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Drop Out and Innovate, Urges VC Peter Thiel

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the good-work-if-you-can-get-it dept.

Education 239

An anonymous reader writes "The San Francisco-based founder of PayPal and co-founder of Facebook is offering two-year fellowships of up to $100,000 (£63,800) to 20 entrepreneurs or teams of entrepreneurs aged under 20 in a worldwide competition that closes this week. With the money, the recipients are expected to drop out of university — Thiel calls it 'stopping out' — and work full time on their ideas. 'Some of the world's most transformational technologies were created by people who stopped out of school because they had ideas that couldn't wait until graduation,' Thiel says. 'This fellowship will encourage the most brilliant and promising young people not to wait on their ideas either.' Thiel says the huge cost of higher education, and the resulting burden of debt, makes students less willing to take risks. 'And we think you're going to have to take a lot of risks to build the next generation of companies.'"

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Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but... (1)

alfredos (1694270) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606628)

I like to see people who no longer needs to demonstrate things to put their money where their mouth is.

Re:Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but... (0)

Khyber (864651) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606662)

I'm sorry, but that little certification and piece of official paper are getting you NOWHERE in my field, pal.

Experience and provable capability or GTFO. NO EXCEPTIONS.

Not to mention a grasp of optical physics. Don't care if you can do biology all day long, no optical physics, ADIOS.

Re:Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but... (5, Insightful)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606690)

A good foundation is always going to be handy. The best (one of the best, at least) way to get a solid foundation in math/physics is in a formal learning environment. Sure, you're gonna learn things that you'll never use, but that's going to be true no matter what path of education you take. This way, you have a degree with which to get your first job -- the thing that *leads* to "Experience and provable capability". It also depends on the field. Many large, old-school companies won't look at you if you don't have the right piece of paper from the right kind of institution.

College is not just for theory... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606796)

Unless your teachers/college are awful, college is a pretty decent way to get at least a decent grasp of a wide range of subjects that relate to your field. You won't become expert in any area - you need to specialize by yourself - but you get a good foundation that helps you whatever you choose to specialize in and generally when you need to work with other professionals in your field. Four years of college and two years of work tends to be a better base for just about anything than six years of work. There is also a lot more that one can learn from college: If you spend four years there and don't gain useful contacts, friends, self-confidence, project management skills, etc. a lot faster than you do at work and generally the way you see your life isn't altered in any way, you're probably doing something wrong.

Also, if you truly have an awesome project and can't spare yourself time to do it - perhaps not full time, but a couple of hours a day - you are certainly doing something wrong. Perhaps you failed to convince the administrative staff that your project is important (and that they should thus support you)? Perhaps you didn't even try? If you just stated "I don't have time for this really important project" and gave up, either you didn't believe in the project anyways or your personality type might not be suitable for entrepeneurship. In either case, dropping out might be a really bad choice for you...

One last thing: Usually when a project can't wait for you to graduate first, it is because you think "This is so obvious that if I don't do it, someone else will".

Re:Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but... (2)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607176)

I believe some people need university to full get it. Some people don't. People who look down on those without degrees or those with degrees are just ignorant.

I don't think I would want to work for some old-school company that required a degree. Everything about it would imply everything they do is old and I'm probably not going to have as much fun.

Likewise I couldn't stand to work with someone who sees his company as bleeding edge and spends his time trying to as non-traditional as possible and dismissing people purely because they've gone to university and lack a butt load of experience.

It would just be nice to work with people who have common sense.

Re:Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but... (3, Informative)

Zarhan (415465) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606700)

"Piece of official paper" helps you clear some hurdles in placing you for that first job in your chosen field. It usually establishes what group of lowest common denominators you belong into. Without it, the other route is climbing the career path from menial jobs (e.g. tech support).

    Now...certifications are a different thing and come in all kinds of flavors. I'm a CCIE. Even if I had cheated my way through all the tests and wouldn't in reality know jack about routers, it's still valuable for almost any business who uses Cisco stuff - if you employ someone with the cert you get better discounts. So with that in hand I can basically say in the interview "if you hire me, your infrastructure investment costs drop by X%, I require Y EUR of salary a month. Consider if it's worth it".

    Now, that's a very vendor-specific thing. Highly-ranked but more generic ones like CISSP certification are in the same category as that university degree - helps you clear some hurdles and maybe helps convincing that you actually have some skills. Then there's of course all the entry-level stuff that are completely pointless (Microsoft certified solitaire experts come to mind)...

Re:Perhaps I'm a bit naive, but... (2)

Matey-O (518004) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607006)

Where, perchance, does a person get access to the concepts and math associated with Optical Physics, if not at College?

Weak (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606630)

Sorry kids but $100,000 really doesn't go as far as you might hope.

And when they go to realize those ideas ... (5, Insightful)

Dr.Merkwurdigeliebe (1055918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606644)

they'll understand why university comes in handy.

Re:And when they go to realize those ideas ... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606856)

they'll understand why university comes in handy.

It's too bad that they can never go back to college with that new-found maturity and valuable work experience. They're stuck, forever, unable to return. DOOOOOOOOOMED! Unless of course, they do go back to college and pick up that degree.

