We back founders
first.

30111751
Reformation/Theses/Disputation-on-the-power-and-efficacy-of-indulgences
184,242

We back dropouts, renegade students & deep tech scientists at the earliest stages of their companies.

We’ll help you escape from captivity and start, build, and grow your venture, career, or insight.

Let us know which best fits you - the site will change for your needs.

Welcome to 1517

“A real education is a liberation.”  — Nietzsche

We cofounded the Thiel Fellowship with Peter Thiel in 2010 with a few secrets in mind: young people should be taken seriously, outstanding founders are found without credentials and even in the oddest of places, and that the edges of technology and science can and often are advanced by those least likely to be recognized by sclerotic institutions.

It wasn’t long after that the world saw the truth in that: Ethereum, Figma, Longevity Fund, OYO Rooms, Luminar, and countless other companies started by Thiel Fellows were worth billions in market cap, advanced the edges of technology and science, and made it clear that we needed to expand the vision of the Fellowship.

1517 was started in 2015 to do exactly that. We exist to take young people, the uncredentialed, and renegade scientists seriously. This often means being out in the world and working with these people long before they know they should apply to something like the Thiel Fellowship or talk to VCs. It means nurturing their interests and curiosities against a world that wants them to pursue the same ideas and work on the same problems. And when they’re ready for funding, it means trusting them long before any others will.

Martin Luther nailed 95 Theses to the Wittenberg church doors in 1517 because the Church was abusing the sale of indulgences – give money and this paper will save your soul! Today’s cathedrals – colleges, universities, and their supporters in media, government, and corporations – sell pieces of paper – diplomas & degrees – that tell students they can’t be taken seriously without them. It’s time for a New Reformation.

Founding

Team

A school principal and a philosopher start a fund…
Danielle Strachman
General Partner, Co-Founder
Michael Gibson
General Partner, Co-Founder

Our Community

& Founders

We work with founders at the earliest stages – often long before they know they’ll become founders. We’ll meet them on campus, through mentors, and directly at events when they’ve just got that initial spark. By working with them and following them in their education in careers, we help guide them to becoming world-class founders.

3000+
Community members
100+ $1k
Grants deployed annually
$150mm+
Capital committed
$10bn+
Portfolio market cap
10+ SPVs
for Outstanding Investments

What our

Founders say

We are proud to make up the less than 1% of women of color who have raised venture capital. 1517 Fund has empowered our team, and we are so fortunate to get to work with the most incredible investors! Danielle, Michael, Zak and the whole team are genuinely invested in our success and have been there to support us through the good and the challenging times. This is one of many reasons that 1517 Fund has cultivated an amazing group of founders in their portfolio.

Ahva Sadeghi, Co-Founder and CEO of Symba

1517 believed in me first.

Stephen Balaban, Founder and CEO of Lambda

[1517 founders] Danielle and Michael were our biggest early believers. They met with us weekly, gave us feedback, and wired us money before the deal docs were done as our pre-seed lead so that we wouldn't run out of money 48hrs later. Can't honestly say Loom would be a company if it hadn't been for their belief.

Joe Thomas, Cofounder and CEO of Loom

FAQ

What, exactly, are you?

We're technically a venture capital fund, but we like to think of ourselves as an anti-establishment educational institution. We make investments and give micro-grants in order to advance the edges of knowledge and science -- but we also host a community of thousands of hackers, makers, renegade scientists, and founders from around the world. That community includes events, workshops, office hours, and more to ignite our new Reformation.

Wait, why "1517"?

On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to a church door in Wittenberg to protest the sale of indulgences. These were pieces of paper the establishment church sold at great cost, telling people it would save their souls. The church made a fortune doing it.  

Likewise, universities today are selling a piece of paper at great cost and telling people that buying it is the only way they can save their souls. Universities call it a diploma, and they’re making a fortune doing it.

What do you invest in?

We make our initial investments in startups anywhere from the R&D/idea phase up through the Seed phase. We like software, hardware with a data play, deep tech/sci-fi tech, and biotech. We're more about the "who" than the "what"; we back founders without undergraduate degrees, renegade students, deep tech scientists, and those pushing the very edges of knowledge.

How much do you invest?

Our first checks range from $50,000 at the idea/R&D stage to $1,000,000 for deep tech/sci-fi seed stage companies. Our average check size is a $400,000 pre-seed check.

How can people pitch you?

Write in! We read all submissions. If we can help, we're usually in touch within a few days.

1517 exists for people like you. We’re for the dropouts, the renegades, the mad scientists, and for those pushing the limit of knowledge.

In 2010, our team cofounded the Thiel Fellowship with Peter Thiel to prove out a simple belief: great founders don’t need university degrees. That was a $100k grant program – and it gave birth to projects like Ethereum, companies like Figma, OYO Rooms, and Luminar, and funds like the Longevity Fund. We started 1517 to scale that further and expand the support and community that the Thiel Fellowship started.

