College and Entrepreneurship
After I tweeted out a link to yesterday’s post, I had this twitter exchange:
@dHandlos i don’t know the exact number but i would not be surprised if half of the entrepreneurs we have backed don’t have college degrees
— Fred Wilson (@fredwilson) December 22, 2014
I took some time today to look through our portfolio and estimate the percentage.
I believe 21 founders out of a total of 72 that we have backed in the history of USV did not graduate from college. That’s about 30%.
However, I believe 17 founders have advanced degrees, including a few PhDs. So roughly a quarter of the founders we’ve backed have invested heavily in their higher education.
There are no specific credentials required to get funded by USV or most other VC firms. You need to be credible as an entrepreneur. That means being able to see, recruit, make, and sell. If you can do that, and if you can prove you can do that to investors, you’ve got a great shot at getting funded.
I’ve been asked this question a few times in the past year. My answer is simple: “I have no idea.” I don’t care, don’t check, and it doesn’t impact my exploration on the front end.That said, if I have to choose hiring a developer from MIT vs. one from Stanford, I take MIT every time <g>.
i was up at MIT last week. brought back some great memories
This will make you smile. http://feld.com/archives/20…
sure did. left you a comment
My favorite question of an MIT grad is “what did you make on your first 18.01 and 8.01 tests.” The answers are amazing, especially if they placed out and started with 18.02 or 8.02!
math placements? (wild guess?)
Nothing like a tech school math department to knock you out of orbit and bring you back to Earth.
The whole east side of campus over near the pool is totally different without building 20 (and with the Gehry thing).
See everyone has calmed down about that Aaron Swartz thing.
“We don’t need no stinkin’ badges”
The only place entrepreneurs needs to graduate from is the School of Hard Knocks
As Warren Buffett once said,“You’re looking for three things, generally, in a person. Intelligence, energy, and integrity. And if they don’t have the last one, don’t even bother with the first two. I tell them, ‘Everyone here has the intelligence and energy—you wouldn’t be here otherwise. But the integrity is up to you. You weren’t born with it, you can’t learn it in school.”
i would add grit, which certainly has little to do with whether you went to or completed college.
Yes but it’s rather hard to measure too. How do you know how much grit you have before you’ve endured adversity?
i think you measure someone’s grit the same way you measure their integrity — based on experience and gut instinct. you are never right 100% of the time, but that’s the risk you accept when you fund an entrepreneur.
Grit — is that an attribute that’s universally applied among aspects of one’s life, where “passion” is focused?Both relate to intrinsic motivation, I think.
Yes both are intrinsic. Grit is how you react/behave in the face of adversity, something all entrepreneurs experience. Do you fold up your tent and go home or do you dig in?
You can grow and develop your intelligence and energy either.
I think integrity is a scale not an absolute 1 or 0. Buffet’s statement reads that way.I’ve hired a few people to rent properties for me or to sell things that I have. Doesn’t bother me if they are a little slippery. Because I know they will be just a tad slippery when selling as well. Most people aren’t able to have a good sense of when the line is crossed so they will automatically without looking at nuance decide that if anyone does anything that lacks integrity in any situation it’s a non starter. But it’s not a non starter in all situations.I had a salesman who sold me a machine once when I was out of college who failed to mention that the rates for the future years would increase. It was buried in the contract and I missed the clause. Luckily he didn’t tell me and I didn’t discover it until later. If I had I wouldn’t have bought the machine. However that would have been stupid because success or failure with this machine didn’t depend on whether the rate increased 3% a year it depended on other things. He may or may not have known that. My point being lots of things in business are nuance are there are actual situations that are valid where you have to prevent people from their folly by not disclosing something, something that people would see as “a lack of integrity”.Another case (on my side) was when someone in business put “DIP” on his checks because he was in bankruptcy at the time. When I asked him what that meant he bullshitted me. So I took that as that he was slippery and when he wanted to go in partnership with me I turned him down. Big mistake. I put to much on that one interaction to my detriment. Actually the fact that he was in bankruptcy (at the time a big deal) totally bothered me).Point being business is analog it’s not digital. There are very few absolutes everything depends on the circumstances.Separately anyone who tells you that people who have succeeded in entrepreneurship have 100% integrity or close to it hasn’t been around that much.Jobs ripped off Wozniak as has been told over and over again. Truth is Jobs wouldn’t have built Apple if he was an honest joe like Wozniak who’s only need in life was to tinker with computers and get kudos from other hackers. Ditto for Gates. And Buffet? I think he protests to much. If you’ve been around business the guys who are like that (as a generality) like the guys who talk about how much they love their wife and would never cheat on her are the ones you have to watch out for.Edit: Using Buffet as an example have no evidence that he has done anything wrong. But I’ve seen cases over the years (as you have, say Madoff, Spitzer) of the seemingly perfect guy ending up scamming people or cheating on his wife. Hence the statement.