Re:And when they go to realize those ideas ... (5, Interesting)

Dr.Merkwurdigeliebe (1055918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607102)

Doesn't really happen that often, from what I've seen. More often, mature students returning to school are returning because they realize the value of an education on account of having a hard time without it. Additionally, university gives students something that is hard to come by in the working world: an appreciation of how many diverse perspectives there are in the world. Don't get me wrong - success stories happen. But for every Steve Jobs and Peter Thiel, I bet you there are a hundred or more drop-outs (stop-outs?) with nothing to show for their sacrifice. I think it's irresponsible of him to take the highest achieving students and encourage them to leave university.

Re:And when they go to realize those ideas ... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607210)

Doesn't really happen that often, from what I've seen. More often, mature students returning to school are returning because they realize the value of an education on account of having a hard time without it.

Bingo. I rest my case.

Real good plan (5, Insightful)

tp_xyzzy (1575867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606654)

Here's what happens:
  1) they take the money
  2) they work hard for 3 months
  3) the money runs out
  4) their idea is worthless
  5) they have no education
  6) next 30 years they have no job

Great plan.

Re:Real good plan (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606794)

Or if you are smart and really have a good idea:

1) they take the money
    2) they work hard for 3 months
                      2a) or Succeed and go one to do whatever else you'd like
    3) the money runs out
    4) their idea is worthless
    5) they have no education
                    5a) or Go back and finish school, you had some plan to finance it otherwise its probably still good
    6) next 30 years they have no job
                    6a) or Take the experience and contacts you made working on the project and use them to get a related job.

If *you* really had a good idea and the talent to execute it, then this is a good offer. Most people kinda know if they truly have a solid idea. Lots of people have dubious ideas with trying out with other peoples money and many of them succeed in fact but many more fail. This even though its still someone else's money as you point out will have a major impact on your life no matter if you succeed or fail. There is lot of personal risk. Most know though in their gut if such a risk is worth taking. Its called decision making and this one would not be for the risk averse; but may be an great choice for some.

Re:Real good plan (5, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606876)

Most people believe they kinda know if they truly have a solid idea.

FTFY.

Remember, "ideas are a dime a dozen" and "invention is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration".

If a young person has what he believes is a truly great idea while he is at college, the best thing for him would be to finish college first. Yes, I know, there are many counterexamples to this, but if you also count all those who dropped out of college and failed you will see that the probability of success in this path is abysmally low.

Besides, it's not as if $100k is that much capital to begin with. If that idea succeeds you will pretty soon need more investors, and if you started with some prize money you will not know how to get more.

If someone has a great idea *and* he has the entrepreneur mindset he will be able to get someone to invest in this idea. To make a great idea work you need leadership talent, which includes convincing people of the merits of your idea.

Re:Real good plan (1)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607142)

if you started with some prize money you will not know how to get more.

All VC is basically prize money, you had one of the best ideas they guy looking to do some investment saw so you get to use his money; its just not so clearly framed as a contest is all. I am sure Thiel means to pay attention to the *winners* he probably is either prepared to invest more himself or would assist in locating other investors if any of these projects shows real growth on that first 100K.

Re:Real good plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607192)

Edison was well-known to find solutions by trial and error, a-million-monkeys-on-typewriters-style. Please don't have him as a role model.

Re:Real good plan (2)

Kjella (173770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607236)

Most startups fail both before and after college. More importantly, it's highly unlikely whatever you learn in the last in the last few years of college is what will make or break your startup. In fact, it's far more likely that in those two years you spent finishing college someone else took your idea and took your market than that there is a golden egg just waiting for you pick it up some day. Of course it's much about being at the right place at the right time, but taking the window of opportunity is a combination of luck, skill and willingness to commit.

Besides, there's dropping out as in "flunking out" and there's dropping out as in temporarily abandoning your studies to try something else. If I as an employer saw [2 years of college with ok grades][2 years failed startup][2 years back to finish college] I'd hardly consider that bad. In fact it's probably more dangerous to have [4 years of college][2 years failed startup] because you now look disillusioned and possibly burned out trying to make it work. The other way around it looks like you've picked yourself back up of the floor and finished your degree.

Besides, it's not as if $100k is that much capital to begin with. If that idea succeeds you will pretty soon need more investors, and if you started with some prize money you will not know how to get more.

For a person who is still living on college student expenses with few commitments, it can be stretched quite far. With $100k most people should have a working business with a growing customer base or the idea isn't really the lone college student type. It's cool if you want to work on the most advanced motion detection technology to go into the Wii 2 or Kinect 2 and they can be huge money makers, but then you'll be spending your time working deep in the bowels of Nintendo, Microsoft or Sony. Don't get me wrong, entrepreneurs are supposed to have certain delusions of grandure but there are the good ones and the "I'm an ant that think I'm a giant but I'm really about to get stepped on and squished" delusions. To take the latest rave hit, $100k should get you a pretty damn decent Facebook.

Re:Real good plan (1)

tp_xyzzy (1575867) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606926)

well, it could be good offer if:
  1) if you were already uncertain that you can finish university
  2) you're really sick and tired of learning anything new
  3) you think that you're better than the people who try to teach you in university
  4) the offered prize is the only way you can get any money
  5) the alternative to this great plan is to work on McD for rest of your life

Seems like a clear dropout path to me.

Re:Real good plan (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606840)

1) they take the money
2) they work hard for 3 months
3) the money runs out
4) their idea is worthless
5) they go back to school
6) when they get a job after graduation, they'll have this considerable experience to help open the door

Dropping out of college is not like virginity. You're not spoiled forever and unable to go back. I think the real problem here is that Thiel is challenging a key axiom of the education mythos. Namely, that you need a certain slip of paper before you can possibly earn money or have a meaningful life.

