You are an ambitious and creative young kid aged 20 or under, and somebody asks you to skip high school or college to start your own business: what will you do? No? What if you are offered $100,000 to do so? And what if the person asking you to do it is Peter Thiel, the co-founder of internet payment giant PayPal?
Very tempting indeed, considering that the USA’s current national student debt burden tops $1 trillion. That’s exactly what 20 youngsters selected for this year’s Thiel 20Under20 Fellowship also thought. And among them are some Asians too, with some really cool startup ideas.
The 2012 class of 20 Under 20, the second such batch chosen for this two-year long mentorship programme, will pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, learn entrepreneurship, and begin to build the innovative companies of tomorrow, according to the Thiel Foundation.
“Pundits and hand-wringers love to claim that universities are the only path to a successful life. In truth, an inquisitive mind, rigorously applied to a deep-rooted problem can change the world as readily as the plushest academic lab,” Thiel said while announcing this year’s Fellows.
“In 1665 when Cambridge University closed due to the plague, Isaac Newton used his time away to pursue self-directed learning and ended up inventing calculus. The drive to make a difference is what truly matters,” he pointed out.
Each Fellow will receive $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from its network of tech entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, thought leaders, and innovators.
Here is a look at the Asian bright stars who made it to the chosen 20, after competing with around 1000 applicants from over 40 countries.
One of the youngest in the programme, Noor Siddiqui , all of 17, wants to create a ‘work while you study’ online programme and give students across the globe access to upward mobility.
Anand Gupta and Tony Ho , aged 20 and 19, will put their interest in biology and computer science to good use by transforming medical diagnosis. They want to create a service for quantitative analysis of biomedical images to enable faster, more accurate diagnoses of complex diseases.
Yoonseo Kang, 18, who has a personal story of having to resist pressure on further studies, wants to make a difference in open-source hardware to help communities increase their productive potential. He plans to create an Open Source Ecology to develop a ‘Global Village Construction Set’ consisting of 50 industrial machines necessary to build a civilization with modern comforts.
While still 19, Ritik Malhotra is a veteran in programming, having started it at age 8. At 12, the brainiac started an online forum that boasts of over 32,000 members now; and the next year ran a web hosting and software consultancy business, reaping a 600x returns on investment. Now he wants to build a service that allows social media users to share interesting media, scraped from all around the web.
Omar Rizwan, 18, plans to speed up artificial intelligence by working on the analysis of big data sets. His startup will aggregate large sets of data from many different Internet sources and use them to tease out trends and draw conclusions.
All set to disrupt the public health system, Tara Seshan, 19, will develop tools to help analyze data, monitoring and evaluation, and public health decision making.
These entrepreneurs in the making are getting not only good money, but great publicity too: CNBC will air a two-part special on them, titled “20 Under 20: Transforming Tomorrow.” The show premieres July 11th and July 12th.
They have beaten contenders from over 350 high schools, junior colleges, community colleges, four-year colleges, and graduate schools. Surely they must be having something special under their sleeves. We shall wait and see.
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