Why I’m Leaving the Thiel Fellowship

I’m sad to announce that I’m dropping out of the Thiel Fellowship — the $100k grant I was awarded by Peter Thiel’s foundation. I’m turning down the rest of the grant that I haven’t received yet — which is a LOT of money — and donating what I have already received to a charity or project related to climate change because our planet is about to get wrecked.

Cosmo Scharf
4 min readNov 10, 2016


I refuse to continue taking money from someone who has contributed millions of dollars to the ultimate success of our next President-elect. Aware of Thiel’s support of Trump when I accepted the fellowship, I experienced a crisis of faith. Who would say no to free money? But the results of the election have only further deepened and solidified the moral dissonance gnawing away at me.

I cannot justify being associated with someone who helped a psychopathic, sexist, racist, bigoted, xenophobic, poisonous demagogue rise to power. Trump represents the darkest, most cruel aspects of our society, and the free money is not worth having that on my conscience every few months when a wire transfer comes through my bank account.

That said, I am so grateful to have met such an awesome group of young like-minded entrepreneurs in the program. The organizers of the fellowship have also been very kind to me. It was truly a remarkable and rare opportunity.

I don’t know Peter Thiel very well at all, and I understand there are many reasons he might support Trump that I may never understand. I know my decision won’t change the results of the election, nor will it solve the plethora of complex issues our nation faces. But I refuse to watch complacently as the world falls apart around me. This is my my tiny way of sending a message about what I believe in.

Oh, the irony: I find it difficult to rationalize how the first outside investor in Facebook, a software platform that has connected billions of people at a historically unprecedented scale, empowered a political platform built on profound disconnection.

It is far too easy to get sucked into the bottomless black pit of disillusionment and despair. We often get locked into negative thought patterns that we might not even be aware of. When someone in a position of power keeps telling us the world is on fire, we believe it. What the thinker thinks the prover proves (as Robert Anton Wilson eloquently put it), because we seek to rationalize reality around our pre-existing worldview.

Trump has hijacked the realities of millions of people by neurolinguistically programming them with a virus of fear and hatred.

Don’t accept his reality tunnel!

But here’s what gives me hope: the same techniques he uses to distort truth with empty rhetoric can be used for good too!

Believe in your thoughts, for the mind is far more powerful than you have been led to believe. If a TV personality with no political experience can become the president of the United States, literally ANYTHING is possible.

We have been conditioned to believe reality is fixed but that is a lie. Our thoughts shape reality, and manifest as the world we see around us. When we collectively focus our attention around positive ideas, truly great things are possible.

Powerful forces strive to tear us apart, but humans are resilient and we adapt. I’m confident that we will ultimately transform this neural parasite of fear and hatred that is gripping our country into one of love and unity.

Stormy clouds obscure the blue sky beyond it, but it’s always there. When we discover the malleability of our own minds, we start to see the overwhelming beauty in the world and everyone in it. There are so many incredible moments for us to enjoy across all of time. Life is a game and we write its story.

We need virtual reality now more than ever. Not to hide or escape from the world, but as a means to shift the way we think towards a more open-minded society tolerant of all kinds of people and ideas.

In the next decade, people all around the world, from metropolitan cities to rural areas cut off from diversity of thought, will own technology that could ultimately trigger a sort of global awakening.

One day we will wake up and remember that we are all ONE thing.

We all share a common ancestor. Our borders, cultures, religions, myths, and ideologies are made up ideas, invented so we could work together in larger and larger groups. Sadly, it seems like we’re trending towards using the magic of language and rhetoric to work against each other in larger and larger groups instead.

We are all hurtling through space at a thousand miles per hour, like a cosmic grain of sand at the beach:

Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

All you need is love.



Cosmo Scharf

Spreading positivity through immersive technology. Co-founder of VRLA and Mindshow.