Re:Real good plan (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606886)

Dropping out of college is not like virginity. You're not spoiled forever and unable to go back.

Well it certainly doesn't help you to get back in.

"Let's see, you signed up for a course before but didn't see it through. I can give a place to you or someone without your track record of not abiding by the commitments you entered into in this exact context. Who shall I choose? Hmmmm tough one."

Re:Real good plan (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606960)

"Let's see, you signed up for a course before but didn't see it through. I can give a place to you or someone without your track record of not abiding by the commitments you entered into in this exact context. Who shall I choose? Hmmmm tough one."

Please, don't be stupid. I'm sure there are screwed up colleges that think this way, but the majority understand that the student has never entered into a commitment. They'd be overjoyed to have someone with their improved life experiences and status returning to finish their degree. If the student gets grief from their old school, then they can merely go to a better school that's happy to have them. It's that simple.

Re:Real good plan (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607084)

Here's what happens (alt take):
    1) they take the money
    2) they work hard for 3 months
    3) the money runs out
    4) their idea is very worthwhle
    5) they have no education so they didn't read the smallprint on the deal
    6) next 30 years they have no job as they have been played for a zucker

Re:Real good plan (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607134)

Yeah, it's a great way to keep competition from forming. :-)

Re:Real good plan (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607196)

3 months out of school isn't bad at all and if they have any money from the ordeal then what's the problem? Also having now been part of the whole start-up process it will should be easier to keep at it and then why go back to school when you can keep working for start-ups?

Re:Real good plan (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607214)

Here's what happens: 1) they take the money
2) they work hard for 3 months
3) the money runs out
4) their idea is worthless
5) they have no education
6) next 30 years they have no job

Great plan.

Then they sue the people who encouraged them to drop out. The up-front cash is hardly adequate compensation for the reduction in lifetime earnings for a university drop-out. Could be a moneymaker if you crash and burn badly enough...

If the almighty buck is the only thing... (5, Insightful)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606656)

If the almighty buck is the only thing that motivates all humans, then I can see how executives think. In that case, a deep education is unnecessary. You can get rich with an idea and lots of elbow grease. But not everything is achievable this way. Some things need learning. Like finding the structure of the DNA, develop self-assembled structures, optimize carbon nanotube growth, develop drugs that can cross the BBB, design multicore CPUs, discover the inner workings of mitochondria etc. I expect to be flamed for the following statement: some of the stuff that needs lots of education is also more valuable than Facebook... or money.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606668)

Everything is more valuable than facebook.

And paypal? ha. hahahahahaha. "We know you hate our guts but we'll force you to use us anyway because a big auction company made us the 'standard'."

Neither is any example of the contribution i'd like to make in the world..

I'd really rather NOT be a scumbag.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (2)

santax (1541065) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606760)

That big auction company is the owner of paypal.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606890)

Ummm yes, we all know that. Maybe it's not a coincidence.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (3, Interesting)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606782)

But...but... Facebook is worth 33 BILLION DOLLARS! [telegraph.co.uk]
They could sell the company right now and get ~$5 for every human on earth! And you *know* it's true -- it's been reported on the internet .

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (1)

maxwell demon (590494) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607330)

But...but... Facebook is worth 33 BILLION DOLLARS! [telegraph.co.uk]

I wasn't aware that the dollar has already lost that much value. :-)

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606824)

I expect to be flamed for the following statement: some of the stuff that needs lots of education is also more valuable than Facebook... or money.

It's too bad that we really needed those 20 teams that Thiel is going to take away. That leaves us with only a paltry few million people to carry out this work.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (0)

jaypifer (64463) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606872)

All of your examples can be summed up as the role of "researcher", a very narrow university credentialed specialty that entrepreneurs hire to implement their multibillion dollar ideas.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (3, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606896)

Lest we forget, it was the researchers who developed the really transformational technologies, and the college drop outs who became rich as a result.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (1)

jaypifer (64463) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606986)

Excellent point.

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607252)

So true... and moreover, I wonder how Google would Sergey and Larry have done have they started Google as undergrad students :-/

Back when I was doing demonstration in the UK to undergrad CS students, I remember a lot of students came to show me they *greaaaat* idea (even in a live webpage, waiting for the millions of users to come pushing each other to sign up) which at the end never took off... it is good all those guys continued studying.

 

Re:If the almighty buck is the only thing... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606904)

