Small Business

Peter Thiel: Drop Out, Start-Up


The PayPal co-founder is offering 20 teen entrepreneurs $100,000 fellowships to leave college

If these people have real business ideas, you could just invest in them. Why the fellowships?

We're not limiting it to people who have ideas for businesses. You don't necessarily have to have a business plan or anything like that. The idea is to target people who'd like to become entrepreneurs and see if there's a way to mentor that process along.

Beyond nurturing young entrepreneurs, what's the broader goal of this project?

We hope this program will stimulate thinking about what education is. People are racking up enormous amounts of debt in school. If you graduate from a four-year college with a quarter million dollars in student loans, that limits your ability to do all sorts of entrepreneurial things. I'm concerned that it's bad for technological innovation, because to start new technology ventures, people need to take risks. They often need to do things where they get paid less than they could earn elsewhere, and with enormous amounts of debt that becomes very hard to do.

So you're saying that education costs too much?

I do think the debt problem is a very big one. The one area where I think there still is a full-fledged bubble is probably education. In one sense it's even crazier than housing, because if you bought a house you couldn't afford, in an extreme case you could always walk away from the house and give it back to the bank. You can't actually walk away from your school loans. You are stuck with them for the rest of your life.

Tozzi covers small business for Businessweek.com.

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