Feb 1, 2023
This OODAcast features a fascinating conversation with Michael Gibson, the author of the book "Paper Belt on Fire" who is also the co-founder of the Thiel Fellowship program and the 1517 Fund, both of which focus on identifying unconventional ideas and individuals that can drive disruptive innovation in technology, arts, and science.
In this interview we dive into the establishment of the Thiel Fellowship which attracted a lot of attention and detractors with a grant program that paid $100k to college aged students to skip the degree and work on passion projects. Michael followed this up with the formation of a venture capital fund that had a comparable investment thesis and has successfully invested in entrepreneurs emerging through unexpected channels and without college degrees.
Michael's book, and this conversation, resonated with me as I can't escape the feeling that he is onto something pointing out the declining value and increasing cost of a college education, but also his thesis that a new period of innovation is required and that the disruption will come from unlikely sources.
We take a deep dive into some of the areas requiring disruptive innovation and also a few of the exemplars from both the Thiel Fellowship and the 1517 fund. This conversation is a call for revolution in how we think about entrenched organizations and the potential for their inevitable decline.
Michael is co-founder and general partner at 1517. If the rust belt has come to define the hollowed-out industries of the Midwest, in the next ten years the paper belt will come to define the paper-based industries from Washington DC to Boston. In DC, they print money, visas, and laws on paper. In Delaware, companies incorporate on paper. In NYC, they print media on paper. And in Boston Harvard and MIT print diplomas on paper. Michael is dedicated to lighting the paper belt on fire.