Updated: Dec 7, 2022
Peter Thiel is one of Silicon Valley’s greatest success stories, for those that aren’t familiar here’s a quick rundown of his most notable achievements
Founded Paypal, which he later sold to eBay for $1.5B
First outside investor in Facebook, receiving 10% for the company for $500k
Wrote Zero to One, now considered to be sacred scripture in startup world
Founded Palantir, a big data analytics firm that is now worth $4B+
Thiel is not without controversy however; he’s also a little bit of a pariah in left-leaning Silicon Valley. Thiel is an outspoken megadonor for the Republican Party and personally advised Donald Trump while he was in office.
Thiel also gained notoriety by backing Hulk Hogan’s lawsuit against Gawker in revenge for the news publication outing his sexuality.
Whatever Peter Thiel does, he does with a splash. The Thiel Fellowship was no exception.
He created the fellowship in 2011 with a simple premise - Thiel would grant $100,000 to roughly 25 applicants each year to fund their ideas for new startups + technologies.
He surprisingly asks for no equity in return but the money comes with one demand - you had to drop out of college in order to receive the money.
At the time it was announced, there was actually quite a bit of backlash from people who believed Thiel was encouraging young students to make risky decisions they would later regret
11 years later and the skeptics are few and far between
The Thiel Fellowship has led to the creation of Ethereum, OYO Hotels ($4B+), and most recently Figma which was acquired by Adobe for $20B
Seeing the immense success the program has had thus far, I wanted to take a look at what the most recent cohort of the Thiel Fellowship is working on:
The 2021 fellowship class consists of 22 members. Over half (13) are based in the US, with the rest coming from Europe, Canada, Mexico, and South Korea.
Their projects are extremely diverse in nature, spanning across 11 different categories.
The Biotech/Biomedical category leads the pack with 4 separate ventures, followed closely by Finance, Software/Tech, and Healthcare which each have 3.
Interestingly, categories that tend to dominate the funding conversation, like Blockchain/Crypto/AI, only have 3 members in this year’s cohort.
After scanning through the list, there are certainly some interesting projects being worked on
Here are 3 that I found particularly interesting:
Orb Aerospace - creates electric aircraft to meet the needs of developing nations
why: electric vehicles are something that the developed world is just starting to adopt, so it’s interesting that they’re focusing their efforts on developing nations
Anchor - a DeFi savings protocol that offers attractive yields on stablecoin deposits
why: stablecoins are having a bad year, with LUNA collapsing and dragging the Anchor protocol with it. FTX just de-listed Anchor’s coin, so this venture has quite the uphill battle ahead of it
Acorn Genetics - at-home DNA testing company focused on delivering consumers genetic results
why: healthcare is coming into the home whether you like it or not. Today’s sensor’s + devices (think Apple Watch) are getting so advanced that at-home monitoring will become commonplace and paired with at-home testing kits like this
For the full list of the 2021 Thiel Fellows, feel free to view here.