Business may be analog, but facts are digital. If someone is in bankruptcy, they know what “DIP” means when they write their checks. It sounds like you’re comfortable taking a business risk working with people who obscure, deflect, or hide the facts. And you may very well make money doing so. But that doesn’t change the very digital nature of their lack of integrity.
It sounds like you’re comfortable taking a business risk working with people who obscure, deflect, or hide the facts.Exactly. In other words I feel comfortable navigating that particular risk in the total context of the situation what is to be gained and lost. The downside.  Also I have been around a lot of people in a lot of situations. So I have a different tolerance for what people do as a result of that. If the “electrician” rips me off “a little” I’m usually ok with it as long as he shows up to do the job, and does good work, does it really matter if he got away with an extra $50 and padded his time and has “no integrity”? He’s not my doctor or dentist. However I wouldn’t be around an attack dog because I don’t feel comfortable in that situation. Others might.
I just backed a VC firm where neither GP has a college diploma. That’s taking it next level. Schooling can be important but I believe that most LEARNING happens outside of school.
when i got into the business, you had to have an MBA!
What would you say you need now Fred?
“You need to be credible as an entrepreneur.” That’s a loaded statement.What’s your process for figuring that out 😉
mostly talking to them
Problem here is it’s harder for the kid that doesn’t come out of the top school to get a seat across the table from the Fred Wilson’s of the world and talk to them. However, it may also make that same person stand out as they’ll likely have a very different story than other founders. Always high risk/high reward for investors that back an entrepreneur who most other investors haven’t spoken to yet. Assuming that the more you talk to a person and get to know them the less that college degree/background matter.
Like everything–depends is probably a good answer.Probably less important in pure tech platform plays.In AgTech, the leads are most all with advanced degrees I betFor pure market plays, rich online presence is invariably where I look. Interests and articulation is everything.
biotech almost everyone has phds
AgTech it depends. many software plays need no hyper technical knowledge, but they do need knowledge of the problems. If there was a Farmers Who Code group I bet you’d see a lot of cool stuff.
Maybe–but there is software and then there are things that change the game, like a a marketplace for non-gmo seeds and seedlings with a built in distribution net for the finished product.
Super follow up article. Please would you run an AVC questionnaire to give us some stats on how many of the readers have a degree? and maybe include what area of work they are in. I’d be interested in that! 🙂
I agree, I’d be interested in that as well.
fine arts. I work with mathy things in marketing. 🙂
English Lit and Philosophy – BA. I work with Mathy things in financial services 🙂
I’m an engineer from Princeton and I’ve mostly used my technical “training” and problem solving skills in my career. Other than writing (and it’s gotten worse with 140 character limits), I don’t believe I needed Ivy walls for that.College even in the 80s was an exercise for most (and virtually all BAs) an exercise in socialization and learning self-discipline/maturity. We all NEED that… but it the cost… It’s the I in ROI that has lost it’s meaning
We all NEED that… but it the cost… It’s the I in ROI that has lost it’s meaningexactly!
Fred I think an interesting metric to measure is how many entrepreneurs that you invested in, had student loans at the time of investing and are students with debt less likely to start a startup?
that’s a really interesting question. i know a lot of lawyers who took the corporate job rather than the public servant job they believed in because of debt.
disclaimer – my opinion based only on observations and experience, not backed by any real evidence or dataI think college has always been unnecessary for someone who is truly cut out to be an entrepreneur. I think college can always help – for a lot of reasons – but the value of it compared to the investment is falling rapidly. Yesterday’s post really hit home for Terri and I. We were conflicted about the possibility of a $260K investment in a college education for a young man who is clearly entrepreneur through and through. In the end, because of the nature of his work and industry, I think we made the right call, but the deciding factor was that we could help him and he would not be hung up with huge debt.Our society seems to be putting a lot of emphasis on entrepreneurship, specifically in the world of tech, and I think that leads people to confuse the two. I think more and more people believe it’s possible to succeed out on your own. That’s a good thing, but one must be honest with oneself about before making huge life decisions.I have the “is college necessary” discussion with students and parents frequently. The answer very much depends on the individual and her circumstances. I’m dealing with students studying CS, so my advice is always wrapped up in my gut feeling that a college degree is less relevant today than it used to be for many (most?) fields of study – but CS is *not* one of those fields.The challenge I’ve seen mostly is that parents and students read all the evidence – college dropouts becoming billionaires, student loan debt, etc. – and they start putting two and two together and decide college doesn’t matter.There are two misconceptions at play here, in my opinion.One, that an idea is worth billions. Proper execution is what matters – and that comes from experience and/or training.Two, that any kid “good with computers” is destined to be a great entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is completely different. Students – and parents – need to be honest with themselves about whether they have what it takes to succeed as an entrepreneur. Many ( most? ) CS students *might* be better off in college where they can learn the skill, get the degree, and make connections with the entrepreneurs ( until they all start forgoing college ).Just my two cents.( Terri, a school teacher who is on vacation now, is waiting for me to make breakfast. No time to edit my comment prooerly. )
depends on what he wants to be an entrepreneur about – most people who get good need a lot of information about the world, and need to meet people
Exactly. In my son’s case, it would have been very hard for him to have made the connections he has made without college. The question is whether it’s worth the investment. Too early to tell in our case.
