With Thiel Fellowships, young innovators take shot at changing the world

Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel

The newest class of 22 Thiel Fellows has been announced, including five with local connections. Fellows are given $100,000 and two years to pursue projects spanning their chosen field, with many tackling big problems in health, I.T., defense and manufacturing.

The program, created by PayPal founder Peter Thiel, encourages promising young individuals mentorship, opportunity, and support while encouraging them to forgo, or at least postpone, a traditional college education.

Can the latest roster continue Boston’s tradition of college dropouts and opt-outs that go on to be titans of industry?

Some of the America’s biggest successes are local college dropouts: Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, Gabe Newell, and Dustin Moskovitz all skipped out early from Harvard, while Boston-native Sheldon Adelson dropped out of City College of New York before building his trade show and casino empire.


The young aspiring entrepreneurs with local connections who made the list names include (Courtesy of the Thiel Foundation):

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. He was an MIT student and created software that reminded users to take their medicine.

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. Daniel was a Babson student.

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.

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.


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.

Many of them took to Twitter to offer thanks and announce their acceptance into the program, and Zach Hamed wrote a post explaining his decision — and offering a humble thanks to his parents and others who have helped along the way.

“After reflecting on where I’ve been and where I hope to be, it’s clear that 99% of where I am can be attributed to other people,’’ he wrote.

He later continued:

My work at Rough Draft Ventures over the past year has shown me how dedicated student entrepreneurs can be. After funding many of the best student ideas in Boston, it’s clear that Boston and New York are now tech hubs of their own. I grew up in New York and grew academically, professionally, and intellectually in Boston. Those cities are my roots, and I hope to be the bridge between this East Coast hub that’s rapidly growing and the storied Silicon Valley ecosystem that has so much to offer the students growing companies here in Boston.

Have another Hive-worthy innovation news? Send a brief email to Hive@Boston.com, or tweet us a link at@HiveBoston.

Loading Comments...