NOTE: This interview is the second of a special Thiel Fellows (Bright Minds Under 20) week at Daily BR!NK. Last March, twenty-four brilliant students were awarded $100,000 from the Thiel Foundation to spend the next two years in Silicon Valley pursuing their scientific, technical, and entrepreneurial projects. Since Daily BR!NK is all about up-and-comers and individuals revolutionizing their respective industries, we simply couldn’t resist featuring five trendsetters who will undoubtedly give you a glimpse at what tomorrow will look like.
When speaking with John Marbach, one of the twenty-four Thiel Fellows provided with $100,000 to develop a business in Silicon Valley for the next two years, it’s very tough to remember that you’re dealing with an eighteen-year-old. Freshly graduated from high school, the internet technology enthusiast will attempt to use the digital sphere to centralize information and facilitate the sharing of information online. While missing out on the college experience to embark on such a remarkable journey might seem a bit intimidating and upsetting, John addresses the issue in a blog post by saying, “Simply waiting for society to accept that you have dedicated an extended period of time pursuing greater intelligence is unnecessary.” Without further ado, meet a go-getter whose personal philosophy and corporate mission are one and the same: everyone is entitled to a high level of quality information.
You’re going to hate me for this one, but can you give us your elevator pitch for Ingenic?
Ingenic is a place for people to save and share the useful information they find online. We now live amidst a state of information overload, and the process of finding high-quality content on any topic can be time-consuming. We want to help people organize the useful pieces of content they find online.
While Ingenic will develop and grow over the next two years, what kind of philosophy or mission does the company fundamentally adhere to?
To put it simply, Ingenic’s mission will be to help others learn about the world around them and share their perspective with others.
Are you planning to make these lists public?
Absolutely. By allowing our users to share their curated lists, they can be recognized for their work and allow others to discover their findings.
When are you moving to California?
[Thiel Fellows] can actually start anytime in 2011, so being one of the few fellows coming right out of high school, I will be attending Wake Forest University (NC) for a semester come fall. They have an amazing entrepreneurship program and an excellent integration of technology on campus, so it’ll be a good fit. Hopefully, I’ll also get the support of professors there.
Perfect segue! With the facilitation of online sharing and information comes limitless possibilities for education. You must’ve done quite a lot of research on the current American system. What is your opinion of it?
From my personal experience, I grew up as a teenager with technology everywhere in my life except for education. Most high schools have access to computers, but it’s not an inherent part of the curriculum, a way to help you learn. Going deeper than that, I think documentaries like Waiting for Superman just speak for themselves in terms of how necessary it is to reform education in this country.
Who will be your toughest critics throughout this journey?
If you introduce a new product, you’re always bound to encounter critics; especially individuals who might have done things a certain way for decades. If you suddenly introduce a paradigm shift, there will be a period of adjustment necessary.
Do you think you’ll stay with Ingenic after the two years?
[thinks] We’ll see what happens, but the hope is I’ll stick with it. Either way, it’s an experience that comes once-in-a-lifetime and if there’s a time to do it, it’s now.
Isn’t it a bit ironic to spend the next two years creating a tool that will enable online learning when you were encouraged to forgo a formal education with the Fellowship? What is the value of an education, then?
That’s a good question. I think we need to always be aware of the fundamental difference between learn and educate. By fostering online learning with Ingenic, we’re taking an approach similar to the idea behind the fellowship: once you become passionate about a particular interest, the learning becomes auto-didactic and you seek instructional resources naturally.
How can Daily BR!NK readers contribute to your success?
Once we get the project up-and-running, start using it and tell your teachers. If you’re also an experienced Ruby developer interested in the project, feel free to contact me!