When Peter Thiel started the Thiel Fellowship in 2010, offering $100,000 to 20 teens to drop out of college and work on whatever they wanted, he envisioned he was funding technological breakthroughs on the level of the moon landing or home computers. What he actually funded is an exclusive network for already-successful entrepreneurs, reports Backchannel, which interviewed two-dozen of the 123 past and current Thiel fellows. These interviews left Backchannel with the impression of "the most prestigious network for young entrepreneurs in existence," one that means "your ideas will be judged good, investors will take your call, and there will always be another job ahead."
In the years since its founding, the Thiel Fellowship has moved on from teens with little or no experience to 20-something entrepreneurs who've "already built and sold multiple companies." “We consider ourselves a league of extraordinary, courageous, brilliant individuals who should be a shining light for the rest of society," the fellowship's executive director says. Instead of using the freedom afforded by the Thiel Fellowship to create "the type of innovation that has led to flying cars," the fellows are mostly working on things that will make money in the short-term, like food-delivery apps and wearable sensors. But the fellowship gives them the ability to "lean on Thiel's name to open the Valley's doors." It's become a credential to put on a resume. It's a kind of like college that way. Read the full story here. (Read more Peter Thiel stories.)