When you love what you do for work, it doesn’t feel much like work. When you focus your attention on something that elicits the best of your abilities and puts you at the center of an inspiring, innovative community… that sounds more like fun. When that something has the potential to help countless individuals in a meaningful way—and the idea was born out of your very own head—that’s called “living the dream.” Perhaps that’s why bright-eyed, Salt Lake City-raised, Bulgarian MIT dropout and Thiel Fellow Delian Asparouhov smiles so often.
Asparouhov has every reason to be pleased. The startlingly bright 20-year-old leads up Nightingale, an app that helps behavioral therapists effectively track data of children with autism. “A therapist can easily monitor how long a child has a tantrum, how often he gets up from his seat, how well he listens to direction,” he says. “The software is currently in its beta stages, but we have people using it on a daily basis. Higher ups in the autism world have been really rallying behind it. I’m pretty excited.” By employing a powerful, Intel-based tablet, they can keep better track of multiple children’s behavior, and experience greater ease while inputting complicated data.
Nightingale, which runs on Android technology that’s powered by Intel processors—is currently working with a school to develop ways in which parents can easily continue the behavioral monitoring at home, on their own tablets. Asparouhov expects that the model will apply well to other mental and developmental disorders. “We can help track trends from a variety of schools and provide information that an specialist can easily decipher,” he says. “They can walk in to a situation and confidently say, ‘This is your next step.’”
Asparouhov first became inspired to tackle issues within the healthcare system in his junior year of high school. “My very brilliant grandmother had been diagnosed with breast cancer,” Asparouhov says. “I was pretty shocked by the way data was managed between clinicians and the patients. I was used to the way things were in the engineering and computing world—with constant information going back and forth. But in the case of my grandmother’s treatments, my family was left waiting for weeks, wondering how things were going. I knew there had to be a more efficient way to share data.”
Asparouhov came to San Francisco last year, at the behest of billionaire PayPal mogul Peter Thiel, who chose Delian as a Thiel Fellow, funded him $100,000, and asked him to develop his idea in the thick of Silicon Valley. Although it was a controversial move within his family, Delian jumped at the chance to see his idea through. These days, he certainly seems to be in his element. “I love San Francisco and the tech community here,” he says. “I never could have imagined having this caliber of mentors and colleagues, who I now really consider friends. We get excited for one another.”
An avid rock-climber and hang-glider—not to mention a prolific user of social media—Delian’s got a pretty rocking life for a 20-year-old. (It’s a rocking life for a person of any age, actually.) He’s using his love of technology, care for others, and willingness to think his way through challenges to stake his claim of the world. We can’t wait to see what he does next.
More info (in Bulgarian):