Peter Thiel Announces 2013 Class of “20 Under 20” Thiel Fellows

Fellowship to Host Third “Under 20 Summit” for Young Entrepreneurs in San Francisco June 1-2, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO--()--Peter Thiel today introduced the 2013 class of new Thiel Fellows. The third set of young entrepreneurs to be awarded 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowships, these fellows will pursue innovative scientific and technical projects, learn entrepreneurship from the ground up, and begin to build the innovative companies of tomorrow.

Peter Thiel said, “When we created the fellowship more than two years ago, our intention was to help a small number of creative people learn and accomplish more than they might have otherwise. To their great credit, they have exceeded our expectations, and inspired people of all ages by reminding them that qualities like intellectual curiosity, grit, and determination are more important than a degree in determining success in life.”

“As we welcome a new class of determined young people into the Thiel Fellowship community, we also celebrate the pioneering spirit of our 2011 and 2012 fellows,” said Jonathan Cain, president of the Thiel Foundation. “Over the past two years, they have launched more than thirty companies, and raised more than $34 million in outside funding, including venture investments, company sales, revenue, grants, sponsorships, and awards. They have been hiring employees, launching products, engaging with vendors and manufacturers, and advising some of the world’s most well-known technology companies. And now they’re helping the next generation of tech researchers and entrepreneurs by mentoring future cohorts of Thiel fellows.”

Over two years, each fellow receives $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation as well as mentorship from the Foundation’s network of tech entrepreneurs, investors, scientists, thought leaders, futurists, and innovators. Projects pursued by the 2013 class of fellows span numerous cutting-edge science and technology fields, including robotics, computer science, telecommunications, education, photonics, game development, cyberdefense, biotechnology, health I.T., law, neuroscience, fashion, and personal manufacturing.

Jim O’Neill, partner at Mithril Capital Management and fellowship co-founder, said, “Pessimists are correct that we still live in a world of scarcity and suffering. And optimists are correct that better science and technology can relieve these problems immensely. But contrary to both sides, nothing is inevitable. The young men and women Peter has appointed are committed to improving the quality of life for countless people through skillful execution of new ideas, and I am confident they will succeed.”

“The Thiel Fellowship has really evolved over the past two and a half years, from a small pool of idiosyncratic people willing to take a risk on our crazy idea into a robust and effective community of friends,” said Mike Gibson, the Thiel Foundation’s vice president for grants. “It’s been exciting to see how dramatically the network effects have expanded over time. The fellowship mentor network now has more than 250 experienced professionals, and the first two classes of fellows have quickly become each other’s best resources.”

“We’re also encouraging more young people to focus on entrepreneurship through our new Under 20 Summit,” said Danielle Strachman, program director of the Thiel Fellowship. “The Summit is a twice-yearly weekend-long conference where we bring together fellowship applicants, current fellows, mentors, and hundreds of young people who are excited about entrepreneurship. Since the fellowship supports just twenty people a year, the Under 20 Summits enable us to help hundreds more talented young innovators by connecting them with the knowledge and resources they need to take their ideas to the next level, no matter where they are.”

The Under 20 Summit is a semi-annual conference sponsored by the Thiel Foundation and open to young people from around the world who are passionate about entrepreneurship. The last summit, in New York City, drew more than 250 attendees from around the world. The next summit will take place in San Francisco on June 1 and 2. Attendance is by invitation only; to learn more or request an invitation please visit:

For the 2013 fellowship, the Thiel Foundation received applications from nearly every state in the U.S. and from 49 different countries. The applications represented a diverse pool of educational experiences, coming from young people in high schools, community colleges, undergraduate and graduate schools, state schools, technical schools and liberal arts colleges, students who are homeschooled or unschooled, and some who had already stopped out of college.


Andrew Brackin (18, London, United Kingdom) co-founded a marketplace for designers that grew to 100,000 signups. Andrew runs Tomorrow's Web, an event for young technologists with hundreds of attendees and major sponsors. He will be working on Bunchy, a funding platform that allows organizations to raise money from their audience on their social platforms and websites.

Austin Russell (18, Newport Beach, CA) has a passion for developing innovative optoelectronic technologies for industry. His projects range from high-efficiency far-field wireless power transmission to low-cost early cancer detection systems. As a fellow, Austin will be focusing on 3D depth mapping and projection of interactive holograms through a compact laser-based module.

Christopher Walker (20, Chevy Chase, MD) is a video game designer, programmer, and artist. After leaving college to start a software company, he created a game designed to improve spatial cognition. As a Thiel Fellow, Chris will focus on developing interactive software to teach technical skills like programming, music, and mathematics.

Daniel Zulla (19, Regensburg, Germany) is a software engineer who is about to introduce a secure computing architecture used for servers and desktop computers alike.

Darren Lim (19, Singapore) came to love scientific innovation while studying in China, and remains a consumer at heart who is obsessed with cutting-edge gadgets. He is currently working on a startup to improve how we interact with technology.

Delian Asparaouhov (19, Salt Lake City, UT) wants to improve health care. As a Thiel Fellow, he will work on technology to help manage disease and improve patient outcomes.

