Idea Execution

with Noor Siddiqui

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Thiel Fellowship

Learn about the Thiel Fellowship and how it differs from a university education.

Noor Siddiqui

Co-Founder and CEO at Remedy Inc at 17, 20 under 20 Thiel Fellow

Lessons Learned

Leaving school teaches you what your weaknesses are, and how to adjust for them.

You decide how you want to measure your success or failure.

Unlike in school, you need to determine how to structure your own success.

It’s hard to fail in school – the Thiel Fellowship was an entirely new experience.


Lesson: Idea Execution with Noor Siddiqui

Step #9 Thiel Fellowship: Learn about the Thiel Fellowship and how it differs from a university education

The Thiel Fellowship is this really one of a kind opportunity where Peter Thiel, he founded PayPal, invested in Facebook. Now he's a venture capitalist. He picks 20 entrepreneurs under 20 and allows them the freedom to kind of work on whatever problem they want to work on and gives them $100K seed funding to kind of get that going.

The interview process was probably one of the best weekends of my life, I would say. They bring together these 40 finalists. They look up all the applications and bring in the 40 finalists, and for me, it was like the first time I'd felt like such synchrony and resonance with my peers before. I just met all the these people who cared deeply about what they were working on, really believed that they could make it happen, and had done crazy incredible things that I'd never even started to think about doing before. They were really inspiring. They really motivated me. I really admired a lot of them and that's kind of when I decided that, "Okay, this is definitely the program for me."

Well, yeah, the process specifically was you interview with the Foundation and you interview with other fellows. You interview with other mentors and you pitch your idea to investors and media and the Foundation as well and you get feedback on it.

There's a mentor community and you reach out to them based on what their expertise is and what you're trying to learn. There's a newsletter where you can explain how you're progressing. Every month, they'll be like, "Hey, so what's going on? What's your progress? What are your difficulties?" and they kind of use that as a way to gauge how to bring resources to you or how to kind of move forward there.

There's not a curriculum per se. You kind of decide how you want to measure your success or failure. You say like, "In a month I want to have 50 users," or "I want to have a product deployed," or "I want to give this talk," or "I want to write this book," or whatever it is you want to do and you decide for yourself where you want to be in a month, two months, three months, six months, a year or two years. And you kind of have to figure out how to structure and measure your own success.

I think that was one of the best learning experiences for me. In school, there was such a structured environment and it was impossible to fail. You can fail the test but you really can't fail at school. I don't know. I just thought school was really hard to fail. You're given these lessons and tests piecemeal and if you just consume it, you'll kind of get an A at the end. I don't know. School was never super challenging for me personally. But I was also, at the same time, really into. It's kind of like a hamster wheel. It's like you're spinning on a hamster wheel. You feel like you're making all this progress, you're learning all this stuff, but you're kind of moving in circles.

I actually didn't learn a lot of awesome things in school. It's just that you are spoon fed it, and once you remove that structure, you realize how beneficial that structure is in a lot of ways because you make this incremental progress every day. But you also realize that you don't know how to replicate that for yourself for your own goals. Someone else can tell you that, "I'm going to teach you calculus in a semester," and they'll take care of all the structures around it and you'll be able to learn at the end of that, but I almost think it's much more valuable to figure out how would you be able to teach yourself calculus.

How do you motivate yourself to work on that every day? How do you figure out what the content is that you need to learn? And maybe that's overly difficult but just the idea of creating your own structure is something that any startup founder has to do and something you have to do as soon as you get out of school and I think that you learn. At least me, I learned a lot about myself by being out of school and trying to work on my own thing because basically all of your greatest weaknesses are amplified when you're not inside of a structure.

In a structure, you're forced to do a lot of things and a lot of those things are good. You have to wake up at a certain time. You have to start working. In these classes there's a lot of social enforcement. Things are due at a certain time. People will ask you where they are. So you learn a lot about what your own weaknesses are when you're outside of that structure. And yeah, and then you also learn, "Okay, how do I adjust for these weaknesses that I have?"

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