Yeah, “network” is another use case for higher ed.
It’s easy to confuse anecdotes and data.
Indeed, which is why I pointed out my lack of evidence. I wanted to comment anyway, because sometimes a gut feeling leads to study which leads to real data, etc. I’m with @rrohan189:disqus – I’d like to see more data on all of this.
I was a little concise, I meant that as a statement of agreement. It was a good comment.
Yeah, I understood that. Thanks. 🙂
Clarify please… (Still on first cup of coffee)…You are not sending your soon to college and are funding his idea/entrepreneurship?
My fault. :)No, we opted for college. He graduated in May – at 20 years old. He had always planned on Tisch at NYU until October 2010 when he called me ( I was in NJ planning my mom’s funeral ) and said he needed to get recommendations off to Oxford right away. He ended up with several options, but he ended up at Tisch after all and I think it was the right place for him.Between the Tisch and national merit scholarships ( and a nice surprise scholarship for students who end up graduating with an outstanding balance ), our investment was much less – though still enough to have bought a very nice car. :)cc @annelibby:disqus
Ah. Ok. Thanks for clarifying. The alternative got me thinking… What if patents backed their kids instead of sending then to, and funding college?Mom and Dad as VCs. What’s your pitch kid?
I do think more parents should *carefully* consider that option, but two potential dangers come to mind – money + family, parent’s living vicariously through the children.Given our son’s chosen career path, we chose to commit to both.We went to a parent orientation after he accepted the offer at Tisch, and in a smaller session for his department they were making two points along those lines. One, don’t give your kid $30K for his student film just because he asks for it, we try to teach “less is more.” Two, if you believe in your child’s choice of career, you may have to pay his rent to five years after he graduates.We were fully on board with number two, but some parents were clearly surprised by that.BTW, my daughter told me after the meeting that the kid sitting in front of us was Zack or Cody ( can’t remember which, you know, because I didn’t know what she was talking about at the time )
5 years? Could be more, right?
Well, we can only take it one step at a time. 🙂 We agreed to pay the lease through 2014 and then we gave him another year as a grad gift ( is that cheating to count it as a gift? ) and we’ll see where it goes from there.
What’s parents qualification to determine such a gamble? It’s a big big risk.At that age it’s a non starter. Now if you are talking about “after college” and if you are talking about “lifestyle business” (hate the term but will go with it) then that’s a good idea. I offered to do that for my daughter but she opted for the job which luckily she got after graduating last May (started in June).Of course if your lifestyle business idea is decent you probably can find other people than your parents to give you money if you present yourself well. If you can’t then you might not have enough charisma and sense to make it in the end. You can’t be a dullard and get anywhere unless you can defy physics in some other way.
And if you’re going to invest 200K+ for college, is the student mature enough to make the most of it?I took time off between HS and college, to work. I was still woefully immature when I started, and it took me time to get my act together.Is a “rite of passage” worthy of a mortgage-sized debt load?
And if you’re going to invest 200K+ for college, is the student mature enough to make the most of it?Indeed, not every student is.I took time off between HS and college, to work.I have no real data on this, but we have friends from countries where higher education is paid for by the state and they tell us this option is exercised more often by students because of the lower risk involved ( since the bill is paid ).My mom took that year off before college and always regretted it because she never went back.Is a “rite of passage” worthy of a mortgage-sized debt load?In my opinion, not for the student, no. If parents can pay out of pocket ( or borrow at a lower cost or risk ), maybe.
I went back too soon, and didn’t get the most out of my first year or so. It basically wasn’t an option for me to not go back at all, due to family and social pressure.Is your mom still living? I hope so — and that she can think about going back now…
Both my parents died too young, and despite being born with huge disadvantages, they were able to run their own business, have a positive impact on a huge number of people, and see all three of their children finish college and work in education at some level ( which they were particularly proud of ).
