Thiel Foundation Announces 2017 Thiel Fellows

Cohort Includes 25 Young Entrepreneurs in Machine Learning, Health IT, Gaming and Software Development

SAN FRANCISCO--()--The Thiel Foundation today named 25 people into the 2017 class of Thiel Fellows. The two-year fellowship provides young entrepreneurs with $100,000 and mentorship from the Thiel Foundation’s network of technology entrepreneurs, investors, and scientists. Launched in 2011, the program encourages fellows to pursue full-time entrepreneurship instead of going to college.

“This year’s fellows were selected from thousands of applications that we received from around the world, ranging from Denmark, to Spain, to Israel, to India, and the UK,” said Jack Abraham, Executive Director of the Thiel Fellowship. “These young founders demonstrate incredible drive and courage to tackle problems that often haven’t even been addressed before, let alone solved.”

To date, companies created by Thiel Fellows are worth more than $2 billion combined (not including Thiel fellow-created Ethereum, a computing network with a cryptocurrency market cap of $30 billion as of June 16).

“Our applicant pool continues to get stronger each year,” said Blake Masters, President of the Thiel Foundation. “That makes our selection process harder, but we’re not complaining: skipping college used to be unthinkably risky; then it became annoyingly cool; now it’s rightfully seen as no big deal—the responsible move for talented young people eager to build new things in the real world.”

About the 2017 Thiel Fellows

Ashish Pandhi (New York, NY)
Ashish founded Bettr, a service that creates a more unified social media management experience.

Colton Jang (Berkeley, CA)
Machine Learning
Colton is working on a machine learning company.

Daria Evdokimova (Moscow, Russia / San Francisco, CA)
Artificial Intelligence
Daria founded VoiceOps, an AI platform for analyzing enterprise voice. The platform analyzes sales and support conversations to maximize successful outcomes.

Dean Travers (London, England / Boston, MA)
Digital Therapeutics
Dean is CEO and co-founder of Luminopia, a virtual reality healthcare startup initially focused on treating lazy eye.

Fred Turner (Halifax, UK / Santa Clara, CA)
TL Biolabs
Fred founded TL Biolabs, a company building a low-cost genotyping platform for farmers to understand an animal’s likely productivity and disease susceptibility at birth, allowing for increased profits and reduced environmental impact.

Helson Taveras (San Francisco, CA)
Real Estate Technology
Helson founded Riley, which provides lead qualification as a service. Riley helps businesses prioritize their sales leads by responding to them within two minutes, 24/7.

Iddo Gino (Haifa, Israel / San Francisco, CA)
Iddo founded RapidAPI, which helps nearly half a million developers find, test, and deploy APIs.

James Graham (Boston, MA)
Enterprise Software
James founded Caffeine, which uses a new Internet protocol to improve the load-speed of mobile apps by up to three times.

Jesper Theil Thomsen (Virum, Denmark / Los Angeles)
Jesper is CEO of SOUNDBOKS. Its first product is the world’s loudest battery-powered speaker.

Jordan DeCicco (New York, NY)
Jordan founded Sunniva, whose first product, SuperCoffee, blends coffee, protein, and superfoods.

Jorge Izquierdo (Madrid, Spain)
Jorge founded Aragon, a platform for creating and managing effective decentralized organizations using blockchain technology to enhance corporate governance.

Laura Vaughan (Ottawa, Canada / Waterloo, Canada)
Acorn Cryotech
Laura is co-founder of Acorn Cryotech, a biotechnology company that conveniently cryopreserves clients’ stem cells.

Lani Lazzari (Pittsburgh, PA)
Simple Sugars
Lani founded Simple Sugars, an all-natural skincare line developed especially for sensitive skin. Simple Sugars products are sold online and in over 400 retail locations throughout the US.

Mark Prokoudine (Moscow / Toronto / San Francisco)
Mark is CEO of Kickback, a company building the casino of the future. Kickback allows users to bet on video games like CS:GO and DotA.

Micah Green (Austin, TX)
Micah founded Maidbot, a robotics company that created the first housekeeping robot for hotels.

Nicholas Shekerdemian (London / San Francisco / Hong Kong)
Recruitment Software
Nicholas co-founded Headstart, which uses machine learning to help companies identify who they should hire.

Peeyush Shirvastava (Kuala Belait, Brunei / Mason, Ohio)
Medical Device
Peeyush is CEO of Genetesis, a medical device company that developed CardioFlux, an imaging platform that leverages next-generation sensors and advanced computing to noninvasively measure and analyze the heart’s natural magnetic fields.

Phat Le (Portland, OR)
Phat is a founder of Sleeker, which uses unique insights and data to help auto service centers increase revenue via effective scheduling and customer messaging.

Prahasith Veluvolu (Indianapolis)
Prahasith is CEO of Mimir, which builds a classroom automation tool for computer science and programming courses.

Robert Kirstiuk (New Brunswick, Canada / Vancouver / Seattle)
Coastline Market
Seafood Marketplace
Robert is CEO and co-founder of Coastline Market, a predictive marketplace that allows commercial seafood harvesters to sell their fish to storefront businesses in advance of boat landings.

Sam Bernstein (New York, NY)
Real Estate Technology
Sam is CEO and co-founder of LoftSmart, the first end-to-end marketplace for student rentals. Students across the country use LoftSmart to discover, lease, and pay for local rentals instantly.

Shahed Kahn (San Francisco, CA)
Shahed founded Loom, a cloud-based video messaging service used by more than 200,000 employees at companies such as Hubspot, Uber, and Nielsen.

Sol Chen (Cambridge, MA)
Health Technology
Sol founded Clara, which is building a platform to support patients throughout the clinical trial process, from identification to enrollment and beyond.

Tara Bosch (Vancouver, BC)
Smart Sweets
Tara founded SmartSweets. SmartSweets innovates confectionary products that kick sugar - naturally.

Zaid Rahman (Dubai, United Arab Emirates/ San Francisco, CA)
Artificial Intelligence
Zaid is CEO of Volley, an artificial intelligence company focused on personalizing enterprise learning.


The Thiel Foundation supports science, technology, and long-term thinking about the future. For more information, see


Torch Communications
Lauren White


Torch Communications
Lauren White