Thursday's intriguing people
Laura Deming, Faheem Zaman and John Burnham put their college graduation on hold to use a grant to start a tech company.
May 26th, 2011
12:38 PM ET

Thursday's intriguing people

Laura Deming, Faheem Zaman and John Burnham

These three students dropped out of college to receive a $100,000 grant and mentorship to start a tech company. They are part of the first group of Thiel Fellows - 24 people under age 20 who have agreed to put their formal education on hold for two years for this one-of-a-kind opportunity.

Deming, 17, is developing anti-aging therapies; Zaman, 18, is building mobile payment systems for developing countries; and Burnham, 18, is working on extracting minerals from asteroids and comets. Peter Thiel, the PayPal co-founder and Facebook investor, announced the first group of Thiel Fellows on Wednesday through his Thiel Foundation. He says the fellowship addresses two of the country's most pressing problems: a bubble in higher education and a dearth of Americans developing breakthrough technologies.

"We're not saying that everybody should drop out of college," Thiel told The New York Times.

The fellows can always go back to school. The problem, he said, is that "in our society, the default assumption is that everybody has to go to college."

"I believe you have a bubble whenever you have something that's overvalued and intensely believed," Thiel said. "In education, you have this clear price escalation without incredible improvement in the product. At the same time, you have this incredible intensity of belief that this is what people have to do. In that way, it seems very similar in some ways to the housing bubble and the tech bubble."

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September 15th, 2010
11:56 AM ET

Wednesday's intriguing people

Sen. Jim. DeMint

The South Carolina Republican is either the most influential conservative outside of Sarah Palin or "leader on the fringe," depending on who's describing him.

DeMint has repeatedly broken with the GOP establishment to help conservative candidates secure primary victories. His Senate Conservative Fund supported Christine O'Donnell, who won the Republican Senate nomination in Delaware on Tuesday, and Carl Paladino, who will now face Democrat Andrew Cuomo in the race for governor of New York.

Politico reported Tuesday that DeMint had transferred $250,000 from his own re-election fund to the Florida Republican Party. DeMint has supported Marco Rubio's campaign in Florida for the U.S. Senate.

Some of DeMint's moves have upset mainstream Republicans. An unnamed source told CNN Tuesday night that DeMint was boosting Democrats' chances of victory in November.

The Conservative Senate Fund's Matt Hoskins came to DeMint's defense: "Perhaps the real reason some unnamed leadership aides are upset is that these Republicans actually have principles."

CNN Political Ticker: DeMint's operation fires back

Politico: DeMint transfers $250K to Florida GOP

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