I’m so glad that they saw all of you beginning to make an impact, and that they had set you on a good path. I’m so sorry that they’re not here now.
me too – on both counts
From my experience which I don’t think is that unusual there was a big difference in maturity between last year of high school and first year of college for my kids. I noticed a very very big change. I’m guessing that’s typical. Now speaking of myself of course I was always “no fun …. none of the time”. I was born an adult.
The challenge I’ve seen mostly is that parents and students read all the evidence – college dropouts becoming billionaires, student loan debt, etc. – and they start putting two and two together and decide college doesn’t matter.Yeah but seriously look how idiotic that is. Shows they didn’t pay attention in college or don’t give much thought, critique or skepticism. Incomplete data.Particularly “all the evidence”. They don’t have all the evidence. They have outlier stories of success they don’t have a complete picture in any way shape or form. Like saying “I saw 10 people at different times cross the street and not get hit by a car so I’ve concluded it’s ok not to look both ways when I cross”. Which reminds me of the story I always tell about how people like to talk about how some big corporation passed up an opportunity that turned out to be the next big thing. As in “HP told Wozniak they weren’t interested”. Without knowing any of the other ideas that HP (for example) turned down that never amounted to anything and that we never heard about.
Yep. We agree. Students leaving high school – and their parents – have to carefully assess which choice makes sense for them. With the rising cost of college, they are certainly going to consider other options – we did – but not everyone is cut out to strike out on their own.And the other point I was trying to make – I teach some high school CS classes – entrepreneurship ( the topic of today’s post ) and being “good at computers” or even gifted at programming/math are NOT the same thing.
You know I actually had this talk with my parents exactly 30 years ago. It was during Christmas time. I am surprised they entertained it as both have several degrees.At the time college fully loaded with room and board was about $100k, that was enough to get me started at a business I had thought of about as I cut this old estates lawn (private club on the Main Line)I ended up attending the M&T program Penn. The amount of entrepreneurs that came out of my fraternity is astounding. At last count it was about 40 successful companies. I never regretted it. But again that is a point not a line.It is good to have some time to mature and understand different viewpoints and build connections. I’m not saying its right for everybody.I don’t like trying to calculate the ROI on every single thing. What is the ROI on your mother?? How about your kids. However the problem today is that if you end up loaded with a ton of debt without the ability to pay it off, that causes some serious issues.I think the table stakes have been raised and that is the issue.
Yup, well put.My dad simply handed me a check that was basically what I got for my Bar Mitzvah and that was that.i did go to school but did what I always did, get a job and work my way through it with some scholarship stuff on the side.
One of my dad’s sisters – born with all the same disadvantages as my dad, and a single mom too – worked her way through nursing school by working two jobs. It was a long road, but she made it work.Sometimes I wonder though if that’s still possible. Something tells me that would be much harder today.What about in your case? Do you think you could do it over the same way if you were handed that check ( adjusted for inflation ) today?
From personal observation over time I’ve seen plenty of cases of people growing up somewhat poor that did better than if they had it handed to them.My dad had a good system. He would always make me earn half of any money when I wanted to buy something. So it was difficult but not so difficult that it wasn’t worth trying. I felt that in retrospect that was a good system (we weren’t rich but the same principle applies). He also never typically gave me what I wanted. As a result I was highly motivated to make money so I could buy what I wanted when I wanted without having to ask him or get his approval. (The 1/2 was only for things he approved of, in general).
We use a similar system with our children, and we think it’s worked pretty much so far.
If the only people who can succeed are the people with means we are indeed screwed.I can’t buy into that.
As a generality anyone with a defeatist attitude will never get out of square one. While I wouldn’t go as far as saying they deserve what they get if they don’t even try not having is actually great motivation to many people.I am sure that when you were a kid, like me, you went out to a nice dinner maybe 1 time a year or 2 max. If that. You probably got maybe a present on your birthday and the holiday. And it was a big deal. Not having in that case gives you the ability to desire and appreciate today. I went on 1 trip to florida by airplane as a kid. Biggest thing in my life. My kids (by way of their mother primarily and her new husband) have been to literally dozens of foreign countries. No way they appreciate it as much as I did. Also they get all sorts of things as gifts and have what they need. They didn’t even answer me this year to “what do you want for chanukah”. Back in my day that was the time you actually got to get something cool that you needed. They don’t really seem to care that much. My ex wife wanted me to help pay off some of my daughters college loans (made her pay for 1/2) and I said “absolutely not having to pay the loans will give her motivation to get a raise from her boss or move to another job”. Did pay to help get her into a nice place in NYC – a safety issue nice new building, doorman all of that. Safety more important than anything.Not having can and is a benefit to many people. That said I know people as I’m sure you do that have trust funds but work as if they don’t. That said it must be an entirely different experience to have that cushion to fall back on.
