The Thiel Fellowship – Launching Your Project

with Danielle Strachman

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The fellowship is not necessarily looking for engineers - Danielle discusses the ideal candidate.

Danielle Strachman

Thiel Fellowship Program Director, Cofounder of Innovations Academy

Lessons Learned

We’ve had social movement builders, as well as technical entrepreneurs.

We’re not necessarily looking for an engineer.

We look for resilience.


Lesson: The Thiel Fellowship with Danielle Strachman

Step #5 Candidacy: The fellowship is not necessarily looking for engineers - Danielle discusses the ideal candidate

One thing that we look at is we look at people who are real doers, who know how to execute on a project, have a past history of working on things. It can be people who are technically oriented or people who are more like socially entrepreneurship oriented. We've had people who do social movement building like Dale from UnCollege and that's been really, really successful. So, I think sometimes people think that they have to be a technical person to apply, but you don't.

Additionally, we look at people who can hold a really big mission as well. So we're not just looking for necessarily the person who can take apart the toaster and put it back together, but the person who has an idea for what the future could look like and how them being a builder and creator can contribute to that.

Additionally we look for people who have a lot of grit, who have fallen down on things before and can get back up and are really resilient because to work on a project, and we talk about projects a lot more than startups just because when people come in they might have a startup, but they may just have a project and they're almost in an R&D phase and they're not sure where it's going to go. They might have a non-profit. They may be doing research on a topic. We've had one fellow who did research on deep-learning for the last year and he's been very successful in coming up with some of his own thoughts and coming up with some of his own research. And, he's actually been recently accepted into a PhD program never having stepped in undergrad and he's still debating whether or not he will go that route. But, it's been really, really exciting.

So we talked about projects as a general scope for all of the fellows and so we're looking at people who have some past history of executing on a project who could really utilize these two years to get something off the ground so that by the end of the fellowship, they have more choices than when they first came in. So, the choice could be to go back to school but additionally we want to see choices like that they have grant funding or VC funding to keep going on what they're doing.

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