Peter Thiel – the legendary entrepreneur and venture capitalist behind PayPal, Facebook and the Thiel Fellowship that pays college-aged kids $100,000 to drop out for two years and pursue their startup ambitions – will be delivering a lecture at Georgetown University on Tuesday, March 31 on “Developing the Developed World.”
The speech is expected to revolve around themes from Thiel’s bestselling book Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future, with a focus on providing insight into the practical application of startup knowledge from a tech-savvy billionaire.
Given Thiel’s opinions regarding higher education, it’s always interesting when he decides to do a talk on a college or university campus. After all, he is the man who said we’re in a higher education bubble.
“A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed,” Thiel told TechCrunch during a 2011 interview. “Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.”
Thiel has many issues with higher education, one of which being that he thinks it’s fundamentally wrong for society to define success by something that is exclusionary.
“If Harvard were really the best education, if it makes that much of a difference, why not franchise it so more people can attend? Why not create 100 Harvard affiliates?” he asked TechCrunch. “It’s something about the scarcity and the status. In education your value depends on other people failing. Whenever Darwinism is invoked it’s usually a justification for doing something mean. It’s a way to ignore that people are falling through the cracks, because you pretend that if they could just go to Harvard, they’d be fine. Maybe that’s not true.”
Perhaps his belief that campuses are lacking entrepreneurial value will be debunked when he visits Georgetown, though. The university is well-known locally for its commitment to supporting student startups, specifically through the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative. Under the banner of Startup Hoyas, the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative has provides an ever-growing suite of programs, events, space and technology for aspiring founders who are tirelessly working to make their ideas into a reality.
While Georgetown doesn’t have a formal investment arm on school grounds, it does have a number of alumni who gather informally to invest in student startups, which may have had something to do with the launch of the Georgetown Startup Stipend Program in 2014. The newly-established program covers the young entrepreneurs’ debt payments for up to two years after graduation. It’s designed “to help graduating seniors make the choice to pursue an entrepreneurial opportunity without the anxiety of student loan debt,” according to Founding Director of the Georgetown Entrepreneurship Initiative Jeff Reid.
Thiel will kick off his discussion on Tuesday, March 31 at 7 p.m. in the ICC Auditorium on Georgetown’s campus. His speech is expected to run for about 30 minutes, followed by another 30 minutes of Q & A. You’ll want to arrive early as the first 300 attendees will receive a free copy of Zero to One: Notes on Startups, or How to Build the Future.