Not having is not better than having. Certainly.My parents did a great job. I look back at growing up and think–lucky me.Had nothing to do with economics. Had everything to do with family and culture.
I remember having a conversation with my brother before his son was born ( my son was about two at the time ).We had grown up with so little and we didn’t know how we would teach our children about value when, from what we could assume at the time, they would not have to worry about money.We’ve tried to find ways to teach them. Sometimes I wonder how we’re doing, but other times I see positive signs. My son come home from a field trip in fifth grade completely disgusted with his classmates because they had been taking pictures of homeless people on the streets of Philadelphia. That kind of poverty was so foreign to them, that they treated it as an exhibit.cc @awaldstein:disqus
My son come home from a field trip in fifth grade completely disgusted with his classmates because they had been taking pictures of homeless people on the streets of Philadelphia. That kind of poverty was so foreign to them, that they treated it as an exhibit.To me that is for sure a teachable moment. I guess it’s hard to really conclude why they took pictures (not doubting your son but it’s possible he jumped to a conclusion that was not true). When my kids were about that age we took them to Jamaica on a trip. You go through really poor places. Rivals anything in this country for sure. Would say better to be poor here than poor in Jamaica. Kids didn’t even bat an eye and certainly didn’t take pictures. They didn’t even care when I said “look at where they live”. They are kids, didn’t bother them. And you know it shouldn’t at that age. Not their problem at that age. I would have taken pictures because photographically it’s interesting. I take pictures of many things for many reason. Once again not saying the kids were doing what I did.When someone does something differently than you do there is typically a very good reason for it. They were raised differently and have had different experiences. So you can’t really get down on them they are not you and vice versa.My mom grew up in Philly in a different era so as can be expected growing up in that time in a particular neighborhood she is not going to be super liberal. Can you blame her? My dad survived a concentration camp and lost his parents and much of his family. Had many obstacles coming to this country. Guess what he wasn’t all touchy feely and really giving a shit about the rest of the world it was about survival to him. Can you blame him?When I went to private school, and I’ve told this before, there were black people that were son’s and daughters of diplomats and cabinet officials. Totally different than what I grew up with watching on the news in Philly and experienced. Where all you see are idiots every night acting like idiots (ditto for whites in poor areas as a generality by the way). So can you blame me for what I thought before I went to that school and understood more than I experienced or was told by others? People aren’t hatched a certain way they experience, are taught and so on.
I don’t really “blame” anyone. I try to understand how other people look at things. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately, actually.We moved to Atlantic City when I was very young and shortly after we moved to Pleasantville, a town where five of the six schools were on the top ten worst schools in the state. I went to one of those schools. I was on the north end of town where the racial diversity was a little greater, but I was still in the minority. What was really an eye opener to me, though, was that I got along very well with everyone at school ( except that one Kindergarten kid who terrorized me in the halls when I was in sixth grade ) until I went off to a private school in seventh grade. All of a sudden, I was the enemy. I didn’t understand what was going on at the time, but I am starting to put all of that together ( almost 40 years later ).FYI, I’m not just defending my son, here, but for the sake of brevity I left out details. In the case of the field trip, it was pretty obvious why the picture taking was going on. But I don’t blame anyone. My son was just sensitive to it, and I’m glad. I never wanted him, or his sister, to grow up blind to the circumstances of others – regardless of how good they have it.
and I’m not selling that. Just thinking out loud.
Totally understand!!My suggestion to advisors and pundits is challenge yourself outside of the well warmed fishbowl of our lives.Take a chunk of dollars–$200K or so. Create a project that ties to you passion. Put yourself out there publicly and live within your budget. Go raise funds.This is hard stuff. The good stuff. People who succeed in work and life just have chutzpah and focus.
we talk about the fishbowl – what Terri calls “the bubble” – all the time at our house
My wife was abandoned as a child. Lived with a friend, grandmother, and classmate before she went to college.She put herself through Nursing School at UofD by Bartending in the Townie Bar at the Deer Park.The only way she got into Penn for Grad School was when the Dean was yelling at her for wearing painted Chuck Taylor’s instead of true nursing shoes.A fellow student told the Dean she gets off of the Deer Park at 2:30am rides an old Honda CB200 motorcycle to Christiana Hospital in the rain and snow and sleeps in a closet before starting clinical’s at 6:00am, we will take up a collection.That was how important college was to her.
A friend of mine told me his grandmother used to say “them does most what they likes best.” cc @awaldstein:disqus
I don’t get down near Christiana much any more, but we were down there yesterday for our annual “let’s go look at all the suckers run around nuts” trip to the mall and dinner. :)On a related note, while getting a haircut yesterday, I overheard a guy say that online shopping is the “wave of the future.” I had to laugh. We’ve been doing most of our shopping online for many years now. Our dinner tradition started more than ten years ago when we would have to run out for one day to pick up a few things. The last three years or so, we’ve just done the dinner and people watching. Shopping already done.