I agree with you. I think that in this case, Thiel represents a different, yet also valid view. The world really needs both. The trick is getting the right people in the right places. Without those who would go on to graduate level studies, our society would collapse. Equally so, we need those mavericks who get frustrated with "the system" and buck it. People like Thiel, Zuckerburg (yeah, even Facebook, while annoying as crap, moves us forward in terms of what we learn from it) and the like. I will offer up myself for consumption. I graduated high school in 1991 and went straight to college because, well...that's what you do. My parents would have accepted nothing less. I was fed the "a degree is everything" lie by counselors, etc. I had a sister who had gone on to med school and become a specialist. I dropped out after two years. I'd have dropped sooner but it took me that long to work up the guts to face my parents with the idea. I picked up a job doing what I loved (IT) and began learning my way. I also found the world of IT consulting (which was quite different then). It allowed me to get into places and build a reputation that taking regular 9-5 jobs would not. I understood that and leveraged it. By 26 I was VP/CIO of a medium sized health care informatics company in the midwest. Again, got really bored, really fast. I left and started my own business in 2000 (right in time for the bottom to fall out of things). Despite the market, I did well, built it and (you guessed it)...got bored. So I sold it. Moved on. Present day, I'm still doing what I love, and I'm very good at it. I have no degree. I have very little of what most would consider formal education. That said, I have lectured at some of the finest institutions in the United States. I've taught graduate level classes. I will make just a tad over a quarter million dollars this year, but I do not use money as a metric...I use how much I enjoy what I do and how much value I bring to the people whom I do work for as the ultimate unit of measure. I work primarily in the intelligence community, some DoD, some private sector as time allows. I make sure the work I do is significant and has the potential for positive impact on society. Most of all, I NEVER stop learning. I consider myself a lifetime student of those people and circumstances around me. I believe it is this mindset that has made me somewhat successful.

as long as (1)

caffeinemessiah (918089) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606664)

Sure, why not? However, Thiel better be right about selecting people correctly for the program. Otherwise, you've "stopped out" for a couple of years, got a failed .com startup to your credit, and might have trouble getting back into or adjusting to university.

RIsk vs reward (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606666)

If it's so risky to make the next generation of companies, it'd seem useful to have something to fall back on if those risks don't pan out. University degrees are of wildly varying quality but many established employers require them (not to mention immigration authorities).

Personally I don't think fellowships are what's needed to encourage innovation and risky startups. What's needed is a robust and reliable revenue model. It's not coincidence that most of the interesting programs coming out lately have been written for mobile phones and especially the iPhone, where there is at least in theory a somewhat functioning market that allows developers to make money. Sadly that's somewhat unique.

If you look at the big recent successes on the web, most of them have been fuelled to their success by enormous injections of venture capital. It's very questionable whether YouTube and Facebook could have been created without blank cheques from men like Thiel. Ultimately this isn't a sustainable way to create innovation. If the web had a working revenue model beyond ads, we'd see a thousand interesting new companies bloom.

Re:RIsk vs reward (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606798)

If it's so risky to make the next generation of companies, it'd seem useful to have something to fall back on if those risks don't pan out.

They can go back to school. They aren't being paid to stay out of college forever.

Irresponsible (4, Insightful)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606670)

Even if this is true for many talented developers, it's still irresponsible. Actually "urging" kids to stop their collage/university education mid-way is a zeitgeist decision, it only *may* be the right move *now*, but who's saying the tech sector isn't facing another blow 6 months from now (whatever the reason, like a larger economical problem or a large shift in priorities for the major tech companies). They've already put in the money and time into getting a formal education, and he's urging them to gamble it away? Selfish.

For the record, I word in programming, embedded, and some EE, and I don't have a degree. But then, I didn't *start* one either -- I didn't invest time or money getting half-way there and then drop out mid-way.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606778)

Even if this is true for many talented developers, it's still irresponsible.

This isn't about responsibility since the targets of the grants would have almost no obligations. It's about taking risks at a time when you can easily take risks. These people can easily return to school and finish up.

For the record, I word in programming, embedded, and some EE, and I don't have a degree. But then, I didn't *start* one either -- I didn't invest time or money getting half-way there and then drop out mid-way.

$100,000 is a good reason to temporarily change your mind and try something else.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

RazorSharp (1418697) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606808)

$100,000 is a good reason to temporarily change your mind and try something else.

$100,000 won't even pay for a bachelor's degree at some universities. It's hardly enough to justify dropping out of college. Also, Gates and Zuckerberg would have both benefitted from taking some ethics classes. Higher education has more benefits than making one monetarily valuable.

Re:Irresponsible (0)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606892)

Ok but just about anyone can get loans for school. Its often really hard for some kid without a degree to convince someone to extend credit or venture cap to develop an idea. Justified or not their is quite a bit of ageism prejudice and an established view that you have to in most cases have a college degree to be effective. Theil seems to be saying that he will take the bet if the idea is solid.

My father once told me and this was like 20 years ago, that he always favored candidates with a degree over ones who did not when hiring even if that degree was not in a related field. To him having a degree showed that the candidate was either intelligent or if not at least a hard worker who could stick with something until its done. To this day I don't know if that practice was fair or justified, but I know its still quite common. It also makes me sad because it sort of reduces a college degree to a minor title of nobility.

Re:Irresponsible (2)

shentino (1139071) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606936)

Ethics are a hindrance in a dog eat dog world where you can make more money stabbing other people in the back (before they stab you) and paying off your politicians and regulators (before your competitors pay more).

Re:Irresponsible (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606978)

$100,000 won't even pay for a bachelor's degree at some universities. It's hardly enough to justify dropping out of college.

I guess those people wouldn't make good entrepreneurs then. I don't have a problem with that.

Also, Gates and Zuckerberg would have both benefitted from taking some ethics classes. Higher education has more benefits than making one monetarily valuable.

Sure they would. Ethics only helps you avoid ethical problems that you wish to avoid.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606812)

I'm referring to the message he's sending out into the *world*. Some of the applicants will be turned down and then think "you know, I can probably pull this off on my own". Other won't apply at all and just consider his opinion to validate their own, and drop-out for a very high-risk attempt. It's irresponsible not for the people who get picked, but for the ones who don't.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606888)

Other won't apply at all and just consider his opinion to validate their own, and drop-out for a very high-risk attempt.

