Why did Noor apply for the Thiel Fellowship and what did it teach her?
Co-Founder and CEO at Remedy Inc at 17, 20 under 20 Thiel Fellow
The Thiel Fellowship separated the reality I wanted to exist vs. what actually exists.
There is a very thin boundary between where you are and being a billionaire startup founder.
The Thiel Fellowship made everything more achievable.
Lesson: Idea Execution with Noor Siddiqui
Step #10 Why Thiel Fellowship: Why did Noor apply for the Thiel Fellowship and what did it teach her?
Basically my entire life I've always been looking for a community of people who cared about the same things that I did and who wanted to accomplish things on a similar scale that I wanted to accomplish. My entire life I was certain I'd find that in college and as a senior I applied to college, obviously, and I applied to The Fellowship. At the finalist weekend I was just sold. I'd never met a group of people who I had such synchrony with and I'd never been to a place so beautiful. San Francisco is breathtaking.
I'd never been in a community that was so supportive and the idea I originally applied with and I started working on was completely unfeasible on many different levels. The fact that people, regardless of that fact now, were still trying to hash through it with me and explain to me how it could potentially work or different iterations of that idea. It was really valuable and I don't know whether I would have been able to get that. I don't know if I would have been able to get that at a university or anywhere else.
One thing I definitely learned is that I guess it kind of goes along the lines of the reality that actually exists and the reality that you want to exist. Similarly, I remember when I came out to the Bay Area I was really star-struck by a lot of people that I met because I'd seen like glossy magazine covers of them. I'd seen them give these polished talks. I was just completely floored and impressed with them and felt like there's no way I could ever be like that because the image that had been portrayed of them in the media literally was fake. It was manufactured. It's not what they're actually like.
It was really refreshing and great when I actually met them to see that they have bags under their eyes, they stuttered, they made mistakes, they have frizzy hair, too, and they're not as perfect as they are perceived to look like. Their story isn't as pristine as everyone describes it. It wasn't like, "Oh, they went to Harvard and then they went to Stanford, and then they fell into this awesome job and their startup was immediately successful." That's a good story that's very easy to tell in a paragraph but that's not the story they actually went through. At least for me that validated a lot of the rockiness or the turmoil that I was going through and made me realize that there's dichotomy between reality that actually exists and the complexity around what it takes to actually launch a company and start something that's valuable.
Palantir for example, it took them like three years and $30 million to build a product that was valuable. So again, anything worth doing is hard. It takes three years. It takes $30 million to build something. Not every startup requires that amount of money and that amount of time to build something valuable. But basically the stories I'd always been told my entire life about what entrepreneurship was like or what it took to build a company, I realized were over-simplified and that there's more nuance to that. I've experienced that nuance personally and I've also understood what that nuance is from people who are much older than me.
I think going along those lines there was a really fundamental intuition I had when I was in high school which was that when I went back to Pakistan where I'm from, I saw extremely poor people, extremely poor, but they looked exactly like me because I'm from there. I think I was like 12 years old and there were these 12 year old girls who were super skinny and worked on the street and no one was taking care of them. I was like, “She literally looks exactly like me. This is crazy.”
My parents took me to the house they grew up in and it was nothing like the house I grew up in obviously and it was just like how thin the fabric is between what it would be like for me to have grown up there and what opportunities I would have had there versus what I grew up in. That made me care a lot about education; trying to figure out how to direct resources toward people who basically were just unlucky and didn't get the privilege of birth that I had gotten.
So that was the intuition I had when I was in high school about basically the frailty between how close people are from where they are to poverty. But similarly, an intuition I had when I came to The Fellowship is that there's also a similarly thin boundary between where you are and maybe being a billionaire or being a successful startup founder. You think there's this huge boundary between you and someone who's exited this billion dollar company or built this thing from scratch or has this technical knowledge that you don't have. Similarly, I think that people overestimate what that distance is between where they are right now and this other future that they could be in.
I think that's probably like the most fundamental thing I've learned. There's this reality now, there's this reality that you want to have, and there's this thin boundary between you being in poverty, and this thin boundary between you potentially being a billionaire. You just have to kind of understand that the world is very moldable, the world is very plastic, and I've learned that I actually had much more control over directing what the future could potentially be.