I’ll meet you anytime. Email my full name no punctuation at the google service.Interviewed two programmers today. Know you teach. If you know good people that want the best jobs in DE send them my way.
Approximately 10 years before you Penn was about $6500 per year as a commuter student. Private school was about $4500 (iirc)Inflation so paying back in future dollars that aren’t as valuable. That’s another thing that people don’t take into account. At the time (the 70’s) $6500 was a nice amount of money. Living at school was probably another 4k to 5k more. I lived at home was never a question living at school (and worked as well).In the case of your 100k tuition 30 years ago even if you were paying that back today over time it would be with cheaper dollars. But even if not cheaper dollars paying back 100k over 15 or 20 years (given the baseline) isn’t a non starter by any means. So college is 50k today but nobody poor is paying 50k and nobody poor needs to live at a college either. Get over it.  And maybe they should go to a state school. My 2nd daughter goes to a State School in NY State (Suny Bing) and the tuition is less than my daughter who went to a private school in NY State. (I think it’s about 32k fully loaded per year for out of state residents.) Everyone wants to emulate what people with money can do “big expensive wedding” things that were once the entitlement of the rich. If you don’t have the money don’t spend it like you have the money. The first girl I was engaged to her parents were teachers. We broke up but her parents had wanted to mortgage their house to make a nice wedding.
I read recently ( but didn’t fact check it ) that couples who paid $30K+ for a wedding are 3.5x more likely to divorce than those who spent 5-10K.RE: paying back in cheaper dollarsGood point, and what I was hinting at in another comment – borrowing at a lower cost or risk. @philipsugar:disqus said it exactly when he qualified the debt with “without the ability to pay it off.”
$30K+ for a wedding are 3.5x more likely to divorce than those who spent 5-10K.I read that as well. That’s one of those happy news stories that is fit to print because it’s a fish out of water and a “haha guess what”. Really depends who is spending the 30k and as you know success in marriage depends on a zillion things and probably the amount the wedding cost is near the bottom of the factors.Back in the day and probably still true … is that lack of money or money issues causes many problems in marriage. That makes total sense and I buy into that one. But even with that it matters who is in the marriage. Money can smooth over many problems lack of money creates many many problems.
Really depends who is spending the 30kand whyand to your earlier point, whether they had to borrow itFrom what little I’ve learned about you from your comments, I think you and I have quite different experiences relating to both marriage and money, but we seem to have come to similar conclusions ( at least on marriage and money ).If I’m not mistaken, you and I hail from villages not far from one another. Perhaps our paths should cross someday in real life and we can learn more.
Me, I currently hail from the village of high property and state income taxes. Moved as a result of marriage. Now if I was looking at things just from the point of view of $$ (at the time) vs. benefit (at the time) I wouldn’t have done what I did. Cost me a boatload to relocate a business and a home.
Sounds like several villages just over the border from mine. In ours we don’t have to worry about the income taxes, though. 🙂
I couldn’t agree more.You and I still need to get together for coffee/drinks/lunch. I’m right around the corner, buddy. 🙂
I think college has always been unnecessary for someone who is truly cut out to be an entrepreneur. I think college can always help – for a lot of reasons – but the value of it compared to the investment is falling rapidly.I disagree with that.I was cut out to be an entrepreneur, went to college, don’t really feel that I learned that much actually (compared to what I learned out of college and before college) and I would absolutely do it again. Because you learn many things in a school environment that you don’t learn out on the streets. You make contacts, connections you are exposed to new ideas by your peers. (Wasn’t big in my case but it happens). You mature and it gives you confidence. You work a side job. As far as value I don’t think it can be looked at strictly by a study and by going over numbers. Since numbers provide a general sense not what will matter to a particular person.But forgetting about my personal thoughts I disagree that college doesn’t provide value even if that value is hard to divine from the money that was spent. Depends on how hard you work while in college. Look you can put 20 people on a tennis court and give them tennis lessons and even removing personal atheltic ability some will get more out of it than others. If you are going to coast through college and end up with 200k of debt and end up getting a job as a teller at a bank sure you’ve failed somewhere.
I did not say college doesn’t provide value. In fact, I said the opposite. I said it was unnecessary ( for some ). I also think the value (per dollar spent) is falling, but I didn’t say there is no value at all. I think college is tremendously valuable for those who work to get something out of it.I don’t mind the disagreement, just want to clarify on what we disagree.RE: numbersUnderstood, but with the costs rising like they are, it’s like owning a very expensive car – makes sense if you can afford it, not so much if you can’t.I think Fred’s post yesterday really nailed the issue of cost/value.
