Why college dropouts make great Entrepreneurs?

Why college dropouts make great Entrepreneurs?

Obviously, it goes back to their individual behaviour! Some of you would have guessed a reason of your own by now. There have been many studies and theories on this topic, slicing and dicing it in every direction.

If you notice, it is the same across geographies, industry verticals and even time periods. Is it a coincidence, or some kind of a pattern?

“Why would you be studying it if you could be doing it?” heard a Stanford student at his job interview. The interviewer was Mark Zuckerberg. Obviously, no body would dare talk anything.

I always wanted to know why college dropouts make great #entrepreneurs (or) why college has nothing to do with #entrepreneurship! I would have spent hundreds of hours thinking about this in the last 15 years. Hopefully you would agree with my newfound logic, after reading this article.



I found this interesting article that was well written on the topic. While we talk about a dozen names who made their mark after dropping their school stint, we don’t talk about those hundreds or even thousands who drop out and reach nowhere. So what’s the difference? If dropping out is common, then why not success?

·      Michael Dell, Dell founder, dropped out at 19

·      Steve Jobs, Apple founder, dropped out at 19

·      Julian Assange, Wikileaks founder, dropped out at 19

·      Bill Gates, Microsoft founder, dropped out at 20

·      Evan Williams, Twitter co-founder, dropped out at 20

·      Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, dropped out at 20

·      Larry Ellison, Oracle founder, dropped out at 20

·      Jan Koum, WhatsApp founder, dropped out at 21

·      Travis Kalanick, Uber founder, dropped out at 21

·      John Mackey, Whole Foods founder, dropped out at 22

After a detailed thought and analysis, I think I found the secret sauce!


The Burning Desire

–      To solve a problem

–      To create a dent in the universe

–      To do something that no one did earlier

The Strong Gut

–      A strong sense of inner-belief

–      Appetite to take risks

–      Ability to persevere till you succeed


In fact that’s what I mentioned in my book Startup Story, where I take the readers on a journey to the centre of Entrepreneurship. I called it Passion and Purpose. Well…

Let me take you through the lives of some great people in the world history.

           Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) was the king of Macedon, the leader of the Corinthian League, and the conqueror of Persia. He succeeded in forging the largest Western empire of the ancient world.

           Adolf Hitler (20 April 1889 – 30 April 1945) was a German politician who was the leader of the Nazi PartyChancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and Führer (“Leader”) of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1945. As dictator of the German Reich, he initiated World War II in Europe with the invasion of Poland in September 1939.

Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was an Indian warrior king and a member of the Bhonsle Maratha clan. Shivaji carved out an enclave from the declining Adilshahi sultanate of Bijapur that formed the genesis of the Maratha Empire. In 1674, he was formally crowned as the Chhatrapati (Monarch) of his realm at Raigad.

Benjamin Franklin was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. Franklin was a renowned polymath and a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, freemason, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat. As a scientist, he was a major figure in the American Enlightenment and the history of physics for his discoveries and theories regarding electricity. As an inventor, he is known for the lightning rodbifocals, and the Franklin stove, among other inventions. He facilitated many civic organizations, including Philadelphia’s fire department and the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League institution.

Ashoka was an ancient Indian emperor of the Maurya Dynasty who ruled almost all of the Indian subcontinent from c. 268 to 232 BCE. One of India’s greatest emperors, Ashoka reigned over a realm that stretched from the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan to the modern state of Bangladesh in the east.

Martin Luther King Jr. was an American Baptist minister and activist who was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He is best known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using nonviolent civil disobedience based on his Christian beliefs.

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was the preeminent leader of the Indian independence movement in British-ruled India. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahatma applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa—is now used worldwide. He is unofficially called the Father of the Nation.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, better known by the alias Lenin was a Russian communist revolutionary, politician, and political theorist. He served as head of government of the Russian Republic from 1917 to 1918, of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic from 1918 to 1924, and of the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1924. Under his administration, Russia and then the wider Soviet Union became a one-party socialist state governed by the Russian Communist Party. Ideologically a Marxist, he developed political theories known as Leninism.

Swami Vivekananda was an Indian Hindu monk, a chief disciple of the 19th-century Indian mystic Ramakrishna. He was a key figure in the introduction of the Indian philosophies of Vedanta and Yoga to the Western world and is credited with raising interfaith awareness, bringing Hinduism to the status of a major world religion during the late 19th century. He was a major force in the revival of Hinduism in India, and contributed to the concept of nationalism in colonial India. Vivekananda founded the Ramakrishna Math and the Ramakrishna Mission. He is perhaps best known for his speech which began, “Sisters and brothers of America …,” in which he introduced Hinduism at the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893.


Well, what is that one thing that’s common across these leaders? I am sure you would say ‘The Burning Desire’ and ‘The Strong Gut’. The desire to change the world, and the gut to face any circumstances to succeed. While we agree the importance of these two aspects, there is this third aspect which is the under current and shows its presence very subtly. I call it ‘THE STRUGGLE! This to me is the real ingredient. This is what refines the person and makes him or her what he or she is.

Yes, everybody goes through it, a daily wage rickshaw puller to a multi millionaire. So what is so special about them? The difference is between ‘I’ and ‘WE’. Is the struggle for yourself, or all of us? That changes the definition of success. As you would have seen, some of them went to the best of the schools, while others had a mediocre schooling. It wouldn’t be prudent on my part if I don’t put this caveat that only 0.3% of them make it to this category. While things might look rosy, knowing this is important. You would know how Richard Parker helped Pi Patel to survive, or how Wilson made sure Chuck Noland survive through all the struggle.

If you notice, we wouldn’t know the kids of Bill Gates, Richard Branson, Sam Walton or Michael Dell. If someone says money breeds’ success, you should go and talk to their children for a better explanation.

Let me also take you through some of the Indian entrepreneurs who made it to the financial charts and not the school notice boards.

Kailash Katkar – #Quickheal

Ritesh Agarwal – #OYO Rooms

Kunal Shah and Sandeep Tandon – #Freecharge

Varun – #Kayako

Mahesh Murthy – Evangelist

Azhar Iqubal – #InShorts

Rahul Yadav – #Housing.com

Bhavin Turakhia – #Directi

Pallav Nadhani – #FusionCharts, #RazorFlow & #Collabion

Ankit Oberoi – #Adpushup

Azim Premji – Dropped out of Stanford when he was 21 due to unexpected death of his father, to run #Wipro.

Mukesh Ambani – Started his MBA in Stanford University, but had to quit to assist his father Dhirubhai Ambani in the family startup company, #Reliance, which was in growing phase at the time.

So what do you think these guys have in common? Don’t go wrong this time.



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