Am I correct in thinking you based your opinion on the (proven inaccurate) theory that paying decades of salary for a degree is not a financially high-risk attempt?

If you are in school for a field where you'll probably end up unemployed due to ageism at 30, after training your replacement in China/India, the greatest financial risk is probably not with the "drop out of school" plan. Don't throw good money after bad.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606952)

But they're already *in* the system. They've already invested the time and money. He's telling the to throw that away after, what? A year? 2 years? That isn't "risk", it's certain loss. If he were looking for high-school graduates before they went to collage, that would be one thing, but he's telling them to throw away something they already have.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606940)

I'm referring to the message he's sending out into the *world*. Some of the applicants will be turned down and then think "you know, I can probably pull this off on my own". Other won't apply at all and just consider his opinion to validate their own, and drop-out for a very high-risk attempt. It's irresponsible not for the people who get picked, but for the ones who don't.

Those people would probably drop out anyway. What makes his message incorrect, much less, irresponsible?

Re:Irresponsible (1)

Hognoxious (631665) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606958)

Most of the people you know will have moved on or up. You get out of the habit of studying.

I'm not sure it's as easy as you make out to go back.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606966)

I'm not sure it's as easy as you make out to go back.

I've done it twice. So I can verify that it isn't that hard.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

gblfxt (931709) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606800)

not irresponsible if this is the only way to get true innovation, it seems once people get through college, they lose the ability to innovate.

Re:Irresponsible (5, Informative)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606980)

not irresponsible if this is the only way to get true innovation, it seems once people get through college, they lose the ability to innovate.

Uh, you must have forgotten about all those grad students and researchers in the world, who are busy pumping out innovations that actually are changing our lives. The people who developed transistors had graduated college. So did the people who developed the Internet. So did the people who developed plastic. These are technologies that have been so innovative and ground breaking that they have permanently changed our society, and they were not invented by drop-outs.

Re:Irresponsible (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606828)

Furthermore, we only see the ‘hits’, those few drop-outs with a brilliant idea that made it. But we know that many more people drop out of college than become successful. Not all of them drop out because they're pursuing an idea of course, but still there must be many many ‘misses’ but we don't see those. But looking at society it's plain there can only be so much ‘hits’ and therefore the ‘misses’ will be a much more representative sample.

Re:Irresponsible (1)

Pharmboy (216950) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606928)

Agreed. And sometimes what makes a good idea -> a great idea is the sweat equity involved in developing it before you have the money to implement it. If money always -> good ideas, then Microsoft would already own the entire interweb. Lord knows they have thrown enough money at it. This plan sounds like a way to make life easier for these aspiring young persons, while innovation is often due to the hard knocks learned along the way.

It's his money, but I fear more bad will come of it than good.

Why under age 20? (3, Funny)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606676)

I mean seriously WTF is up with that? Just because I'm over 20 years of age means I don't have the ability to innovate? I'd rather see money given to people who at least have some life experience and haven't had a chance to ever try out their own ideas, dreams, and inventions!


Yes grumpy old man is grumpy.


And while there are a million ideas out there done by people regardless of if they completed school or not encouraging people to not finish going to school just puts barriers in their way for when they DO want to innovate.

Unless you're one of the individuals that can self-learn easily you're only making it harder on yourself if you leave school.

Re:Why under age 20? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606724)

Under 20 means you might not have caught on to what companies do to employees (oh sorry it's a entrepreneur on a fellowship) that they have no use for after two years.

Re:Why under age 20? (1)

Cheerio Boy (82178) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606730)

Under 20 means you might not have caught on to what companies do to employees (oh sorry it's a entrepreneur on a fellowship) that they have no use for after two years.

Unfortunately all too true.

Re:Why under age 20? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606826)

I mean seriously WTF is up with that? Just because I'm over 20 years of age means I don't have the ability to innovate?

Yeah basically, for this "next big thing" invention niche (e.g., social networking). Good luck creating the next Facebook, when you're out of touch with what the typical young adult wants and thinks.

Re:Why under age 20? (4, Interesting)

vlm (69642) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606850)

I mean seriously WTF is up with that? Just because I'm over 20 years of age means I don't have the ability to innovate?

The cultural belief is you're supposed to go to university right out of high school for 4 years, and then graduate into a great job with no debt. On a percentage basis, no one actually does this, which is why its called a belief not logic or evidence.

So, lets say you're 25 and you want to drop out and innovate... wait a sec, you graduated at 22 and have had the job of your dreams and 2.5 kids over the past 3 years, right?

I think it would be a wee bit short sighted to drop out one semester before you graduate, etc, so it seems pointless to run above 20.

The other problem is at this moment, culturally there is no such thing as an education that is too expensive, just like before the bubble there was no such thing as a house that was too expensive, or the shares of a .com always go up, or medical services . Since you will literally pay any sum of money, no matter how much, for those products, suspiciously that is exactly what they will charge. So, if the relatively no-name private engineering college two blocks from my workplace charges over $50K per year when counting all costs (I checked) there is little to no point of "funding" people whom are 21 and owe about $150K if you're only giving them $100K.

Re:Why under age 20? (2)

The Fanta Menace (607612) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606988)

So, lets say you're 25 and you want to drop out and innovate... wait a sec, you graduated at 22 and have had the job of your dreams and 2.5 kids over the past 3 years, right?

