Narrowing the age limit on youth entrepreneurs, the Thiel Fellowship is an additional opportunity for those ages 20 and under. Twice a year the Thiel Foundation hosts the Thiel Fellows Summit. Similar to the Kairos Society and Empact, Thiel Fellows are selected for dreaming big and exhibiting extraordinary talent. As a part of the Thiel Fellowship, each recipient is given $100,000 over a two year period to pursue their vision and be connected with successful entrepreneurs, advisors and investors.
Noor Siddiqui is a Thiel Fellow from the class of 2012 and former colleague. We worked together on a project called Videos4Villages, which was envisioned to bring health information to villagers in rural India via cell phones. It now resides as HealthPhone, a remarkable service that translates and delivers health videos into local languages to 170 million users in India. The brainchild of this concept is Nand Wadhwani and he was introduced to me by Noor’s mentor, Michael Smolen, founder of Dotsub, a video translating company. Mentorship and human capital are the start of every entrepreneur’s story.
Noor is now the co-founder of Remedy, a startup that will work with any wearable technology to enhance the outcome of healthcare. Noor and her sister Gina, a medical school student from the University of Pennsylvania, have a brainchild of their own called Beam. Together they created an app for Google Glass that allows surgeons to see a real time report of their patient’s vital statistics and access surgical information. Beam is in beta and being testing by surgeons at Harvard and Stanford medical schools. According to Noor, Beam is Remedy’s first product using Google Glass, but there are many to come.
I attended the Thiel Foundation Summit in November to give a keynote and mix with nearly 300 young innovators. Among them was a young man from Toronto who is well on his way toward mounting his second entrepreneurial company. He is working on allergy patches, but in the interest of keeping this development under wraps, I just want say that he impressed me with his depth of questions on the challenges at the FDA and his method for bringing a product to market. I suffer from common allergies, and I’ll be interested to follow his developments.
Although not at the Thiel Foundation Summit, I contacted a Thiel Fellow from the class of 2014 who caught my attention, Catherine Ray. What interested me about Catherine at first glance is that she received her undergraduate degree in computational physics from George Mason University at the age of 16.
During our conversation, she described her education as standard – until taking the SAT test in middle-school, skipping high school and going directly to university.
“In university, I found that I had been lied to. Math and science are not the rote subjects my previous schooling experience had led me to believe. They involve more creativity and exploration than art or storytelling.”
Catherine loves the Thiel experience, because it’s a community of hard-working young people with the freedom to fully devote themselves to solving large problems. She believes that age is unimportant if you work hard to earn respect, and that the opportunity to go on to college without entering high school is more accessible than many would think.