Student hackers going to their first hackathon this Fall season can compete for a new “Rookie of the Year” prize, Major League Hacking and Thiel Foundation announced.

Thiel Capital is an investment company led by Peter Thiel, who co-founded PayPal and was an early investor in Facebook. For the prize winner, they’re providing an all-expenses-paid trip to a Thiel Summit event and a fast-tracked interview for a $100,000, two-year Thiel Fellowship. The winner will also be invited to a VIP dinner with notable entrepreneurs such as Tony Hsieh (who sold startups to Amazon and Microsoft), Andrew Yang (founder of Venture for America), and Sarah Lacey (founder of PandoDaily).

“We’ll be picking one hack from submissions to hackathons coming from an individual or team (up to 4 people) that tackles a difficult problem in a creative and perhaps surprising way,” explained Thiel’s Michael Gibson, vice president of grants. “Entries will be judged on complexity of the challenge, potential for real world implementation, and potential to have a major impact improving peoples’ lives.”

Michael Gibson, Thiel Capital, hacker prize

Michael Gibson, Thiel Capital

The motivation for Thiel Capital to sponsor the prize is simple: to keep young hackers engaged beyond individual hackathons and to keep the company’s eyes open for intriguing new ideas. “One of the downsides of hackathons, I think, is that sometimes the projects that people work on just kind of get dropped at the end, even though they’re cool,” Gibson said.

Thiel Summit events are so-called unconferences, because attendees propose the topics, Gibson said. The idea emerged when Thiel associates realized that their fellowships turn away a lot of good people. There’s a summit Nov. 15-16 in Las Vegas, and another being planned for June 2015 in San Francisco. The event in Las Vegas will be the company’s fourth edition, Gibson noted.

“It’s always cool to see what people propose. The most benefit, the kind of surprising thing that comes out of it, is that people find cofounders for their companies,” Gibson continued. “It’s the first time they find people who are just as passionate about their technology.”

Gibson said he’s expecting to see some new trends at fall 2014 hackathons, including Ethereum software, which generalizes the technology underpinning Bitcoin to allow arbitrary distributed computation. Some of the most exciting potential use cases are e-voting, decentralized e-government, and completely anonymous decentralized corporations.

“We want to keep pushing the alternative, renegade path,” Gibson emphasized. For the prize winners, there’s also glory: they’ll receive bespoke Rookie of the Year jackets.

The full prize package includes:

  • Travel and lodging expenses paid to the next Thiel Summit in June (in San Francisco)
  • Invitation to VIP dinner at the summit (exclusive to MLH)
  • Priority review of their Thiel Fellowship application for 2015 (must also apply by December 31)
  • Invitation to present the hack, or a new project, on stage at the Thiel Summit
  • Mentor session (phone or in person) with a Thiel Fellowship mentor
  • Signed copy of Peter Thiel’s new book, “Zero to One”
  • Awesome Thiel-MLH Rookie of the Year 2014 Swag

To enter:

  • Participate in your first hackathon this MLH season!
  • Yup, that’s really it.
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