Que? How many people in first-world countries have children at 22-25 now? Most people aren't even married until in their 30s. And if they have any sense, they'll leave it even later.

No-one wants to be stuck with kids, a mortgage and the utter boredom of 9-5 office work in the prime of their life.

Re:Why under age 20? (1)

zlogic (892404) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606982)

If you're under 20 you probably haven't had a real job and don't really understand finance.
You'd work 80 hours a week concentrating on technical details while the VC deliberately screws up finance. Once the money runs out, you'll be offered more money in exchange for giving up a percentage of your ownership in the company. Repeat these steps a few times and you'll end up owning just 5-10%.
This requires careful brainwashing by the VC in order for you to do your best. They have to make you believe that you'll own the company once it starts running profitable, nobody is going to work their ass off for a 5% ownership.

Re:Why under age 20? (1)

Peeteriz (821290) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607154)

Most people would gladly work their asses off for 0.1% stake in the next Facebook, Zynga, Google or whatever.

Re:Why under age 20? (1)

LongearedBat (1665481) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607168)

Just because I'm over 20 years of age means I don't have the ability to innovate? I'd rather see money given to people who at least have some life experience and haven't had a chance to ever try out their own ideas, dreams, and inventions!

Totally with you there. Just because one is older, does not mean one doesn't come with new ideas. And, someone who is older usually has had more experience with which to implement those ideas and usually has spent more time thinking deeper about them.

Re:Why under age 20? (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607246)

If you're under 20 you'll definitely be naive enough to allow them to treat you like shit.

Outliers (5, Insightful)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606682)

Here's the problem: we remember the success of dropouts like Gates and Zuckerberg, and forget that for each Zuckerberg there are hundreds of dropouts that are desperately seeking jobs at Burger King. And finishing college isn't necessarily a barrier to innovation: Larry and Sergei both finished their undergraduate degrees, and things turned out just fine for them.

Re:Outliers (2)

derGoldstein (1494129) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606744)

Also, if you look into the Zucherberg story (not the movie, I mean what actually happened), he got where he did *because* he was at Harvard. If you manage to get something big going in the middle of your education, then you should consider the options. But dropping out because of anecdotal information about some people who've taken that path?

Oh, and try getting a job at Google without a degree (I know it's easier now, but they used to turn you away immediately if you didn't have one).

Re:Outliers (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606814)

Not to mention that Gates comes from a well endowed family. Not exactly a typical dropout.

They're not talking about dropping out (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606868)

They talking about taking a break. And considering the spiraling costs of university education - only to graduate with no job prospects (even if you have a marketable degree!) - taking a break to earn money to pay for school is quite a responsibly thing to do compared to racking up student loans.

These days going to college and graduating isn't as worth as much as when I went to school. Kids today are competing with college grads from all over the World. There are no safe and secure careers anymore and going to school for fine arts, liberal arts and sciences, although quite worthwhile in its own right will get you nowhere on their own unless you have some great connections.

A college education isn't as valuable as it was. Yeah, someone will post the "stats" about how the more education means more money, but those stats are old, outdated and were created before globalization really took off.

So, absolutely take break and so something really high risk like putting everything you have on the line while you're young - it's horribly rough when older and married. Every self made millionaire I know is on at least his 2nd marriage and all their kids are screwed up - Daddy was never home.

Re:Outliers (1)

M. Baranczak (726671) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607144)

Here's the problem: we remember the success of dropouts like Gates and Zuckerberg, and forget that for each Zuckerberg there are hundreds of dropouts that are desperately seeking jobs at Burger King. And finishing college isn't necessarily a barrier to innovation: Larry and Sergei both finished their undergraduate degrees, and things turned out just fine for them.

And for every Larry and Sergei, there are hundreds of graduates who are waiting tables. While trying to pay off a 200K debt.

One good thing might happen (1, Interesting)

cvtan (752695) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606694)

If one of these drop-outs could figure out how to nuke Facebook and Twitter, they will be on to something. And I never want to hear about "apps" again. Back to Osmos...

Oh yeah... (1)

bhartman34 (886109) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606696)

Nothing could possibly go wrong there, right?

Cost of education (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606714)

Maybe the problem is in

the huge cost of higher education, and the resulting burden of debt

and we should try to fix that?

Call me socialist and all that, but I think education is just too important to be left to entrepreneurial greed.

Re:Cost of education (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606726)

Call me socialist and all that, but I think education is just too important to be left to entrepreneurial greed.

In my view, the heavy subsidy on education is why it is so expensive in the first place. Can't blame that on entrepreneurial greed.

This is what I observe: (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606810)

I come from a country in which traditionally, education has been ever tax-funded (Germany). The quality of education has been very high.

I'm watching how fees are being introduced (for now at a very moderate level, at least compared to the U.S.). At the same time, the most vocal proponents of those fees are either taking part on private universities or consulting out to those.

My take on this is: it's very difficult to monetize a resource (education in this case) if it is cheaply available and high quality. So to prepare the ground for private enterprise, this resource has to be destroyed first.

And it doesn't matter that this goes at the cost of society at large. Those entrepreneurs just don't fucking care.

It's the same what's happening with rail in Great Britain, with water supply in many places (GB, south America).

