Thiel Foundation: Grants for the Bay Area

OVERVIEW: The Thiel Foundation supports science and technology, mimetic theory across social sciences, and new inventions in the Bay Area and beyond.

FUNDING AREAS: Science and technology, mimetic theory across social sciences, inventions

IP TAKE: A mainstay of Thiel's philanthropy is its Thiel Fellowship, which is a two-year program for young people who drop out of school to build new things. Many of these fellowships have gone to Bay Area youth.

PROFILE: The Thiel Foundation is a science and technology funder that supports many Bay Area nonprofits. After attending Stanford for undergrad and law school, the German-born Peter Thiel and conservative donor served as an appeals court clerk and a derivative trader for Credit Suisse before founding Thiel Capital Management and co-founding PayPal. PayPal eventually went public and was later sold to eBay, making Thiel's shares worth roughly $55 million. Thiel used part of this fortune to found Clarium Capital, a global macro hedge fund. Some of Thiel's philanthropy is done through the Thiel Foundation, which supports science and technology, mimetic theory across social sciences, and new inventions.

Thiel’s approach to philanthropy tends to involve bold, visionary initiatives with goals are to transform society in the coming decades. Although he leans to the right politically, he is openly gay and has been a supporter of LGBTQ causes. The Thiel Fellowships provide two-year funding for young people who drop out of school to build new things. In past years, a number of different Bay Area youths have received these fellowships. Thiel also launched Breakout Labs, an initiative designed to reshape the way early-stage science is funded by bridging the gap between initial funding from venture capital firms and small labs and government or other major funding. Another Thiel project is Imitatio, which promotes the idea that imitation drives human behavior. These grants further research and application of mimetic theory across the social sciences.

In past years, annual grantmaking at the Thiel Foundation has averaged $6 million to $8 million. Individual grants are often several hundred thousand dollars each. While Thiel's grantmaking and projects often span the U.S. and other countries, a lot of money has gone to the Bay Area of California.

The Thiel Foundation accepts unsolicited grant requests and uses an online application system. Direct questions to the foundation at ross@torchcommunications.com.

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