We give cash grants, make angel-to-seed investments, and have a community of thousands of people like you from around the world.

We’ve worked with some of the best and brightest founders, scientists, and makers without degrees or outside of your typical “successful” tracks at the earliest stages of their careers. They’ve gone on to build billions in companies, advance breakthroughs in science and technology, and build products and communities people love.

Join a global community of hackers, makers, scientists, and renegades.

Get In Touch

What our

Founders say

We are proud to make up the less than 1% of women of color who have raised venture capital. 1517 Fund has empowered our team, and we are so fortunate to get to work with the most incredible investors! Danielle, Michael, Zak and the whole team are genuinely invested in our success and have been there to support us through the good and the challenging times. This is one of many reasons that 1517 Fund has cultivated an amazing group of founders in their portfolio.

Ahva Sadeghi, Co-Founder and CEO of Symba

1517 believed in me first.

Stephen Balaban, Founder and CEO of Lambda

[1517 founders] Danielle and Michael were our biggest early believers. They met with us weekly, gave us feedback, and wired us money before the deal docs were done as our pre-seed lead so that we wouldn't run out of money 48hrs later. Can't honestly say Loom would be a company if it hadn't been for their belief.

Joe Thomas, Co-Founder and CEO of Loom

How We

Support Teams

We invest in founders and makers at the earliest stages. For us, it’s more about the “who” rather than the “what.” We back founders without undergraduate degrees across most verticals and we back deep tech scientists.

We’ll write angel checks for renegade scientists working R&D projects and uncredentialed founders working on software with a cofounder or two.

We’ll lead your pre-seed round with up to $500k.

on through the lifecycle of your company with more investment, support, hires, and community as you grow.

Not a founder yet but just getting started? Write in about our Medici Program - minimum $1k grants to help you validate an idea.

No

Patagonia Vests

Michael Gibson
General Partner, Co-Founder
Danielle Strachman
General Partner, Co-Founder
Zak Slayback
Partner
Nick Arnett
Principal
Haylee Johnson
Chief of Staff

Join Us

“A real education is a liberation.”  — Nietzsche

If you're a hacker, maker, renegade scientist, or dropout founder, we’d love to get to know you. Even if you’re not ready yet, our community, workshops, events and Summits are built for people like you.

Check out our Workshops

Welcome to 1517

1517 is a venture capital fund and community supporting college dropouts, renegade students, and deep tech scientists with investment at the earliest stages of their companies. Founded by the cofounders of the Thiel Fellowship, it supports founders across software, hardware, and deep tech verticals and also provides a community to hackers, makers, and scientists from across the world.

About

Founded in 2015 by Thiel Fellowship cofounders. 1517 exists to scale and expand the vision of the Fellowship – that founders others don’t take seriously can change the world.

Michael Gibson
General Partner, Co-Founder

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.

Danielle Strachman
General Partner, Co-Founder

Danielle is a cofounder and general partner of 1517. She has worked with young entrepreneurs for about a decade. In 2010, during the founding of the Thiel Fellowship, Danielle joined to lead the design and operations. She's worked with some of the most prestigious founders like Vitalik Buterin and Ritesh Agarwal. Previous to her work with Peter Thiel, Danielle founded and directed Innovations Academy in San Diego, a K-8 charter school serving 400 students, with a focus on student-led project based learning and other alternative programs.

Zak Slayback
Partner

Zak is a Partner at 1517 Fund, where he focuses on working directly with founders who are taking on established players and institutions, biotech founders, deep tech founders, and those with deep understanding of customers' needs in SaaS and CPG/D2C. He writes at zakslayback.substack.com and can be found on twitter @zslayback. You can email him at zak@1517fund.com -- if you do so, please mention where you found his email address.

Nick Arnett
Principal

Nick is a Principal at 1517. Prior to joining the team he founded WayPaver Foundation, a nonprofit think tank dedicated to enabling lunar settlement. He previously worked with Danielle and Michael at the Thiel Fellowship where he led development and growth of the Fellowship's community of young makers, hackers, and founders. A lifelong learner, Nick has never stepped foot on a university campus as a student. In lieu of pursuing a degree he started a nonprofit at age 18 that studied how entrepreneurial ecosystems in small and midsized cities across the United States.

Haylee Johnson
Chief of Staff

Haylee is Chief of Staff at 1517 Fund, where she helps to ensure a positive, inclusive, and accessible community. Haylee supports the leadership of 1517, oversees operations, and helps to build a strong community with our portfolio founders, investors, and other community members.

Fund

Results

First institutional investor in Luminar
First investor in Loom
First institutional investor in nTopology
First institutional investor in Cents

Fund

Stats

3

Flagship Funds

10+

SPVs for follow-on into top-performing companies

$160mm+

in capital committed