I said it was unnecessary ( for some ).I guess it would get down to what each of us considers “an entrepreneur” the specifics.The guy who came to give me a renovation quote is an entrepreneur but he almost certainly didn’t go to college is my guess. He has probably worked in the trade since high school. He has enough going on that he builds houses and has 6 trucks. My guess though is that with his drive and ambition it would actually have helped him to go to college. They guy with 1 truck not so much. So it’s all in the details.Of course it then raises the question of whether the contractor, had he gone to college, say even a community college, ended up doing construction? My guess is that he wouldn’t have done that. He might be doing some shit job at the local warehouse. Maybe a low level manager when he is much better doing what he is doing. This is why it’s so hard to look at overall generalities some time. Because the mere act of going or not going to college takes you down a particular path that alters things that come after that.
the mere act of going or not going to college takes you down a particular path that alters things that come after that.Agree 100%We pushed our son in the direction of collge for just this reason. There is more to it than you can quantify.BUT everyone faces that decision with a different set of circumstances. If the only way he could have attended was to amass a huge pile of debt with no reasonably certain path to repayment, we probably would have pushed a different direction.The resources one has available limit choice, wouldn’t you agree?
The resources one has available limit choice, wouldn’t you agree?Agree. Nuance and particulars. That said I just think the $$, since they are definable and the outcome is not should be given less importance but not no importance. You know the downside you don’t know the upside.One of the problems that I have with internet advice. Life depends on making the proper choices at the proper point in time. Making the right decisions. The definition of being smart as opposed to being stupid is usually that you can do that better than average. Sometimes stupid people end up in the right place because they follow advice (internet or other wise) and by luck (or maybe the advice was right for them) things work out. In the internet age I kind of get the impression that everyone thinks the answer to all questions are written somewhere when that somewhere can’t possibly take into account all the facts that are relevant for a particular person.Like me needing to buy a bottle of wine for a visit to my inlaws. I can rely on what the local wine store says. On the other hand if I am going to visit an important wine knowledgeable person I don’t want the wine store and I don’t want to read wine blogs or internet articles. I want to have a conversation with Arnold and he would tell me exactly what to buy given what I want to spend in order to (if my goal was) impress.When I had the first date with my wife I didn’t rely on Yelp, Open Table, Zagat. (Which did exist at the time so I could have). I called someone who lived where my future wife lived and said “here’s the situation what do you recommend”. And he told me exactly where to go.
You know the downside you don’t know the upside.Great way to put it.and you are helping me crystallize something I’ve been thinking about but it doesn’t just apply to “internet advice”As a “math guy” it pains me a little to say this, but life cannot be lived out based on formulas and secret equations. Take any life principle – from religion, philosophy, self-help books, productivity tips, whatever – and people find a way to misunderstand, misapply, and/or exaggerate it.
Great points. Along those lines read this near perfect comeback from Dr. Oz’s pr flacks with respect to the shitstorm that surrounds the articles about his lack of credibility and facts (numbers) not backing up what he says (no scientific proof in many cases to what he suggests or thinks):http://www.forbes.com/sites…Typical critic:“The scientific community is almost monolithic against you in terms of the efficacy of the three products you called ‘miracles,’” consumer protection panel Chairman Claire McCaskill told Oz at the hearing. “I get that you do a lot of good on your show, but I don’t get why you need to say this stuff because you know it’s not true.”Dr. Oz Pr flacks near perfect comeback:Representatives from the Dr. Oz show told me today that the apparent lack of scientific evidence behind his recommendations is actually a good thing, and speaks to the show’s larger goal of challenging conventional scientific wisdom. “The Dr. Oz Show has always endeavored to challenge the so-called conventional wisdom, reveal multiple points of view and question the status quo. The observation that some of the topics discussed on the show may differ from popular opinion or various academic analyses affirms that we are furthering a constructive dialogue about health and wellness.”In the above example words have given a good run for the money to numbers, facts and figures.
Yeah, science!My dad and I used to talk about writing a book. If I remember correctly, he wanted to call it “Amway, the religious right, and creationist kooks” or something like that. 🙂
When selling false hope you don’t need to fear the educated critic, only the educated consumer.
Cranky old man comment here.We have found that every single one of the “young programmers” we have hired needed to understand structure and efficiency. Yup, just “hacking something” together works but not at scale.
This classic still comes to mind when I read a comment like this.http://www.joelonsoftware.c…Lazy kids.