Diwank Singh Tomer (19, Palo Alto, CA) stopped out of his college in India to work on an online platform for learning to code. Aside from his love of poetry, he is an exceptional hacker and engineer who was awarded the Mozilla WebFWD fellowship for his efforts to improve learning online. He has since moved to the Bay Area to further his efforts and is currently working on a collaborative learning platform.

Gary Le (19, East Brunswick, NH) envisions a safer, cleaner, and more trustable Internet. He is working on a real-time online identity verification system for various applications in e-commerce, online communities, and collaborative consumption businesses.

James Schuler (19, Armonk, NY) started his first company when he was 12 and hasn't stopped since. In high school he founded a health care company called Eligible and attended Y-Combinator as one of its youngest entrepreneurs. Recently, James left Eligible in order to focus on a bigger market: politics. As a Thiel Fellow, James will work to improve crowd funding in order to revolutionize the campaign finance market.

Kevin Wang (18, Vernon Hills, IL) began developing games and applications when he was 9. Since then, he has moved into entrepreneurship, applying his highly technical background to solve bigger problems. As a Thiel Fellow, he aims to simplify the world of law and open source software to end the wasteful litigation epidemic.

Laura Ball (19, Wauwatosa, WI) is researching value in neural systems. She would like to determine how information becomes important, and how important information maintains dominance over other information in order to define our conscious mind-states and behavioral responses.

Maddy Maxey (18, San Diego, CA) began interning in the fashion industry when she was 16 for companies like Tommy Hilfiger, Donna Ricco, Peter Som, and Nylon Magazine. After founding a popular fashion blog while in France and then winning a scholarship from the CFDA & Teen Vogue for her work, she started a clothing company of her own. As a Thiel Fellow, Maddy will focus on optimizing the clothing patterns and the enterprise software that make our current garment industry inefficient. Her goal is to make domestic production profitable by integrating software, not just hardware technologies, more fully into our manufacturing system.

Mark Daniel (19, Nashville, TN) co-founded social goal achievement site GoalHawk in 2011. Since then, he has been building StatusHawk, a workplace accountability tool that changes the way that companies handle status reports. As a Thiel Fellow, Mark will focus on building this early stage company into a profitable and sustainable business.

Nelson Zhang (19, Toronto, ON, Canada) has always loved making things. He has been tinkering with electronics since he was 10, and designed, manufactured, and sold several hardware products during high school and college. He is currently working on a desktop fabricator for electronics, aimed at lowering iteration time and costs for hardware companies. He hopes to make the design and production of physical things accessible to everyone.

Nick Liow (18, Vancouver, BC, Canada) believes everything is a remix and information wants to be free. Now, he's challenging copyright by building ways for creators to get paid for giving their work to the public domain.

Riley Drake (18, Baltimore, MD) has been conducting scientific research since she was 15. She has studied immunology at Johns Hopkins University and infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. During her fellowship she intends to apply physical principles to virology: using biophysics to create broad-spectrum viral therapies.

Riley Ennis (19, McLean, VA) founded Immudicon, an early-stage biotechnology company that has developed a novel cancer vaccine platform and telemetric sweat-monitoring device in order to improve diagnosis and treatment. The company was spun out of his research in high school at Georgetown University and the Sheikh Zayed Institute at Children's National Medical Center in Washington. His ultimate goal is to exercise empathy within health care to revolutionize and personalize patient care.

Ritesh Agarwal (19, New Delhi, India) is one of the youngest entrepreneurs from India to raise angel investments. He runs OYO Inns, a chain of affordable, tech-enabled inns, and Oravel, a rising popular alternative to hotels in India. As a Thiel Fellow, Ritesh will use technology to bring affordable and standardized accommodations to emerging economies across the world, starting in India.

Thomas Sohmers (17, Hudson, MA) is a technology geek and hardware hacker who has been working at a MIT research lab since he was 13, developing everything from augmented reality eyewear to laser communication systems. Currently, Thomas is working on developing a new computing platform that uses very low powered processors in a cluster to transform the server, cloud, and research computing industries.

William LeGate (18, Marietta, GA) is an entrepreneur and computer scientist. He taught himself programming at age 14 from online Stanford lectures and has since created more than a dozen mobile apps which have been downloaded more than 5 million times and are now used by 1 in 16 American teens. During his fellowship, he plans to change the way that we discover apps for things around us.

Xinyi Chen (19, Beijing, China) is passionate about entrepreneurship and technology. She participated in the Tigerlabs accelerator last summer and developed prototypes for her project Helios, which attempts to make telepresence devices accessible to average families.

Zach Hamed (20, Holbrook, NY) originally from New York City, was a junior at Harvard studying computer science before joining the Thiel Fellowship. The son of a teacher and a computer programmer, Zach is a first-generation American who hopes to apply his interest in user interface and experience design to K-12 education. As a Thiel Fellow, Zach wants to develop a suite of beautifully-designed tools for K-12 teachers, saving them time, providing them supplemental income, and helping them do what they do best—teach.


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Torch Communications
Ross Gillfillan, 415-599-4403


Torch Communications
Ross Gillfillan, 415-599-4403