There are incredibly successful tech executives, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, who started multi-billion-dollar companies without ever getting a college degree.Here are 12 tech founders and executives who never graduated college, but nevertheless attained massive success.It’s been consistently shown that college graduates are bound to earn more than those without degrees.But at the same time, college has become more expensive than it’s ever been.
The degree-less tale of tech superstars like Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates is folklore by this point, but the Facebook and Microsoft founders aren’t the only two influential executives who have risen to the top without finishing college. According to the 2017 Forbes ranking of the 400 wealthiest people in America, 17.5% of those on the list, 70 people never graduated from college.The founders and CEOs of other prestigious tech companies — including Twitter, Fitbit, Watsapp and Square also forewent higher education to take on the tech world, and their high-stakes bets paid off.
- Mark Zuckerberg-co founder and CEO Facebook
Zuckerberg never did complete either of his two majors (psychology and computer science). He launched “thefacebook.com” while a student at Harvard University, but he dropped during his sophomore year to move to Palo Alto and work on his company full-time.
- Matt Mullenweg-founder WordPress
Mullenweg developed the open-source software for blogging platform WordPress as a 19-year-old freshman at the University of Houston, where he was studying philosophy and political science. By the start of his junior year, he left college for a job at CNET in San Francisco.
- James Park – cofounder and CEO Fitbit
Like many successful tech moguls, Park dropped out of Harvard. In 1998, he abandoned his major in computer science to pursue a career as an entrepreneur. After a brief stint as a Morgan Stanley analyst, he started Fitbit in 2007.
- John and Patrick Collison – cofounders, Stripe
The Collison brothers grew up in Ireland and both came to Boston for college: Patrick Collison at MIT, John Collison at Harvard. They hatched the idea for their first business — an online auction management company named Auctomatic — at a local pub, and dropped out of college to build the company’s technology in San Francisco.They sold Auctomatic in 2008 for $5 million, and became teenage millionaires.
- Jack Dorsey – cofounder and CEO Twitter and square
Dorsey is a two-time college dropout. He first enrolled at the University of Missouri-Rolla, but he transferred to NYU after two years. He reportedly thought of the idea for Twitter while at NYU, where he dropped out a semester short of graduating and moved to the West Coast to work with a tech company.
- Daniel EK – Cofounder and CEO, Spotify
Ek grew up in Sweden, and enrolled in college in 2002 at the country’s KTH Royal Institute of Technology to study engineering. He lasted only eight weeks, when he found out his entire first year would be devoted to theoretical mathematics. He soon started taking gigs at various tech companies.
- Larry Ellison – cofounder, Oracle
As a kid growing up in Chicago, Ellison planned to attend medical school at USC, get married and have kids, and move to Los Angeles working as a doctor. However, that never happened. He tried getting an undergraduate degree twice — once at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (for two years), and again at the University of Chicago (where he lasted only one semester).After dropping out a second time, Ellison moved to California amid the burgeoning tech scene.
- Evan Williams-cofounder and former CEO Twitter
Williams grew up in a small town in Nebraska, and enrolled for college at the nearby University of Nebraska-Lincoln. However, he felt college was a “waste of time” and lasted only a year-and-a-half taking as few classes as possible and without ever declaring a major. He then moved to Florida and bounced around various cities doing freelance work and tech jobs.
- Sean Parker – cofounder of Napster and former President of Facebook
As a senior in high school, Parker was making $80,000 a year through various programming and coding projects. It was enough money for Parker to convince his parents that he didn’t have to go to college, and he instead joined up with Shawn Fanning to launch music-sharing website Napster in 1999.
- Steve Jobs- cofounder and former CEO, Apple
Jobs attended Reed College in Portland, Oregon, a private university he once said in a commencement speech was “almost as expensive as Stanford.” He reportedly dropped out after one semester, but he stayed in the area and attended classes that interested him. One of those classes was calligraphy, taught by a Trappist monk named Robert Palladino, who Jobs later credited with teaching him about typefaces that he later added to the Mac personal computer he developed.
- Jan Koum- cofounder, WhatsApp
Koum enrolled in San Jose State University while also working as a security tester at Ernst & Young. While on assignment for EY, Koum was brought on to help out at Yahoo, where he met an employee who went on to be his future WhatsApp cofounder, Brian Acton.Koum switched jobs to become an infrastructure engineer at Yahoo, and was soon inundated with doing work on Yahoo’s servers. Koum said he “hated school anyway,” and dropped out to devote his time to Yahoo.
- Bill Gates – cofounder, Microsoft
Gates left Harvard in 1975 to cofound Microsoft with longtime friend Paul Allen.When Gates left school, he took it as an official leave of absence. Doing that allowed him to return to school “if things hadn’t worked out “.