The average student loan debt is climbing over $30,000, rightfully forcing college-age entrepreneurs to ask, “Should I stay or should I go?” Boston University Professor Edward Boches, chief innovation officer at Mullen, would likely suggest, “Go.”
The conversation started on Twitter with a single statement:
Via email, the dialogue with Boches continued, and he pointed to a pool of successful entrepreneurs, all of whom dropped out of school: Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Boches also referenced former PayPal founder Peter Thiel, who recently lured away five of Boston’s own with the promise of $100,000 for dropping out of Harvard, MIT, Boston College and Babson.
“Entrepreneurialism is a quality,” Boches said, “a characteristic that is more about ideas and courage than it is about education.”
In a prior interview, fellow college dropouts sounded off about their education.
The thing about dropping out to be able to spend 100 percent of your time and efforts into developing, running and growing your startup is that the speed of relevant learning is just 10,000 times that of college education.
Boches doesn’t teach entrepreneurship, rather advertising, but would argue entrepreneurship might not be something that can be taught. Although he would never encourage anyone to drop out of school, he does suggest there is a distinction between studying business and being an entrepreneur.
“An MBA does not make for an entrepreneur,” Boches said. “Maybe a bond trader or a hedge fund manager.”
Boches acknowledged how “incredibly valuable” a college degree is for many people. The value, however, does depend on major and how you approach undergraduate education. As Boches says:
What you learn in a good undergraduate program is how to think, how to clearly identify problems, how to craft a strategic approach to solving those problems, how to develop a range of potential creative solutions and how to evaluate their effectiveness. That, along with mastering communication skills, learning to be collaborative and hopefully discovering—through lots of exploration—your own passion are things that will serve you throughout life.
“They had an idea, raised money, built the platform and sold it in a matter of a few years,” Boches said. “If that is their calling, why wait?”
When asked what student entrepreneurs should consider if they are contemplating dropping out, Bramson suggested they have a three or five-year plan they can articulate and prove they’ve thought out. If the vision and passion are there, then why not? As Bramson said, “Thankfully, you can always go back to school.”
The overarching problem, to Boches, is that we assume every individual needs a college education. He says:
I meet kids all the time who are doing it because their parents want them to. They want to be in a creative field, but their parents push them into business. Or they want to write comedy and their parents push them into advertising. I am telling my kids to be ski bums if that’s what will make them happy. At the very least, we should all take some advice from Sir Ken Robinson and “find our element.” If that’s college and an MBA, great. If it’s surfing, well, that’s great, too.
So, grab your skis, kids. If that’s your passion, you have the permission to skip out of school.