One often hears anecdotes about how successful CEOs / founders / entrepreneurs are college or university dropouts, usually bringing up the same set of examples with one or two CEOs du jour. Most commonly Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, lately also Mark Zuckerberg. When I was in university everyone was using Shawn Fanning as an example (today I'd be surprised if most people knew who he was without looking him up).
For example, Caterina Fake, co-founder of Flickr:
Want to be an entrepreneur? Drop out of college.
Fred Wilson and I, on the way back from an Etsy board meeting, were talking about how many entrepreneurs had dropped out of college. Rob Kalin, Etsy's founder, never finished college. Evan Williams, Biz Stone, Jack Dorsey -- the founders of Twitter -- are not college graduates. Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, is another dropout. And of course Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. As an angel investor, I've invested in two college dropout founders this month. What gives?
Investor John Doerr claimed the same thing (along with a bunch of other stereotypes that don't bear out in real analysis). Particularly suspicious is the claim Sergey Brin and Larry Page "dropped out" of a university, ignoring the degrees they both received before abandoning their Ph.D. program.
To me, this sounds like the normal "rooting for the underdog" story, the same sort that keeps the story of Einstein's (non-existent) mathematical failures alive.
So here's my questions. I think they're all closely related. I am most interested in the IT and science sectors, but if there's more general evidence that's great too.
- Among founders, have a significant percentage (more than the general population) not achieved a B.A., B.Sc., or equivalent degree prior to starting a company?
- Are founders without post-secondary degrees more financially successful, on average, than founders with them?
- Are companies founded by such people more financially successful than the average company?