Statistically speaking, those who finish college make far more money in their lifetime than those who don’t, and are far less likely to be unemployed.
But there are exceptions to that rule.
On Tuesday, 21-year-old Palmer Luckey became the latest person to join the tech industry college dropout hall of fame. Luckey is the creator of the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality headset that Facebook just bought for $US2 billion.
He joins a long list of college dropout heroes including Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Michael Dell, Digg founder Kevin Rose, Napster’s Shawn Fanning, and former Twitter CEO Evan Williams.
With high-profile people like venture capitalist Peter Thiel starting programs to encourage talented young entrepreneurs to skip college and start businesses, the list of young new successful college dropouts seems to be expanding, including the guy who just bought Oculus who leads Facebook.
This week, Palmer Luckey is the latest college dropout to strike it rich. He created a virtual reality headset called the Oculus Rift, which was a Kickstarter sensation, raising $US2.5 million from the crowdfunding site in 2012.
His device then went on to attract big names in the gaming industry, grew into a 50-person company and raised another $US91 million in venture funds, including backing from Andreessen Horowitz. (Marc Andreessen is also on the board of Facebook.)
Luckey was a self described 'electronics enthusiast and maker' since high school, but he never formally studied tech. He was home schooled as a child, started taking college classes as a teen, and eventually enrolled in California State University Long Beach to pursue a degree in journalism, before dropping out to found Oculus.
Jan Koum is a true rags to riches story. Days before his 38th birthday he and his co-founder, Brian Acton, sold their company, WhatsApp, to Facebook for $US19 billion in cash and stock. He became a billionaire.
Koum came to the U.S. when he was just 16 years old from Kiev, Ukraine, and his family struggled, living on food stamps for a while.
Koum dropped out of San Jose State University, where he studied maths and computer science, after landing a job at Yahoo, Forbes reports.
In February, LinkedIn announced that it was acquiring a cool young startup called Bright.com for $US120 million. That was a two-in-a-row hit for one of its co-founders, Eduardo Vivas.
His previous startup, Social Hour, was bought in 2012 for $US51.5 million by mobile game network PlayPhone.
Vivas is only 28 years old and never finished high school.
Mullenweg dropped out of the University of Houston in 2004.
At age 20, he had already developed the beginnings of WordPress and was fielding job offers from tech companies. He dropped out to work for CNET in San Francisco, with a promise that he could continue developing his side project 15 per cent of the time.
While other kids were out playing soccer or getting into trouble, Box CEO Aaron Levie and one of his best friends, Jeff Queisser, would hang out at home and launch startups. They started something like 15 companies.
But the big hit would happen when Levie was a sophomore at USC, bouncing ideas back and forth with Dylan Smith, a friend at Duke. A marketing class helped Levie come up with the idea that became Box.net, a cloud content management system.
An unsolicited email to Mark Cuban got them $US350,000 in funding, and, although Cuban wanted out of the company a year later, Levie hasn't looked back since. The company just filed for a $US250 million IPO.
Mark Zuckerberg has built Facebook into the world's largest social network, with over a billion monthly active users.
Zuckerberg famously launched Facebook from his Harvard dorm room and dropped out in 2004 during his sophomore year to move to Silicon Valley and work on Facebook full time.
The site has grown exponentially since then, went public in the fall of 2012 in what was the biggest tech IPO of all time at $US16 billion. Now Zuckerberg is helping on an acquisition roll, creating billionaires out of other dropouts on this list.
In 2012, Ferreira decided to drop out of NYU when she received news that Virgin Mogul Richard Branson and Jerry Murdock would be investing in her cloud-based startup, MySocialCloud.com.
Ferreira began working on the business with her brother, Scott, in high school and continued to do so during her first two years in college. When she saw a tweet from Branson asking people to 'donate $US2,000 to charity,' for a chance to meet the mogul in Miami two days later for 'intimate cocktails,' Ferreira and her brother decided to borrow the money from their parents.
They were able to meet Branson and interested him enough that he came on as an investor and later brought on Murdock. Last summer, Reputation.com bought the company for an undisclosed sum.
Ek left his studies in engineering at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden after eight weeks in 2005, but became a millionaire just a few years later.
At the age of 14, Ek founded his first company, at age 15 he was reportedly raking in $US50,000 a month building websites, and at age 16, he applied for an engineering job at Google. Five years later, he co-founded Spotify. The company now has more than 24 million subscribers worldwide.
Zach Sims started Codecademy, which has over a million users and raised more than $US10 million from investors last year, including Richard Branson.
Sims dropped out of Columbia in 2011 to build Codecademy. The startup was inspired by the fact that Sims wasn't as good of a coder as classmate and co-founder Ryan Bubinski. Within just a few years it's being used in some 200 countries.
In 2012, the company raised more than $US10 million in funding from investors including Richard Branson to support its vision of making it possible for anybody to learn how to code.
Ben Milne turned his payment platform from a $US1,200 investment to a multimillion-dollar company by the age of 22.
A decade ago, 29-year-old Ben Milne dropped out of the University of Northern Iowa to start his first company, Elemental Designs. In 2008, he moved on to Dwolla, an online payment system that competes with credit cards.
'I started college because I thought that's where I was supposed to go,' Milne told Business Insider. 'I applied to one college, I got in, went, and realised it wasn't for me. I had customers so I stopped going to class.'
Dwolla is moving 'millions' of dollars in transactions daily it says, and has raised nearly $US23 million in venture investment.
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