Is getting buried in student loan debt really a necessity when there are hundreds of work-from-home jobs that don’t require a degree?
On the other hand, we also live in a world where you can start a business at any age and at any education level — just ask these awesome kidpreneurs.
While there are definitely pros and cons to this argument, one thing is for certain, the following 12 entrepreneurs struck gold after they dropped out of college to pursue their dreams.
1. Bill Gates
The Microsoft founder, who is worth an estimated $80 billion, is the most successful college dropout in the world.
Gates left Harvard in 1975 to found Microsoft with Paul Allen. He received an honorary degree from Harvard in 2007 and has since publicly said, “Although I dropped out of college and got lucky pursuing a career in software, getting a degree is a much surer path to success.”
Whenever I see this information about Bill Gates and college, it just calls out to me to think about and mention a couple of points.
First is, how smart do you have to be to get into Harvard? Well, smarter than you think. He wasn’t down at the local community college (although, nothing is wrong with that). Bill Gates isn’t “just” lucky, he’s brilliant, and even he wishes he had that degree.
2. Steve Jobs
After just one semester at Reed College in Oregon, Jobs dropped out of school. After a brief job at Atari, Jobs backpacked through India and experimented with psychedelic drugs – both which he claims “expanded his mind and helped breed Apple’s counterculture, ‘think different’ spirit.”
In 1976, Jobs, and fellow college dropout Steve Wozniak, built the Apple I in his parents garage. When Jobs passed away in 2011 his net worth was $11 billion. Again, not just lucky – brilliant.
3. Mark Zuckerberg
In the fall of 2005, Mark Zuckerberg told the Harvard Crimson “I’m not coming back.’’
Zuckerberg left school in order to work on his startup thefacebook.com. Today, the Harvard dropout is worth approximately $34 and the startup that he founded is worth more than $200 billion.
Which school did he go to?
4. Larry Ellison
Larry Ellison has one of the greatest rags-to-riches stories in history. He also dropped out of two colleges, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, then the University of Chicago, before relocating to California.
In 1977 he founded Software Development Laboratories (SDL) which would later become Oracle. It’s estimated that Ellison’s net worth is a cool $54 billion.
5. Jack Dorsey
The co-founder and CEO of two of the most buzzed startups in recent history, Twitter and Square, dropped out of New York University in 1999.
After brief stints as a masseur and fashion designer, Dorsey founded Twitter in 2006 with Ev Williams, Biz Stone and Noah Glass. Dorsey is now worth $1.43 billion.
He’s also the founder of Square and gave me personally the idea for my mobile wallet company.
6. Rachael Ray
After graduating high school in 1986 Rachael Ray attended Pace University, which is located just north outside of New York City.
After two years of studying literature and communications, she left to reconsider her career goals. Since then, Ray has become an author, television host, and businesswoman who has a net worth of $60 million.
7. John Mackey
In 1978 John Mackey was a philosophy and religion student at Texas University in Austin. He joined a a university vegetarian co-op where he met Renee Lawson Hardy.
The couple dropped out of school and founded SaferWay, which would become the first vegetarian supermarket in Austin. SaferWay would pave the way for Whole Foods, which was the 30th largest retailer in the U.S. based on 2014 revenue.
8. Russell Simmons
Simmons left City College of New York in order to promote local musicians like Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C.
In 1984, Simmons and Rick Rubin founded Def Jam Recordings, which was just the beginning of his hip-hop empire. Since then Simmons and his Rush Communications Firm have launched “Phat Farm clothing company, television shows, a management company, a magazine and an advertising agency.”
In 1999 he sold his stake of Def Jam to Universal Music Group for $100 million, which was followed by the sale of Phat Farm in 2004 for $140 million.
9. Michael Dell
Michael Dell attended the University of Texas in 1983, but spent his time upgrading and selling computers in his dorm room.
At the age of 19 Dell started his first company, PCs Ltd., which would become Dell Computer Corp. in 1987. By 1992, Dell became the youngest CEO on the Fortune 500 list at 27. His net worth around $20 billion today.
10. Jan Koum
The WhatsApp founder previously worked for Yahoo for nine years. And, that’s why Koum dropped out of San Jose State University where he was studying math and computer science.
Koum told Forbes, “I hated school anyway.” After Facebook acquired WhatsApp, it’s been said that Koum walked away with a comfortable $6.8 billion.