Re:This is what I observe: (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606934)

My take on this is: it's very difficult to monetize a resource (education in this case) if it is cheaply available and high quality.

Remember, boys and girls, something is "cheap", if you're not the one paying for it. In other words, public funds are free.

And it doesn't matter that this goes at the cost of society at large. Those entrepreneurs just don't fucking care.

That's an odd thing to say. I always thought that Germany needed more entrepreneurs and less pampered bureaucrats. Guess the perceived needs of society outweigh the real needs of society.

Re:This is what I observe: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607336)

Remember, boys and girls, something is "cheap", if you're not the one paying for it. In other words, public funds are free.

Besides arrogant, this is plain wrong. Something is relatively cheap when it ain't filling the pockets of a greedy capitalist, I might say in return (to keep up with your tone).

Germany needed more entrepreneurs and less pampered bureaucrats

As compared to what? The U.S.? How is the per capita external debt doing? How many (again per capita) are in jail?

Re:Cost of education (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607044)

I've read a few articles saying the problem is the government granting exceptional protections to lenders in college loans. This may be viewed as a somewhat indirect subsidy, but a direct subsidy would probably incite fewer shenanigans between lenders and universities that amount to collusion to raise prises.

Of course, the simple fact that culturally a longer than 4-year term at one college with some reputation is perceived as simply mandatory for success. This includes a good couple of years of generic filler courses that are in no way specific to your field and in many cases will never apply to your professional life.

Re:Cost of education (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607066)

This may be viewed as a somewhat indirect subsidy, but a direct subsidy would probably incite fewer shenanigans between lenders and universities that amount to collusion to raise prises.

Remember the US government is also a lender. The collusion between government and universities, the one that has driven education inflation for decades, doesn't go away.

Quite an Innovation in Society.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606742)

Just what the world needs: MORE BUSINESS MAJORS!!! Woohoo....

D'OH! (4, Insightful)

Chas (5144) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606764)

So. Lemme get this straight.

Instead of coming out of college with a...DEGREE and a five-to-six digit debt, you're going to pay these people $100k to come out of college with just the debt?

The drugs really that good eh?

Re:D'OH! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607046)

Eh? They pay you $100k. Your drugs really are that good.

Let's Run with This (1)

Hercules Peanut (540188) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606774)

Star golfer and notable college drop-out Tiger Woods is offering two-year fellowships of up to $100,000 (£63,800) to 20 athletes or teams of athletes aged under 20 in a worldwide competition that closes this week. With the money, the recipients are expected to drop out of university — Woods calls it 'stopping out' — and work full time on their sport. 'Some of the world's most exciting sports were created by people who stopped out of school because they had talent that couldn't wait until graduation,' Woods says. 'This fellowship will encourage the most brilliant and promising young people not to wait on their talents either.' Thiel says the huge cost of higher education, and the resulting burden of debt, makes students less willing to take risks. 'And we think you're going to have to take a lot of risks to build the next generation of athletes.'"

You know, this has been tried before and it still doesn't sound like a very good idea.

How about fellowships to students or universities to support innovative new ideas a parts (just part) of the curriculum or area of study? If one is good, couldn't both be better?

Re:Let's Run with This (1)

zlogic (892404) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606998)

You don't need a university education in order to hit a ball with a golf club. In sports starting early is good since you have to transition from playing to coaching after reaching a certain age.

Re:Let's Run with This (1)

jvkjvk (102057) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607240)

You are trying to be facetious, but this is exactly the model modern basketball now operates. The only reason (american) football does not is that steroids are illegal. If they could fatten/muscle up those kids earlier, like feedlot veal, so they had the muscle mass you would see a lot there too.

In fact, there was something of a stir a while ago because in basketball has started poaching highschool seniors, and it is routine for kids not to finish college if they have star qualities.

You know, this has been tried before and it still doesn't sound like a very good idea.

For academic detours into business, maybe not. But you shouldn't use a sports analogy to make your point because that has become SOP in sports. If this did not have success, then it would have been abandoned.

Regards.

Transformational Technologies... (5, Insightful)

betterunixthanunix (980855) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606786)

Looking through the examples of drop-outs in the article, I am not really seeing people who invented anything transformational, so much as riding on top of the successful of transformational technologies. Bill Gates and Paul Allen? Mark Zuckerberg? Shawn Fanning is about as close as the list gets, although Napster really rides on top of the Internet's existing peer-to-peer architecture.

Maybe I am too much of a skeptic or believe too strongly in the value of education, but the way I see things, famous drop-outs were good at capitalizing on the successful research or work of people who stayed in school.

Re:Transformational Technologies... (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606968)

When it comes to the obscenely successful, I think generally education doesn't make much of a difference one way or another. Luck is the critical component, and beyond that sufficient capability developed well before college graduation to take advantage of that luck. With a sufficiently large population of dropouts, you will have those few special cases of millionaires, just like you have a few coming out of college. In this case, a drop-out credits the act of dropping out as an impetus of his success, just as some graduates in the same position view their graduation as the critical factor. In both cases they are wrong and it's mostly a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right capabilities and the nearly arbitrary point of acquiring the degree usually has nothing to do with it.

Now in the more realistic case for everyone, the degree is critical. 99% of people won't be a bigshot leader of highly sucessful businesses no matter how you slice it and the vast majority of people will have to settle for coming in as a faceless resource and not receiving an in depth examination of qualification unless a degree prerequisite is met. While the exceptionally lucky show equal or better success than the lucky graduates, there are many many more drop-outs with dead-end jobs.

