Female Founders to Watch: Future Stars from Thiel’s 20 Under 20

peter-thiel-645x250

Every year PayPal founder Peter Thiel pays 20 young people $100,000 to drop out of school and start companies. Here are the young women he’s handing checks to this year. 

By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

The Thiel Foundation, started by PayPal founder’s Peter Thiel, has just announced its 2013 class of its 20 Under 20 Fellows, a group of impressive young achievers who Thiel pays $100,000 to drop out of school and work on starting a company under the mentorship of the foundation. Meet the young women packing up their dorm rooms or childhood bedrooms to pursue their intellectual and entrepreneurial passions this year.

This is the third class the prestigious if unconventional fellowship, and previous participants have already launched more than 30 companies and raised more than $34 million in outside funding, so while the young women in this year’s class aren’t yet far along in their entrepreneurial journey, they’re definitely potential future stars worth watching. If only there were a few more ladies to include in the list.

Laura Ball (working on neurology, from Wauwatosa, WI)
Laura Ball is researching value in neural systems. She would like to determine how information becomes important, and how important information maintains dominance over other information in order to define our conscious mind-states and behavioral responses.

Xinyi Chen (working on robotics, from Beijing, China)
Xinyi Chen is passionate about entrepreneurship and technology. She participated in the Tigerlabs accelerator last summer and developed prototypes for her project Helios, which attempts to make telepresence devices accessible to average families.

Riley Drake (working on a biotech company, from Baltimore, MD)
Riley Drake has been conducting research since she was 15 years old. She has studied immunology at Johns Hopkins University and infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital. She intends to focus on applying physical principles to virology: utilizing biophysics to create broad-spectrum viral therapies.

Maddy Maxey (working on fashion tech, from San Diego, CA)
After founding a popular fashion blog and then winning a scholarship from the CFDA & Teen Vogue, Maxey started a clothing company. Maddy will focus on optimizing the clothing patterns and the enterprise software that make our current garment industry inefficient. Her goal is to make domestic production profitable.

Women 2.0 readers: Are there any other young super achievers you think are worthy of a Thiel Fellowship?

Jessica Stillman is an editor at Women 2.0 and a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel.

Photo credit: Thiel Foundation.