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These college dropouts went on to become successful entrepreneurs

These startup entrepreneurs have gone on to prove that a college degree may have nothing to do with building a successful business.

These college dropouts went on to become successful entrepreneurs

Tuesday August 27, 2019 , 5 min Read

“We don’t need no education,” Pink Floyd sang in their iconic song Another Brick in The Wall. Whether a college education is essential or not is perhaps something that can be debated till the cows come home. However, there are several successful entrepreneurs who have gone on to prove that a college degree may have nothing to do with building a successful business. 

Here is a list of 10 college dropouts who built startups that went on to become iconic organisations.

Steve Jobs

The maverick entrepreneur and Founder of Apple quit Reed College in Portland, Oregon after just one semester. He joined Atari as a video game designer, but left shortly after to backpack through India. He started Apple from the Jobs family garage after coming back from India. And the rest, as they say, is history. At the time of Jobs’ death in 2011 his net worth was around $7 billion.

Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak; two entrepreneurs who started from a garage.

Steve Jobs (R) and Steve Wozniak (L), the co-founders of Apple

Bill Gates

After attending the prestigious Harvard University for two years, Gates dropped out to focus on building what would become Microsoft. In fact, even before he joined Harvard the tech whiz had started programming computers. At age 13, he had created a computerised version of tic-tac-toe. Gates is the second richest man in the world after Amazon founder Jeff Bezos as of 2019 with a net worth of $102 billion, according to Forbes data.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft

Paul Allen

Microsoft Co-founder Paul Allen too dropped out of college to join his high school friend Bill Gates to build what would become the tech behemoth. However, Microsoft was not their first venture together. As teenagers, the two had teamed up to build Traf-O-Data, a tool to measure traffic flow in the Seattle area, and the duo made $20,000 out of the venture. As Gates dropped out of Harvard in 1975, Allen left Washington State University to join him. At the time of his death in 2018, Allen’s net worth was estimated to be at $20.3 billion.

Image credits:

The late Paul Allen dropped out of college to join his school friend Bill Gates to build Microsoft

Michael Dell

The founder of Dell dropped out of University of Texas in his very first year there. During his time in college, he had started to upgrade old computers and sell them for a profit from his dorm room. His first company which he started as a 19-year-old called PCs Ltd, became Dell Computer Corp later. In 1992, at the age of 27 he was the youngest CEO on the Fortune 500 list. The tech entrepreneur’s net worth is estimated to be around $30.6 billion as of 2019.

michael dell

Michael Dell quit University of Texas in his first year

Mark Zuckerberg

Another dorm room legend, Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook as a student at Harvard University from where else but his dorm. After completing his second year at the hallowed Harvard, he moved to Silicon Valley to build what would become the world’s largest social network.

It reportedly took Zuckerberg just five minutes to make the decision of dropping out. He went on to become one of the youngest self-made billionaires.

Zuckerberg is the seventh richest person in the world with a net worth of $66 billion as of 2019, according to Forbes.


Mark Zuckerberg apparently took just five minutes to make up his mind about quitting Harvard.

Jan Koum

The WhatsApp Co-founder’s story is an immigrant rags-to-riches one, having moved to the US with his mother at the age of 16 from Ukraine due to the anti-Semitic environment there. While he was still a student at San Jose State University, he found employment at Yahoo as an infrastructure engineer. Two week into the job, he quit college. After serving close to a decade at Yahoo, he co-founded WhatsApp.

Before starting the messaging platform, Koum had unsuccessfully applied to Facebook for a job. Facebook bought WhatsApp in 2014 for $19 billion. His net worth is estimated at $10 billion as of 2019.

Jan Koum(L) and Brian Acton(R)

Jan Koum (L) with WhatsApp Co-founder Brian Acton (R)

Travis Kalanick

The Uber Co-founder and former CEO dropped out of UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles) just months before graduating. He quit college to start peer-to-peer file exchange service Scour. Two years after starting the business, it shut down and he started another file exchange startup called RedSwoosh, which was acquired by Akamai Technologies for $23 million in 2007. He spent a part of that money travelling the world for a year before starting Uber. His net worth is $4 billion as of 2019.

Image : shutterstock

The Uber Co-founder dropped out of UCLA just months before graduating

Jack Dorsey

The Twitter and mobile payment processing service Square Co-Founder dropped out of NYU (New York University) in 1999.

He moved to California, and after considering a career in fashion designing, Dorsey launched Twitter in 2006. He had even thought of becoming a massage therapist and trained for the same before changing his mind.

Dorsey’s net worth is $4.6 billion as of 2019.

Jack Dorsey - Twitter Cofounder

Jack Dorsey quit NYU in 1999 and moved to California

Evan Williams

Dorsey’s Co-founder at Twitter, Williams is also a college dropout, having quit the University of Nebraska after attending three semesters. He started by selling tutorial videos to help people get on the internet in 1994.

After launching Twitter with Dorsey in 2006, Williams quit in 2011 and started the blog network Medium.

His net worth as of 2019 is $2.1 billion.

wikipedia- evan williams (labeled for reuse)

The Twitter Co-founder quit University of Nebraska after three semesters

Daniel Ek

The Spotify Co-founder quit college just eight weeks after enrolling into Sweden’s Royal Institute of Technology. He worked for a number of internet companies before launching online marketing company Advertigo, which he sold the Swedish company Tradedoubler in 2006.

wikimedia- daniel ek (labeled for reuse)

The Spotify Co-founder quit college just eight weeks after enrolling

Thereafter, Ek set up Spotify with Tradedoubler’s Co-founder, Martin Lorentzon, in 2008. His net worth is $2.2 billion as of 2019.

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)