INNOVATION

Watch the Gap — Startups Hiring ‘Gap Year’ College Students

September 22, 2020



Going to college and not partying?  No thanks.  Is that really the sentiment of college students right now?
 
Well, not quite.
 
Why pay premium tuition for online classes?
A lot of college students were faced with a bunch of lousy choices amid Covid-19.  Spend huge tuition to take basically Zoom classes.  Sit the year out and sit in their parents’ house.  Or go to a local community college and take a few, again online Zoom classes.
 
According to a recent Forbes article, only 2.5% of colleges are planning a fully in-person semester this year.
 
Enter Silicon Valley startups, always enterprising and nimble.  They sniffed the opportunity and made efforts to hire some bright college prospects.  So, many of them are taking a semester or an entire gap year off and pursuing these startup opportunities.

Startups cure to the campus jitters
Scale AI. 
Alexandr Wang, the 23-year old CEO and co-founder of billion dollar startup Scale AI, thinks there is a big shift in progress.  He and his firm are said to be hiring up to 10 gap-year workers.  Alexandr has an inspiring startup story in creating Scale AI, a firm that has raised over $120 million and is valued over $1 billion.  He dropped out of MIT to build it.  And no, that’s not a typo in his name.  It’s actually Alexandr with no “e.”  Is this a glitch in the matrix?
 
Contrary Capital. A VC firm and incubator, Contrary announced they were investing $100,000 each in five teams of entrepreneurs.  The firm will take a reasonable, small slice of ownership in the company that the team starts to build in the gap year they take off.  The program is based on the idea that paying $50,000 to take online classes is not appealing to a lot of students.  "We do believe pretty deeply in universities, but primarily when they are in person," says Eric Tarcyznski, founder of Contrary Capital.

This is not new but it’s different
The idea that college is really not necessary for success anymore has been around for years.  Peter Thiel has been talking about it since 2011, when he created the Thiel Fellowship.  The fellowship offers $100,000 to “young people who want to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom.” 
 
But the current trend to take a gap year is different because of, well, coronavirus which has made everything different. 
 
The pandemic is an opportune time for college student to start companies.  There is more interest now in leaving college at least temporarily to do it.

 


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