5 Entrepreneurs That Dropped Out of College and Became Successful

27 Oct, 2016 / Comments: Comments Off on 5 Entrepreneurs That Dropped Out of College and Became Successful / By

Attending college is a major decision that takes a lot of thought and preparation, but for some the big decision is not about where to attend college, rather if they will attend college at all. This is especially the case with the ever-rising cost of tuition and the potentially massive student loan debt that often comes with attending four years of undergrad. On top of this, although college graduates on average make 60 percent more than high-school graduates, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great exceptions to this rule. You likely could name Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates off the top of your head as infamous college dropouts that became hugely successful, however, take a look at these five entrepreneurs you may not know became successful after dropping out of college.

 

Paul Allen– Microsoft Cofounder

Bill Gates is a well-known college dropout, but you may not be aware that Microsoft’s cofounder also dropped out of college to team up with Gates. Paul Allen left Washington State University to help found Microsoft. Gates and Allen took classes together in high school where they became good friends. They first got their foot into the business world when they founded Traf-O-Data, which was a tool used to track traffic flow. After they graduated high school they went their separate ways with Allen attending Washington State University and Gates Harvard.

 

Michael Dell- Dell Founder

Michael Dell founded Dell from his dorm room at the University of Texas and dropped out soon after to see it through. Dell initially thought he wanted to be a doctor and so enrolled as a pre-med student, but his love for computers soon took over. During his freshmen year, Dell spent $1,000 of his own money to buy and upgrade old computers to turn a profit. At one point during his college career, Dell was making over $80,000 from selling computers and so he decided to drop out of college to pursue his passion.

 

Ty Warner- Beanie Babies Creator

Beanie Babies creator, Ty Warner initially left Kalamazoo College to pursue his acting career in Hollywood. However, after his acting career didn’t work out, Warner sought employment with the Daking Toy Company with the help of his father who was also employed there. It wasn’t soon after that Warner was fired for trying to sell plush toys that he created himself. After taking inspiration from plush toy cats he found in Italy, Warner founded Ty Inc. and in only a decade his annual sales hit $1.4 billion. Warner’s net worth has now reached $2.5 billion.

 

John Mackey- Founder of Whole Foods

John Mackey, the founder of Wholefoods, actually dropped out of college more than once. It seemed he couldn’t make a decision as to whether or not college would be the right path for him. In fact, Mackey dropped in and out of college for six years before he found his calling. It was at the University of Texas at the age of 25 that he became inspired by a vegan co-op and dropped out of college for his final time to open up a grocery store. That grocery store became Whole Foods, which now makes $14 billion in annual sales.

 

Matt Mullenweg – Inventor of WordPress

Mullenweg became a college dropout in 2004 when he left the University of Houston. During his college years he didn’t bother to take a computer class, but still managed to develop WordPress in its beginning stages at the young age of 20. After leaving UofH he accepted a job at CNET with the agreement that he could continue to work on his side projects at least 15 percent of the time. That being said, it wasn’t soon after that he left to start Automattic the parent company of WordPress.

 

William Mahnic
William Mahnic is a Finance Professor at Case Western University and has spent more than 20 years in the finance industry before becoming a professor. Mahnic has appeared as a commentator on both TV and radio talk shows including NPR, Crain's Cleveland Business, WKYC 3 and The Washington Post. He has been interviewed in BusinessWeek, Wall Street Journal and The Los Angeles Times.

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