Should I Drop out of College to do a Startup?

drop-out

15 Apr Should I Drop out of College to do a Startup?

More and more I seem to be getting asked by college students if they should drop out of school to become an entrepreneur. I am pretty sure that most of them ask me this question looking for me to answer with a resounding yes and help them make the transition. Unfortunately they do not always get the answer they are looking for.

Believe me, there is not a person on Earth that will understand that desire more than me. However, more than 85% of the time I advise the student to stay in school for a few simple reasons.

No clear purpose

When asked what business the student hopes to start, the most common response is “I am not sure yet.” This, alone should tell you to stay in school. I have come across many people in life that simply have money to burn and want to “become an entrepreneur” with no direction. I have watched tons of them launch a half-baked idea and subsequently fail, hard. In my experience, without direction you are without purpose, which is a prelude to disaster.

Make sure that you know what problem your company is going to solve, and make sure that you personally have a burning desire/itch to solve that problem. More importantly make sure it is something that you don’t have to learn a ton about before building a solution. This is the basis of creating a business, to solve a problem that you have deep experience with. Which is why college students are not always best suited for startups, they lack experience in the world and its problems.

f9400cfd98d771c1ff95f00cf1a411db4b1fb10b3e29046175cf2cdc297ae17cUnclear understanding of college

This is some advice that I wish someone had told me a long time ago. College is not about education, it is about building skill-sets and connections.

Skills

College is a practice ground that allows you to learn how to absorb information quickly, work in teams and hit deadlines. All of these are extremely important to the success of a business. The best part is, at a university, you can fail at this and not have to declare bankruptcy to pay back investors. You can perfect the art of being professional while you live a care-free life and have some great weekends.

Here are a few traits that you can polish in college that will translate to becoming an effective entrepreneur

  • Learning to achieve
  • Learning to finish what you start
  • Learning to trust your instincts

Contacts

I cannot express how valuable the contacts you make in college can be. You will share a life-long bond with others that experienced the same things that you did during those formative years, and that is extremely powerful. To a lesser degree, but still very valuable, is the instant bond that you get when meeting another alumni somewhere across the globe.

Where you went to school will come up more than you think throughout your life.  As an entrepreneur you will be dealing with the working folks, who all went to college. It is important to share that common ground.

Misled by the media

Here are some facts that fly in the face of the college-dropout entrepreneur fairytale:

  • 95% of entrepreneurs have a bachelor’s degree or higher, despite the recent PR for dropping out of college to startup.
  • 67% ranked their college performance in the top 30% of their undergraduate classes.
  • The average age of an entrepreneur is 40 years old
  • 70% of founders are married when they start up, and 60% have at least one child.

Everywhere you look you can see a mountain of news stories covering massive funding rounds, huge exits, millionaire teenage founders and a slew of other things that are mostly anomalies. The harsh truth is that being an entrepreneur is tough. Only about 3% of startups workout. There are far more bankruptcies than billion dollar exits, FAR MORE.

To first-time entrepreneurs, the first response is either “it won’t be me” or “who cares, I want to go for it” and I applaud these ways of thinking, 100%. But as an experienced entrepreneur I want to give you a few things to think about.

Though the media makes it look like the streets are paved with gold and the office building are made of ginger bread, it simply isn’t the case. In the real world, it’s all about bankroll and entrepreneurs rarely have easy access to that. We must create our own income, no one pays us for showing up. In fact, the average entrepreneur only makes about $50,000 a year.

Added on top of this is the fact that we must generate income for the whole company, not just ourselves. It makes more sense to find a job that will pay you and allow you to build up a bankroll before you roll the dice most of the time.

My Advice

The best advice I can you is to work on your business ideas in your free time, and in college you should have a lot of that. If you really want to be an entrepreneur and think you have what it takes, you will have opportunities to do so for the rest of your life, so just make sure you do it when the time, idea and opportunity are right.

Eric Rice
eric@trepscore.com