. I have a decent career in a field totally unrelated to what I studied. I was a Criminal Justice major that ended up in IT. I am entirely self-taught and I am running my own part-time business to supplement income. To be
  • I discovered the internet in the 80's, at university, and totally fell in love with the whole concept of special interest news groups, email, and using ftp to get freely available software. I thought it'd be an interesting idea to create a "BBS" (the only term I could think of to apply to it at the time), which would provide a number of dial-up lines to allow the general public to connect to it. I began doing some research to figure out what the cost of running such an operation would be, starting with 16 phone lines, and working my way up from there once the company started to make a profit. I also inquired with the university about out how much it would cost to lease a connection from them, situated relatively close to the campus, and calculated the cost of laying down the necessary cable, and the start up costs worked out to be in the many tens of thousands of dollars. I wanted the service to be affordable, and was hoping to charge 5c per minute, or preferably even less. I didn't expect the phone lines to be in use all the time, so I estimated how busy I expected the phone lines to be, based on an amount I figured was reasonable from my experience with multiuser chat BBS's, and calculated that near the start of the 2nd year of operation, while making enough money to cover all of its own ongoing costs the whole time, it would have made enough on top of that to completely pay for the start up costs, and at that point would be completely self-sustaining and could start to grow.

    I approached someone I happened to personally know who worked in the loans department for a bank to give him an unofficial pitch for my idea. I wanted to approach it as a business loan, and that seemed reasonable to myself and the other fellow that I had recruited into helping me do the research.

    He thought it was really innovative, but he thought that my estimates on usage were very high, since this sort of thing was wholly unproven, and said that I would probably not be able to get a loan for the amounts that I would have needed to start up.


    If only...

    • ..but if PayPal existed in the 80's, so would ISPs and your idea for dial up internet wouldnt seem to smart and innovative..
  • or does this just smack as another attack on Education. It seems everywhere I go I keep hearing how poor kids don't need college, books, classrooms, teachers. They just need to work. I'm reminded about how robber barons in the 1800s used to argue against the 40 hour work week, saying the working classes would just use it to drink (idle hands... devil's play thing).
  • He is right. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by unity100 ( 970058 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:19AM (#36251140) Homepage Journal
    First session of our orientation course in our first year, our professor from industrial engineering (our dept) dept, who was flying to m.i.t. to deliver lessons and back from time to time, (one of the youngest professors in this country back then) had told us that we would only remember 4% of ALL that we were going to learn during the course of next 4 years of academic education. and ALL of that would only serve the purpose of giving us a 'formation'. a formation of scientific/engineering mind.

    he was right. despite we were studying in a university that sent academicians to teach in a lot of respectable universities of the world, despite we were a university that was geared more towards practical (applied) education, (a few of my classmates are in top 4-5 people of some fortune 10 companies now), the next 4 years of education was really in that manner. after a while, you come to learn - this is the reality of an education system that has descended from scholastic roots, and there are few universities and colleges exempt from these around the world, and these are considered radical.

    so in short, even our education system, even if it is conducted with a 'modern' approach, is, 96% inefficient. we load 96% crap into brains of people, only to give a formation that is worth 4%.

    it is stunning that, up until this point, noone was able to bring a method that would give 100% formation without loading 96% crap.

    but hey - education and textbooks are lucrative businesses. so, our youth has to endure 96% crap.

    Much better kids get some basic education in high school, then directly go about doing what they want to do, and learning in the process. times have changed. we had to shell out $50-90 on a single textbook to get to what would be considered advanced information back then - now we have google, and unfathomable amount of information that it indexed, thanks to what crowds put on the web. and yeah, what you can get from web, can be as good as what is put into textbooks. (and at times, more advanced and deep than you would want in a coursebook).

    it is time to reform.
    • o in short, even our education system, even if it is conducted with a 'modern' approach, is, 96% inefficient. we load 96% crap into brains of people, only to give a formation that is worth 4%.

      Think of it this way: That 4% is "how to learn/apply something" and the 96% is your practice set.
  • He already has 2 patents before he was accepted by Stanford, and has already opened more than 10 companies, and his current company already has significant backing. Peter Thiel's award is only given to people who don't need college.
  • For many private colleges, $100k is about what it costs to go to school for 2 years (incl room/board).