Re:Transformational Technologies... (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607188)

Looking through the examples of drop-outs in the article, I am not really seeing people who invented anything transformational, so much as riding on top of the successful of transformational technologies. Bill Gates and Paul Allen? Mark Zuckerberg? Shawn Fanning is about as close as the list gets, although Napster really rides on top of the Internet's existing peer-to-peer architecture.

This is what is called "observer bias". Thiel said "created" not "invented". There is a big difference. A transformational technology doesn't by the act of invention become transformational. You need infrastructure to distribute the technology. You need widespread adoption of the technology.

For example, there were plenty of rival OSes to Microsoft's product line. Only a few of those can be considered transformational and they can only be considered such because they either influenced an existing OS or are an existing OS.

He's a VC (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34606852)

He's a VC - he only needs one of his horses to come in to make money. Who cares if all the others crash and burn - he'll still own their ideas anyway...

I'm kind of torn on this (1)

NotSoHeavyD3 (1400425) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606882)

I mean my university was a complete waste of space. (Which I half jokingly refer to as Good Ol' FU. And yes, foreign language requirements have proven to be less than worthless for me.) I think I would have been better off dropping out half way through and doing anything else so it might be true for some quitting in the middle would be a good idea.(Since my degree is basically worthless. My joke is that at least toilet paper is good for something unlike my degree.) However I can understand for alot of people my situation is not the norm and dropping out would be a bad idea.(Although with the way prices on higher education are going it's worth it for fewer and fewer people.) On the other hand we are talking about young adults here. If they really need the education for whatever they could always go back. I mean a lot of colleges will let you take a sabatical. Can they do that? Take a sabatical for 2 or 3 years to see how that works out and if it doesn't just come back and finish their degree?

Reality check time (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606912)

Given all the ranting about the value of an education, it's worth remembering a couple of things here. First, it's very similar conditions to an internship, which is also paying people to drop out of school for a short period of time. There's nothing keeping these people from reentering college at the end of the second year, even if things work out for them. And it's a pretty good deal. $100k goes far for a startup. And they get a mentor to help them make serious decisions.

At the end of that second year, what happens? Even if the business flops, they can go back to school, but this time they have considerable marketable job experience and a prestigious award which is very useful for life after school. And they probably will be a little more appreciative of the value of an education. Those that don't return, probably wouldn't have finished anyway. Sure, the idea is risky for a college student, but not that risky.

Weeds out the morons.. (1)

Junta (36770) | more than 3 years ago | (#34606916)

The dropouts who are highly successful are very much the exception rather than the rule. Generally the pattern is their good fortune is overwhelmingly obvious before they drop out. Meanwhile, thousands more drop-out thinking they are going to make it rich and end up going no where for the rest of their career. This is not an endorsement of the intrinsic value of the education, but the reality of a *lot* of companies that make a 4 year degree a requirement before they'll even forward your resume to the department looking for a candidate. In my case, I interviewed during college for what was advertised as full-time summer, part-time rest of the year position. The employer made it obvious that I would have to drop out of college to prove I was dedicated to them to be considered for hire. I declined and now make 3 times the salary they offered (they offered low by real-world standards, even if it seemed a little high relative to intern level positions).

In this particular case, they are expected to drop over a one-time commitment of only $100k? In VC terms, that is nothing at all, you can't start anything with that. The cases I know of personally start in the millions, and generally people who have degrees and experience allowing them to pick their career back up if everything goes bust. In salary terms for a 'grunt' job, that may amount to little more than 1 years pay of the job you agree to lock yourself out of to pursue your idea. If he were *really* committed to a person's idea being valuable, he wouldn't care what their education was and he would put more than $100k into it.

The fact that he specifically targets people in university with the condition of dropping out seems almost vindictive to the institution. If he things things are broken with the system, screwing over the majority if not all of 20 students is not a good approach to inciting positive change.

Dropping out is only smart if you're a genius (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607000)

"Some of the world's most transformational technologies were created by people who stopped out of school"

Yes, and lots of the floors of the world's McDonalds are wiped by people who "stopped out" of school too.

If you're considering dropping out, I'd suggest you take a look at the statistics. In the last four decades, only one out of 300,000,000 drop outs became Bill Gates.

anonymous coward (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607040)

The flawed logic is this.... if the ideas "couldn't wait" to be done by the end of college that means that someone else would do them first. Which means that you aren't encouraging any real innovation here simply because it will be done by someone else if you don't do it at the earliest time you think of it.

Thiel has a J.D. from Stanford University (1)

feijai (898706) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607112)

Good to see he practices what he preaches.

It's more than just education, stupid. (1)

nine932038 (1934132) | more than 3 years ago | (#34607150)

People who treat university like vocation school will get what they deserve - I did.

University isn't just a place to learn. It's a place to network. It's a place where you can find like-minded individuals to hang out with, and a place where you're forced to interact with unlike-minded individuals - and not always to your detriment.

Handing a bunch of kids a pile of money is borderline irresponsible. Ideas are all good and well, but it takes a hell of a lot of experience or luck to parley them into money.

technical knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34607308)

And how am I going to learn all the complex math needed to realize my idea without finishing university?

Sure, you can learn some of it yourself, but you really need a professor you show you what's important and what's not, and how to understand certain concepts.

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