After packing up her things at Sigma Kappa sorority, Deming moved across the country to a tiny room in a shared house in Palo Alto. Most days, she gets up before sunrise and heads out on foot to catch a commuter train to San Francisco, where she is talking to investors about a venture capital firm she wants to create to back research on new therapies for age-related diseases.
Because of SEC rules, Deming says she can’t go into details about the firm. But she jokes that one question now is whether to wait until her 18th birthday so that she can legally sign up investors or ask her father to do it. “The cool thing about Silicon Valley is that, though people might be skeptical of youth, they don’t actually know that you’re not smart enough or capable enough to make it work,” she says.
With startup success stories tempting undergraduates to quit, universities have raced to add entrepreneurship to their curricula. Stanford has StartX, an accelerator for student-run startups. Similarly, last year UC Berkeley created FounderSchool, which prepares students to raise venture money. James G. Boyle, managing director of the Entrepreneurial Institute at Yale University (which lost four undergraduate students to Thiel fellowships) agrees that more colleges should help kids start companies, but he says that most students benefit from an environment where they can test ideas without betting their future.
Deming doesn’t know yet whether she’ll ever go back to finish her college degree. “The funny part is I think I’ll miss studying for exams,” says Deming. “It’s the sort of thing that was very fun—like a sudoku puzzle or a crossword puzzle can be fun. But I thought that I could learn a lot more about the biotech industry and business by diving right into it.”