A couple of years ago Ben Yu was a college freshman with a dream. After a semester at Harvard University, he took time off, secured a $100,000 grant and proceeded to develop something totally new: A topical caffeine spray for people who needed a boost, but found coffee a bit too much.
The grant Yu used to create his product came from billionaire Peter Thiel, who created the program specifically to encourage bright high school people to consider working on their ideas for two years rather than entering college right after graduation. When he announced the program, many people thought it sent a bad message, but it’s now several years later and some 60 grants have been awarded and the world is still spinning just fine.
Getting back to Yu’s product, Sprayable Energy, it now looks like it will actually ship in October following a hopefully successful $15,000 crowd funding campaign. Yu suggests 4 quick sprays on the neck with his product will give the user a nice steady energy boost that’s milder than a strong cup of coffee and doesn’t feature the eventual crash. Yu’s father, who has a Ph.D. in bioorganic chemistry, helped develop the product.
Obviously one would hope that Thiel had higher aspirations than this when he started the program but Yu did bring a new product to market that might be helpful to some people. It’s no cancer cure, for sure, but it does prove that someone can do something new without waiting four years to do it, which was Thiel’s original point.
Just so you don’t think that Yu is the exception to the rule, let’s not forget a couple famous Harvard drop-outs named Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. And wasn’t there some guy named Jobs who never finished college either?
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Image courtesy of Courtesy Alton Sun Photography.