107.9FM NYJ/LA

Translate This Page

Harvard Dropouts With Plan to Disrupt Nvidia Nab Peter Thiel Funding

Posted by Francesca Maglione on Saturday, March 23, 2024 Under: Technical Analysis
Billionaire venture capitalist Peter Thiel at a Bitcoin conference in 2022.© Bloomberg

(Bloomberg) -- Three ditched Harvard University to design specialized AI chips. Another two left New York University to develop a better crypto exchange and a photo sharing app.

These are a few of the latest recruits for Peter Thiel’s fellowship program, which grants entrepreneurs age 22 and younger $100,000, under the condition they drop out of school, if they haven’t already. This year the fellowship received its largest ever pool of applicants. 

Bloomberg News spoke to three of the 20 incoming class of 2024 fellows about why they decided to quit college, apply to the fellowship and what they hope to get out of the two-year program.

Thiel, a billionaire venture capitalist, has been criticized for encouraging students to stop their education, pointing to his philosophy and law degrees from Stanford University. But as the cost of higher ed soars, more are keen to adopt the idea that college might not be for everyone. 

The following interviews have been edited for length and clarity.

Gavin Uberti, 22, Harvard University

Uberti is from Seattle and started Etched, a company building “the next generation of AI chips,” with his co-founders Robert Wachen and Christopher Zhu, who are also fellows.

What is Etched and what led you to start it?

Etched is a company building highly specialized chips that are only for transformers powering AI models. These kinds of chips can get you 15 times the performance of the new Nvidia GPUs (graphic processing units that can do computing tasks like machine learning). But it’s a trade off. Nvidia’s chips can run any kind of AI algorithm, while we’re only able to run transformers. It is inherently a bet. If transformers go away, for instance, we’ll be hosed. But if they stick around, we will have the best performing chip on the market. 

I started at Harvard in 2020 when there was no in-person classes. I was there for two years almost and then in my fourth semester, when Covid was lifting up, I decided I really wanted to see the world and travel. I said, now is my moment, I’m taking a gap year. I loved Harvard. Some of the smartest folks in the world and probably the best math program on the planet is there. But what is happening right now in AI is unique. This has not happened before. And to lose those precious years in school just didn’t make sense. 

How do you feel about being a college dropout? 

I really think the fellowship helps enable people to go and take real risks. I think myself, Chris and Rob are fortunate and that we have made enough technical progress, where we could raise the seed round and follow-up capital without the brand of the fellowship behind us. We dropped out and founded Etched about 18 months before we received the fellowship. But having the fellowship — and I don’t want to even want to say it — is like a credibility stamp. It gets one’s parents off one’s case of “Hey, what are you doing not going to Harvard?”

What do you hope to get out of the fellowship?

The thing I’d like to get out of the fellowship is its network, especially in hardware. Being able to know the folks who are also in the space, who are going to be your customers, who are going to be your suppliers, who are going to be your backers. That has a lot of value.

Diogenes Casares, 20, New York University

Casares grew up in California but has also spent some time in Argentina, where his family is from. He founded Stream, a platform that aims to combine the benefits of centralized exchanges with that of decentralized finance, or DeFi. 

What is Stream and what led you to start it?

I worked at two crypto market makers, Amber, which was in Singapore and then Galaxy. And I was always curious while I was working there why they didn’t make use of DeFi. It’s more interesting in my opinion, and it can have higher funding rates for what you could get paid in certain cases. And what I realized is that, the main issue was capital efficiency and having to rebalance all of these positions. 

And so you get all of these people that are forced to go to these centralized exchanges, where you get stuff like FTX. I think it’s possible, however, to make it so that the actual liquidity and ability to buy and sell these assets can be decentralized instead of just holding on to it. And that, I think is a really important step in avoiding scams and frauds.

How do you feel about being a college dropout? 

When I was at NYU, I was studying East Asian history. But I wasn’t really learning anything. I leaned way more into crypto because of that. It was the only thing that I was actually learning new stuff from and that was challenging. And then I found this missing opportunity that to me just clicked that someone needs to be doing this, making crypto markets more efficient. And so I kind of just went for it. 

