CM 010: Thiel Fellow Jihad Kawas on Young Entrepreneurs

Blog Post - Jihad KawasJihad Kawas started his company, Saily, when he was 16 years old growing up in Lebanon. Now, two years later, after a recent public launch, his app has over 140,000 U.S. users and is gaining over 1,000 new users daily. Jihad is a 2015 Thiel Fellow who never attended college. Along the way, he was awarded a Forbes 30 Under 30 Scholarship, took first place at an MIT Social Innovation Camp, and has been a TEDx Talk speaker.

This week, in a special edition of Curious Minds, I share interviews with four young people, ages 18-22, each of whom decided either to drop out or never attend college, in order to pursue work that mattered. Each is either a current or past recipient of a Thiel Fellowship, a program founded in 2011 by Peter Thiel to encourage young people to sidestep college and a traditional life path, in order to chart their own course as entrepreneurs.

In this episode you will learn:

  • how building things as a young person led him to where he is today
  • why parents need to let their children build real, meaningful things
  • his beliefs regarding the impact of parents, families, and schools on young people
  • ways even cutting-edge schools have rules and policies that constrain
  • how he viewed school as something to get through in order to pursue his passion
  • the power of having to develop a pitch to persuade and convince
  • the funny way he found out about the Thiel Fellows program
  • what it is like to be an 18-year-old Thiel Fellow and company founder
  • how the success and accomplishments of his peers spur him on
  • how he spends his time
  • about the constant battle he faces with uncertainty and doubt
  • about his advice for young people
  • what he is curious about today

Links to Topics Mentioned in this Podcast


Project-based Learning

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC)

TEDx Talk by Jihad Kawas



Silicon Valley TV show

If you enjoyed the podcast, please rate and review it on iTunes. For automatic delivery of new episodes, be sure to subscribe. Thanks for listening!

Thank you to Clark Nowlin and his sound engineering team at Podcasting and to Emmy-award-winning Creative Director Vanida Vae for creating the Curious Minds logo!



1 Comment

  1. […] Jihad Kawas is a 2015 Thiel Fellow from Lebanon and, at 18, the founder of Saily, an online platform that connects second-hand buyers and sellers. At 13, he built websites for small businesses. At 14, he started a web design agency, printed himself a set of business cards, and pitched his family and school to attend the Apple World Wide Developers Conference in San Francisco. While Jihad’s family said “yes, his school said no.” Undeterred, he went to the conference. Though Jihad graduated from high school, he admits that the thought of more schooling – of asking for permission to build and innovate – was too stifling. Instead, he shares: “I got out of school and decided I’m not doing the boundaries thing . . . I’m going to get out of that system.” His bias toward action led him back to San Francisco, where the support of his Thiel Fellowship has allowed him to connect with experienced entrepreneurs. […]