Jim Danielson and Sean Kleinschmidt spent the summer before their freshman year at Purdue University turning a Porsche1987 924S with a blown engine into an electric-powered vehicle, displayed here at the 2009 Green Week car show. (Purdue News Service photo/Mark Simons)
Peter Thiel Gives Whiz Kids $100K To Quit College, Start Businesses
Jim Danielson is being paid to drop out of Purdue University.
This month the electrical and computer engineering major finished his sophomore year in West Lafayette and got an offer he couldn’t turn down.
Wednesday, Danielson was named as one of the first recipients of the 20 Under 20 Thiel Fellowship.The program is the brainchild of Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and venture capitalist for Facebook.
|Peter Thiel Headshot by The Thiel Foundation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.|
Thiel is giving 24 entrepreneurs age 20 or younger $100,000 grants so they can leave their university, move to Silicon Valley in California and spend the next two years developing their own businesses.
One climbed Mount Kilimanjaro. Another started college in third grade. Another opened a business at age 9. And yet another scored 5580 on the SATs (on a total of 5 tests, but still).
Now they’re all getting two years of mentoring from a network of tech and entrepreneurial experts and $100,000 to start a business. The benefactor? PayPal founder, early Facebook investor, and Stanford’s least favorite alumnus, Peter Thiel.
To read more about the Thiel Foundation and each of the 24 dropouts, head over to Fast Company >>
Jim Danielson is working on building a more powerful and efficient motor for electric vehicles. He has already electrified a Porsche 1987 924S, including power electronics of his own design. He is currently co-launching Makt Systems LLC, a start-up to commercialize his research and design. Before becoming a Fellow, Jim co-founded the Electric Vehicle Club at Purdue and was president of Purdue Innovations, the university’s entrepreneurship club.
For Danielson that means creating a more powerful and efficient motor for electric vehicles.”I had this idea for the motor, but I did not have the funding to go through with it and I didn’t have the connections to really start a business,” Danielson said Thursday morning from his home in Arlington Heights, Ill., outside Chicago.They bought the Porsche for $500, then sold parts from it that they didn’t need for about the same amount. They spent about $6,000 on the conversion.
“One of the other reasons I thought the Thiel Fellowship was a good idea to drop out of school for a few years and forgo my degree, is that the electric vehicle industry is a fast-changing marketplace.
“I feel if I had waited two years to finish my degree and start a business without funding, I would lose the opportunity to make an impact in the industry.”The idea for applying to the Thiel Fellowship was planted in Danielson by his mother.” I had a heard about it from a friend and I told Jim about it,” Kim Danielson said. “But I told him, we would want you to be in school, not do something like this.”Kim Danielson said she expected her son to finish college and find a job — just as his three other siblings have done or are in the process of doing.
But Jim Danielson quietly applied for the fellowship, at age 19, and only told his parents after receiving a call he was a finalist. Overall, more than 400 people applied from 20 countries for the Thiel Fellowships”I would be lying as a parent, if I said we did not have concerns about his leaving school for two years,” she said.
But after researching Thiel and the fellowship, Kim Danielson and her husband realized it was the perfect fit for Jim.”You know how people think about doing things but don’t because we see the barriers,” she said. “Jim doesn’t see the barriers; he sees the possibilities.”Danielson became interested in electric motors in high school through involvement in the BattleBots robot competitions.
After high school Danielson electrified a Porsche 1987 924S with fellow Purdue student Sean Kleinschmidt .”I never was interested in gasoline cars,” he said. “I didn’t mess around with cars growing up, I messed around with electronics.
“Once on campus, Danielson co-founded the Electric Vehicle Club at Purdue and was president of Purdue Innovations, the university’s entrepreneurship club. Sunday Danielson will head to Mountain View, Calif. to start the program. But he will return to Purdue in the fall to take one class — electric motor design.”I will be simultaneously working on my project for the majority of the day,” he said.
In January he will move back to Silicon Valley and leave Purdue.Through the fellowship Danielson will work with mentors in the electric vehicle industry and have access to technology, labs and professionals that are not available at the West Lafayette campus.His goal is to create an electric motor for electric vehicles that is more efficient and cheaper to produce than current models. Much of the interest around the fellowship has focused on its creator, Thiel, who has raised eyebrows with his criticism of higher education in America and the debt associated with getting a modern college degree.
Danielson and Thiel were featured Friday on CNN’s American Morning program. During the program, Thiel said students taking part in the program were not dropping out of school. He called it “stop out,” since they can return to classes later. “Every moment in history happens only once.
So these technologies and inventions, there is a right time and right place for them,” Thiel told CNN. “If the Facebook people has stayed in college for another two years, they may not have started Facebook.”
Recipients get $100,000, total, over two years
SOURCE: Journal and Courier and JCOnline.com.
May. 26, 2011 – by ERIC WEDDLE