30 May 2011

Why Peter Thiel is Paying Kids to NOT Go To College (and why that's great)

Peter Thiel made a lot of money as an entrepreneur and investor. Now he has given away money to 20 kids under 20 to help fund heir entrepreneurial ventures. Oh, and to not attend college.

This is awesome.

It is no longer knowledge work that limits us. Unemployment rates for recent grads have never been so high. The information economy is ending the same way that the industrial economy ended about a century ago; not because information and knowledge workers are suddenly disappearing but because we have enough of both that they no longer limit.

What now limits our economy is entrepreneurship. In order to really break that limit, the corporation will have to transform the role of (at least a few - many many) employees into that of entrepreneur. But the corporation is not the only place where entrepreneurship needs to be encouraged.

Think about a world where instead of kids serving 2 years in the military after high school or spending 2 years in a church mission, they spend two years engaged in a start up. Think of what they would learn, what questions this would force them to ask, what skills they would acquire, what problems they'd solve, and how much having even thousands - much less millions - of kids engaged in such a way each year. Of course, if we did that, think of how disruptive those kids would be to the traditional education system once they had engaged in such experiences. To accommodate them, universities would have to transform (as if that would be a bad thing.)

Practically speaking, I think the money would be better spent on kids fresh out of university rather than high school. Thiel himself became an entrepreneur after getting a BA and JD from Stanford.

You can't comment on the direction a car is going when it is parked at the curb. Thiel should be applauded because he's giving us more of what we have so little at the expense of what we have in such abundance. Millions of kids go to university. Thiel has just diverted 20 of them into entrepreneurship instead. That - it seems to me - is hardly excessive. In fact, it seems like a very, very small start to something that could be huge.

No comments: