A pretty cool documentary airs tonight on CNBC, 20 under 20: Transforming Tomorrow that follows the selection process for the inaugural class of the “Theil Fellows”. I got to see a preview of it last week and was definitely impressed. The documentary is edited together almost like a reality tv show (including a completely unsympathetic character that, even as a “victim” of reality TV editing, I find hard to believe is purely because of editing) but delivers substance w/the splash.
As background, Peter Thiel, the cofounder of PayPal, started a fellowship program that grants $100K over a 2 year period to selected young adults under the age of 20 to do whatever they want. While the fellowship is not just about getting kids to skip/drop out of college, that is ostensibly the driving force. The kids are really phenomenal and its worth tuning in just to get a look at them.
In addition to pimping out the show, I also wanted to highlight something that I haven’t heard discussed enough. Which is the brilliance of the Thiel Fellowship itself. Peter has spoken at length that about what he calls the “higher education bubble.” This idea that everyone needs to go to college as the best path. Among other things, the $1 trillion in student loan debt is one of my many red flags out there. I don’t want to go to much into whether Thiel is right or not (I happen to agree w/him), but I’m blown away by the creativity here. I’ve met a number of people who have strong views about what needs to change in the world. What Thiel’s done here is Silicon Valley entrepreneurship at its best – instead of just talking about it, he took a few million dollars and started a program that jumpstarted a massive conversation. The fellowship was immediately controversial and got headlines (and a documentary that you should watch!) around the world. He found a creative way to get massive leverage in getting people to actually think about something that would have once been heresy to say. It’s brilliant. Like the young fellows featured in the documentary.
PS – if you watch – there is an ABSOLUTELY PRICELESS moment where a member on the selection committee starts to pointedly say she sensed something like a “lack of humility” of Taylor (a total badass, btw). The response to that is one of my favorite moments on TV this year. In fact, there’s a few really good laugh lines in there, including Elon Musk talking about college girls. Good stuff.