  • Does the world need 20 new pot dispensaries, record labels, and social media copycat companies? Why not just hire 20 people who didn't go to college for jobs that would otherwise require a college degree? Then he can tell us in 6 months how well that worked out for Paypal.
  • This just in (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jiro ( 131519 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:26AM (#36251234)

    Lottery winner gives people money to quit their jobs and start playing the lottery instead.

  • I have an idea for a website, its like Twitter but we make you pay for it
  • by GodfatherofSoul ( 174979 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:32AM (#36251340)

    I've been in the IT industry for about 12 years without a degree and let me tell you. All the BS about college not being important for programmers is just that...BS! What I learned in the first 2 classes, Discrete Math and Computer Architecture, almost makes it worthwhile alone. Can you code without knowing how to solve recurrence relations or Djikstra's algorithm? Sure, but it's damned nice to have those additional tools in your kit. It's also handy to address a problem with a tested solution some math geek wrote a grad paper on 50 years ago rather than spending a month trying to figure it out yourself.

  • There's one thing I've learned after having borrowed and spent nearly $100,000 to get an MBA; about 90% of new companies fail within 5 years. So, if he's spending $2 million to allow 20 semi-educated people to try to start new companies, maybe 2 will succeed. Still, it's an interesting experiment.

  • Maybe he just watched this video: College Conspiracy [].

  • by SnowDog74 ( 745848 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @11:47AM (#36251556)

    As a venture capitalist, Peter Thiel benefits from a larger pool of potential innovators to work from. Even better if they're college-age whiz kids who will work for pizza and beer. He's very skilled and knowledgeable at identifying winners, but he's also operating under a huge capital blanket that allows him to spread his bets and mitigate his losses.

    The other side of this equation is the kid who takes him up on the bet. For every one that's actually successful, there may be 10 or 100 grant recipients who fail, and hundreds of thousands of grant applicants who take up Thiel's challenge but don't end up qualifying for the grant anyway. So, this is ultimately a losing proposition for many, as is often the case.

    It is really important that young people recognize that the handful of startups that succeed enormously, distorted by the myopic lens of the media, are vastly outnumbered by the carcasses of miserable failures, many of which were well-planned, well-executed, but simply not in the right place at the right time with the right connections. And here's the rub: The two most talented pools of business innovation fellows come out of Stanford and MIT... which not only teach the necessary skills to make successful ventures, but also put those students in an environment conducive to building the right networks of people with fresh ideas that they can get off the ground before anyone else. Notice I didn't say "get there first"... Many get there first, and then don't know what to do from there, and never get truly off the ground.

    Consider on a smaller scale the movie review websites Cinemablend and Ain't It Cool News... There are seas of film websites that come and go, but these two were able to monetize successfully simply by virtue of being among the first to get there, and they both rely on a relatively endless supply of free labor. But even they are working constantly just to stay in place. I know a guy who runs a film website with huge traffic and he can barely pay himself, let alone his 50 tireless volunteers.

    Apple was there early. Google was there early. Facebook wasn't there first but they were in the right place (both Harvard and Stanford) at the right time, and they made some key innovations that no other social networks had thought of (most people who want to find former classmates go to Facebook. It's funny what one single field of data can do... but Facebook thought of it, and implemented it well).

    So it's really critical to have a backup plan because the fact is, the market is so saturated that statistically most of you will never be a Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Sergey Brin, Larry Page, etc. It would be great to see it, but I wouldn't bank on it.

    Peter Thiel is another story... because no matter how many of you lose, he still wins.

  • by nimbius ( 983462 ) on Thursday May 26, 2011 @12:13PM (#36251888) Homepage
    a pedestrian grasp of social inequality recognizes the chances of his investment "paying off" are remote. the donation is the whimsy of a rich and powerful man who obviously read a few social science or crowdsourcing articles and became incensed to offset his tax burden through some form of experimental donation.

    100,000 dollars is alot of money, certainly, but it isnt anywhere near enough to build and sustain an innovative technology company. startups typically work with around 1-2 million dollars. afterwards you'll need to take into account your level of social "power." How well are you connected with bankers, lawyers, and the technology industry as a whole?

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