Do entrepreneurs need to go to college?
Eric Barker stashed this in Peter Thiel
Peter Thiel certainly believes it:
Whatever the merits of Thiel's program, Nitasha Tiku at New York points out that he probably won't have a hard time appealing to the kids. "Who will the next generation of entrepreneurs listen to?" writes Tiku. "Their folks or the dude whose San Francisco manse comes equipped with a butler?"
Less sanguine about Thiel's plan is Marion Maneker at The Big Picture, who notes that Thiel's efforts may be misguided. "Why doesn't Thiel make it possible for anyone who wants to go to Harvard to be able to do it?" Maneker wonders. "Wouldn't it be possible given the backing of the right kind of successful and smart people to make a superb education both more affordable and effective?"
But is it better for entrepreneurs to be well-rounded in their education? Lack of college degree certainly hasn't Gates, Jobs, Gates, Dell, or Zuckerberg, so it's hard to argue that you need a college education.
All I can say is, college was some of the most enjoyable years of my life, and I appreciate the perspective it has given me.
Learning the *right* things in college is a good way to be aware of what else is out there, formalize your ability to design, build and analyze software systems, and help distinguish yourself from the crowd for the people who do the investing. Unless you are Bill Gates or Steve Jobs, you are just one of many. If you want to start a certain type of company--a VC funded, competitively differentiatable, highly scalable one--then you need to have gotten your market awareness and technical network someplace.
I studied history in college, and I'd totally do it again. I developed no market awareness, cultivated no technical network, and barely learned a tiny bit of Unix. But compared to analyzing the causes of WWII or the Great Depression, computers are pretty straightforward :) Also, I learned how to write and speak in public... and those skills turn out to be pretty valuable to an entrepreneur.
I tell everyone the most important class I ever took in school--high school or college--was 4 years of typing. It's had the single most important impact on my career.
I spend so much time on smart phones and tablets that all of those years practicing typing seem wasted.
More important is the ability to communicate effectively.
Reading and writing are so essential. I wish my education had focused on them more.