Join us in celebrating Meghan Sharkus, Josh Sakhai, and Gemma Busoni - 2018 Thiel Fellows. Read on to learn about their companies, how they decided to apply, and what they're most looking forward to.
The Thiel Fellowship is amongst the most prestigious of fellowships. Awarded to college students with remarkable businesses, the fellowship grants $100,000 for a two-year program to bring ideas to life and scale startups.
Their tagline? "Some ideas just can't wait."
It's both a commitment and a sacrifice to drop out of college to give your all to your company, and the program's mentorship and resources enable its fellows to achieve the success they are so capable of, making the commitment well worth it. We are incredibly proud of three of our Next Gen members - Meghan Sharkus, Gemma Busoni, and Josh Sakhai for being among the 2018 Thiel Fellows.
Tell us about what you're working on. ExpressionMed creates supplemental adhesives for wearable devices in chronic care, allowing people with diabetes to wear their devices longer, more comfortably, and without pain or residue upon removal. We also focus on design to allow the device to represent the person wearing it and not the disease they live with. In short, chronic diseases add extra tasks, cost, stress, and social insecurities to someone's life. Our overall goal is to decrease all of these, making diabetes care more simplified and positive.
How did you decide to apply? It only took one year of college to realize it wasn't for me. I absolutely loved the networking connections and independence it provided in comparison to highschool, but I didn't find myself learning in classes. Introductory business classes covered things I already learned in launching my business, and other classes weren't focused on what I needed to grow ExpressionMed. What I found was that I had to do the majority of my learning outside of the classroom. This lead me to spending hours a day learning and working outside of school and foregoing healthy things like sleeping and drinking enough water. The Thiel Fellowship was a program focused on independence and networking but took out the hours a week of school allowing me to maintain a healthy lifestyle while growing my company and learning every day.
What about the fellowship are you the most excited for? The time and location freedom. I can now work and take calls anytime during the day as well as attend events that are important to my industry without worrying about attendance policies and lost class time.
Gemma is working on Discovr Labs, a startup that uses VR/AR immersive technology to deliver the most effective education and training experiences. She decided to apply for the fellowship because many of her best friends were part of it or had gone through it, and "the positive effects of the fellowship were pretty obvious." For what she's the most excited for? "The mentorship! Excited to learn from my fellow fellows, as well."
Tell us about your company, Ephemeral Solutions .We're creating tattoo inks - applied by tattoo artists just like regular inks - that disappear completely on their own. With Ephemeral ink, you can test-drive a tattoo's design, size, and placement before committing to a permanent tattoo, or continuously change their tattoos to reflect their changing styles. We're lucky to be backed by incredible investors like Techstars, Canaan Partners, and Primary Venture Partners, and are targeting to open up our first shop in NYC in Summer of 2019.
How did you decide to apply? It was a no-brainer! I heard about the Fellowship my freshman year of college and have been dreaming about it ever since. I am incredibly excited and humbled to now be a part of it.
What are you the most excited for? The community. Starting a company (like many other things) is really hard. Existentially challenging at many points along the path. Having a community of other human beings who are going through - and have been through - similar experiences is invaluable. I am already grateful for the shared learnings, sympathy, and support that has come from this community and am eager to give back. Also, the personal grant isn't too bad!