Peter Thiel Fellows One Year Later, Income Hard To Come By

Last Fall, Facebook investor Peter Thiel gave 24 young adults $100,000 each to drop out of college.

The Silicon Valley billionaire did so in part to prove a point: You don’t need a college degree to start a business or change the world. In fact, the rising costs of higher education and the burden of student loans can hurt your chances at success, he argued.

Many attacked Thiel -- who holds degrees from Stanford and backs companies that require prospective employees to hold degrees -- for sending the wrong message to today’s youth.

Nearly a year later, reports are surfacing about what the so-called “Thiel Fellows” have been up to.

Only one of the five fellows whom Inc. Magazine recently interviewed reported earning an income. Several have bounced around from project to project.

Paul Gu, for instance, originally teamed up with another fellow to work on an e-commerce company, and has since moved on to launch a website that allows users to invest in peoples’ future earnings.

James Proud, another fellow, sold his company, Giglocator, earlier this summer. A New York small business owner reportedly paid at least six-figures for the service, which allows users to find and buy concert tickets based on their music interests. Proud, age 20, told VentureBeat that selling his business gives him freedom to “continue to work on things and not worry about money.”

Proud’s exit seemed to validate Thiel’s belief that more young folks should work towards advancing breakthrough technologies rather than waste money and time on college.

“You increasingly have people who are graduating from college, not being able to get good jobs, moving back home with their parents,” Thiel said in a recent interview with The New York Times. “I think there’s a surprising openness to the idea that something’s gone badly wrong and needs to be fixed.”

Other Thiel Fellows reported working on projects geared more towards solving global problems than creating the next Internet sensation. Eden Full, 19, won a $260,000 social entrepreneurship award earlier this year for her efforts to improve social energy in developing countries. Gary Kurek, 19, started GET Mobility Solutions, whose mission it is to advance mobility technology for the physically disabled.

Thiel announced in June that the foundation has selected its next crop of Thiel Fellows, 20 gifted people under 20 who will also receive $100,000 each along with two years of mentoring. The latest class reportedly attracted 1,000 applicants from 20 different countries. There are now 43 fellows total, 39 men and 4 women, according to the Times.

Appearing in a video promoting the upcoming announcement of the newest fellows, Sean Parker, a founding president of Facebook and a Thiel Fellowship partner, said, “If your goal is to become an entrepreneur, it would seem that college has become a very bad place to do that.”