Peter Thiel has a favorite interview question: “What do you believe to be true, that almost nobody agrees with you on?”
To answer this question, we turn to IVY Member Eden Full, a recipient of the prestigious Thiel Fellowship, who started her first company before she could legally vote.
The Thiel Fellowship, which operates under Mark Twain’s mantra—“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education”—funds twelve students each year to drop out of school and start a business. Eden was selected based on an impressive entrepreneurial record: during high school, she invented a solar panel that could collect up to 40% more electricity than traditional devices. Inspired by ancient water clocks, her product (SunSaluter) now provides electricity and clean water for off-grid communities in over fifteen countries.
What does Eden believe that other people may not believe? Read her insights, and connect with her below!
Whether you graduate or not doesn’t matter
I was selected to the Thiel Fellowship in 2011, which meant that for two years I received an entrepreneurial stipend to stay out of school and focus on my work full time. SunSaluter started out as a research project in high school. I could see that it had potential, but I felt that if I stayed in an academic environment, I would never make it a priority.
I agree 100% that you don’t need college. College is only as valuable as you make it. If you are putting in a lot of time and effort into taking advantage of a university’s opportunities, then college is great. But sometimes, it becomes a distraction from work. It’s a good thing to step back and focus on actually building something. When I chose to return to Princeton a few years after my fellowship, it was because I knew I wanted to build certain technical skills. Whether or not you graduate doesn’t matter. You just have to ask yourself: did you get what personally wanted?
You can’t consider failure as an option
When you’re starting a business, especially at a young age, you never really know what to do. All you can do is figure out the immediate next step you need to take to move forward. When you don’t know the answer, you have to think to yourself: it’s ok.
I don’t consider failure an option. If I’m failing, it’s not the end. It just means I haven’t had the chance to resolve the problem yet. I will definitely find way to resolve it. It’s a matter of having enough resilience and commitment. I might fail a few hundred times first, but I will get there.
Ultimately, my goal is to build technologies that have an impact. Right now, I’m very interested in the intersection of hardware and software. My goal is be able to build technical skills that I can apply to the field of renewable energy. Over the next few years, I will be focusing on skill building, while also executing on other ideas I have.
Let your team work on their own terms
Our team is based all around the world: New York, San Francisco, and Bangalore, India. Because of the different time zones and cultures, it would be crazy to expect us all to have the same schedule, or to micro-manage all of the different projects we have going on. I’ve realized that letting my teammates work on their terms and choosing their own hours creates a more productive work environment. We check in with each other very regularly through calls and messaging. As long as everyone is getting work done, it doesn’t matter if they’re working in the middle of the night or on weekends. I’m so grateful to our team for being so awesome!
Unconditional love is real
No matter the ups and downs, my love for my work and my commitment to build a meaningful legacy is unconditional. As well, I am grateful to the people in my life who have stood by me even during the toughest of times. My wife, Andie, challenges me to expect more from myself every day, but is always there through the growing pains and mistakes. My family and friends are always there to counsel me, pushing me to think critically when there are differences of opinion. When it feels like I have hit rock bottom, their belief in me gives me the courage to get back on my feet and keep hustling.
Think about a Zombie Apocalypse
I actually think about this a lot! It helps you define who is most important to you. It also raises lots of interesting questions: if there were a zombie apocalypse, would I go out and rescue people? Would I stay in my shelter? Would I invite other people in? I know I’d build this epic bunker, as well as a bunch of technologies that would allow us to sustain ourselves—like a hydroponic garden to grow food. We would isolate ourselves. You’d invite all the people in your life who you know are important.
Eden Full is an IVY Member (NYC). Connect and collaborate with her here! To learn more about IVY, please visit www.ivy.com.