Do entrepreneurs need education?
An informal roll call of Fortune 500 CEOs that dropped out of high school or university and went on to become self-made billionaires, includes the following: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Page (Google), Michael Dell (Dell), David Geffen (Geffen Records), Steve Jobs (Apple), Richard Branson (Virgin), Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren), Jerry Yang (Yahoo) and the aforementioned Zuckerberg.
Most on this list received a modicum of post-secondary education, before bailing and pursuing their entrepreneurial dreams.
Like Zuckerberg, Gates also went to Harvard. Page and Yang both attended Stanford. Jobs only completed one semester at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Dell left the University of Texas at 19. Geffen dropped out of three universities before launching his record label. Lauren went to little-known Baruch College in New York State, but left after two years. Branson, a mild dyslexic, never made it out of high school. And it’s not clear if Ford founder Henry Ford ever had any formal education, outside his training as a machinist.
A new blog post (“Is College Necessary for Young Entrepreneurs?”) by Adam Toren, who co-founded YoungEntrepreneur.com with his brother Matthew, uses a fascinating survey by OnlineCollegesandUniversities.com to fuel the discussion of how important a diploma is to entrepreneurs.
“Ask around and you’ll find conflicting answers,” wrote Toren in his blog. “Some will tell you it’s necessary in order to gain the skills you need to succeed. Some will tell you it’s necessary to build character. And some will tell you not to waste your time.”
After laying out both the pros (good place to form lasting friendships and potential business partnerships) and cons (average cost for a 4-year degree is around $80,000) of higher education, Toren steers clear from offering a definitive opinion on one side or the other, although most of his evidence would appear to support saving your parent’s money and getting a job instead.
“Just do what you feel is right, trust in your decision, and never look back,” wrote Toren.
What do you think? Does education and entrepreneurship go hand in hand? Should would-be entrepreneurs still go to college, or put their money into a startup instead? Post your comments below.