Billionaire Who Encouraged Entrepreneurs to Leave College Will Offer Stanford Course
March 12, 2012, 11:23 am By Nick DeSantis
The Silicon Valley billionaire and higher-education critic who offered young entrepreneurs money to leave college is returning to Stanford University, his alma mater, to teach a course of his own.
Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder whose “20 Under 20” fellowship last year awarded a group of budding entrepreneurs $100,000 each to drop out and develop innovative companies, will teach a class called “Computer Science 183: Startup” at the elite university this spring, according to Reuters.
Mr. Thiel submitted his course proposal last year, after approaching Stanford professor-turned-commercial-educator Sebastian Thrun about teaching at the university. The 250-student course is already oversubscribed, according to Reuters.
It’s an odd move for the famously libertarian businessman, who has lashed out at universities for creating a higher-education bubble that saddles students with insurmountable debt.
Some members of Stanford’s curriculum committee had reservations about Mr. Thiel’s course, according to Reuters, given his past criticisms of universities. The group debated Mr. Thiel’s potential use of the course as a recruitment tool for his own companies, but decided that students would benefit from taking the class.
News of the course’s introduction comes not long after one of Mr. Thiel’s fellowship companies, Airy Labs, slashed its 20-person staff after employees complained of a micromanaged work environment. Andrew Hsu, Airy Labs’ chief executive, told the technology news site TechCrunch in January that he made some mistakes in building his start-up, including expanding the company too fast.
Jim O’Neill, one of the founders of the Thiel Foundation, which administers the entrepreneurial fellowship, told Reuters Mr. Thiel chose to deliver his message at Stanford because he “wants to reach out to people in many different spaces,” and the university’s start-up culture made for a “natural fit.”
“If I do my job right, this is the last class you’ll ever have to take,” Mr. Thiel told Reuters through a spokesman.
[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by nappa]