What do you hope to get out of the fellowship?

I felt like I was falling behind in college compared to the friends of mine that I had that were not in college. And with the fellowship it was just kind of an obvious thing to do because you’re kind of going against the current when it comes to this. So I feel it helps you go up against the current a little bit more and validate that you’re not crazy. And it helped my parents think I wasn’t crazy too.

College is a networking opportunity primarily where you get to meet interesting and energetic people and then the fellowship is that squared.

Alexandra Debow, 22, New York University 

Debow is from Hong Kong and has attended NYU Shanghai, Paris and Tandon School of Engineering. She is the co-founder of Swsh, a social app where users can share photo albums with friends powered by AI. 

What is Swsh and what led you to start it?

I grew up in Hong Kong and it was a place where people moved around all the time and it was really, really difficult to keep in touch with people. We’ve got massive social graphs, but they don’t go very deep. So with Swsh we’re hoping to build a very deep social graph. We’re able to really dig deeper in the few relationships that really matter to you and are able to represent that in photos, using AI to help distinguish for you what the most important moments are, who the most important people are and build communities through that.

How do you feel about being a college dropout? 

I think school follows the diminishing marginal utility rule, which is that the value you get at the beginning is disproportionately higher than you get at the end. And by that, I mean the value people get in their freshman year is the highest value, the highest utility, than it is towards their sophomore, junior and senior year. Usually by senior year, everyone’s kind of checked out, ready to just party or go into their next stage of life. 

All of my friends thought we were crazy. Some people still don’t understand. But at the end of the day, you really have one life and you need to understand there’s an opportunity cost for everything. For what we’re building right now, there’s no better time to build something both from like a market point of view and a team point of view than now. We’re building something that’s very ephemeral for what we can do. It’s weird if you’re 63 building a social network for college students. It’s a little less weird if you’re 21, 22. 

What do you hope to get out of the fellowship?

We are building Swsh to combat the loneliness epidemic and reconnect people. We know how to meet people but how do we actually create those connections that we already have and go deeper with them? I think with the Thiel Fellowship, it will really help us build upon these incumbent social products that are building tools that help to meet people — but not actually help foster deeper connections. So that’s really what we’re looking forward to get out of this over the next few years.

In : Technical Analysis 

Tags: harvard dropouts with plan to disrupt nvidia nab peter thiel funding 

Panerai Luminor "Blackseal" PAM76 Titanium Black & Silver dial 44mm Automatic wa

44mm, Titanium
Panerai Luminor "Blackseal" PAM76 Titanium Black & Silver dial 44mm Automatic watch
G&S Price: $22,000



    HOT 103.1 FM HOUSTON

    Fashion director finds. Everything our fashion office is obsessed with right now.

    Shop Janelles's finds


    Here’s $30 of BTC, on us.
    Get free $30 of BTC 
     by funding your Invstr+
    with $100 or more.
    Fund account & claim $30 of BTC
    Need help? Contact us at

    Invest, spend, and earn 2.05% APY*–all through your brokerage account.
    Our goal at Robinhood is to democratize finance. This means delivering products that help you do more with your money and improve your life. Today, we're excited to introduce Cash Management, a new feature to give you more flexibility with your brokerage account.
    Flexible Spending
    Use your Robinhood debit card anywhere Mastercard® is accepted around the world.
    Earn 2.05% APY
    Your uninvested cash is moved to banks in our program that pay you 2.05% APY*. Like all variable rates, this could go up or down over time.
    FDIC Insurance
    Your cash in the program banks is eligible for up to $1.25 million of FDIC insurance, or up to $250,000 per bank, subject to FDIC rules.
    75,000+ ATMs
    Don't pay fees at any of the 75,000+ ATMs in our network.

    See the source image

    For the next two weeks, you can earn increasing levels of Stock-Back™ rewards when you shift your everyday spending to your Stash debit card.* 

    Every qualifying swipe over $5 gets you closer to leveling up your Stock-Back rewards. Levels start tomorrow and reset to zero on Monday, November 18.

    Follow Us


    Flag Counter

    Flag Counter

    Make a free website with Yola