More interesting might be the results, not the investments, between college and non-college. Then you weight for exit size and, of course, luck.I do a lot of work with schools. Don’t hate on me, but the one thing that is sorely missing from the young person/college drop out startup narrative is that most good ideas and businesses emerge from lots of experience, which mostly takes lots of years of living and working. From what I can see, across entrepreneurs at 4 different universities, is that they put forth a much larger percent of poorly tested or situated ideas than from people who have actually interfaced with a market.I’m pretty sure that the data explains the “young entrepreneur narrative” as survivorship bias coupled with the non-risk-adverse time of life within random statistical probability. Certainly it seems that VC behavior/returns track that.
no hating from me
Exactly. How many more “Split the check” apps does the world need? Vivek Wadhwa and the Kauffman Foundation did a study showing that the median age of successful tech entrepreneurs was 39 at founding.
If you’ll notice, this wasn’t a post on the effect of age, but on educational status. Not everyone who is 30+ and starting a business completed (or even attempted) college.
Sorry Reggie, I didn’t quite get you!! Based on your school work that you are doing ,are you opposed to education or in favor of it ?
I wonder how much of this is false positive. USV’s funded list is still a fairly elite group of entrepreneurs. I wonder how many drop outs out there are struggling to make anything work..I read this interesting piece by Mark Olson titled – “Student entrepreneurs – if Peter Thiel calls – Hang Up” – https://www.linkedin.com/pu…One more thought – I think the first wave of tech had a lot to do with consumer tech. The early adopters in consumer tech are, more often than not, teenagers and 20-something. By default, that made young entrepreneurs domain experts. They “got” the demographic and really understood the domain..However, we’re moving to more complex domains like healthcare/wellness, energy, etc. – and I think we’ll see older entrepreneurs who understand these domains well enough to build something that’ll disrupt them. – echoing Vivek Wadhwa’s article a bit – http://wadhwa.com/2014/10/3… but combining with PG’s thought on the importance of domain expertise..I guess, my conclusion is – if you are funded by USV, you likely have built signficant traction and a very good product. So, quit your job/quit college (they’ll love to take you back anyway).. else, stay.(And, of course – this point of view is littered by my own biases. I went to college and now am in graduate school)
re: “more complex domains”Interesting point. Some of the problems we’re talking about solving now are not easy problems. Nothing wrong with learning something about them. On the other hand, I think the issue at hand is whether a traditional college education is worth what it costs. My dad always taught me that things are worth what people are paying for them, but easy money ( student loans, which are, in my opinion, ridiculously easy to secure ) leads to inflated prices.and thanks for the links – good stuff
Oh – completely agree on that. And I realized another bias that I mentioned above in response to Kevin.So you can check this on your email, I will paste it here :)–You know, I also realize that I come in with a different bias – growing up in India, not getting a college education is a HUGE handicap. That’s not to say it is good education, but it is still something. And, given the massive difference between the haves and have-nots, college education is seen as the minimum.Maybe that will change.. but things definitely are very different here. And, of course, the costs of education are nowhere near exorbitant.(Also, it helps that I had a scholarship to do my undergraduate studies in Singapore.. I wouldn’t have been able to afford that education otherwise. I would be telling a different story now if that hadn’t worked out)
email? I’m not going anywhere near my email until I get some work done. 🙂
The long tail is full of people with and without degrees.I never ended up graduating college myself (because I ended up working too much; eventually relocated and it just didn’t make sense to transfer to another school and only take one class at a time towards a degree that I was already further down the career path than it would earn me)…but I can say that a large part of my ability to be OK moving on without the degree was the fact that a very large percentage of the people I knew ahead of me in school who did earn the degree were still ending up with full time gigs at the local grocery store, local video store, drive-thru, etc. etc. etc. (or often in the best case scenario, I was hiring them to work under me).All that being said, I think if don’t know what you want to do – get a higher education; if you do know what you want to do, make sure you get the *right* higher education…
Haha.That is true.You know, I also realize that I come in with a different bias – growing up in India, not getting a college education is a HUGE handicap. That’s not to say it is good education, but it is still something. And, given the massive difference between the haves and have-nots, college education is seen as the minimum.Maybe that will change.. but things definitely are very different here. And, of course, the costs of education are nowhere near exorbitant.(Also, it helps that I had a scholarship to do my undergraduate studies in Singapore.. I wouldn’t have been able to afford that education otherwise. I would be telling a different story now if that hadn’t worked out)
I would be telling a different story now if that hadn’t worked outdifferent, but something tells me still positive. :)Thanks for copying this comment for me. 🙂
“local video store”…I remember those.
I used to love that place…
Indeed! Always a treat.
I had a friend in high school who had a video disc player. There was one store around that rented the discs and I remember my friends and I causing a lot of trouble at that place. 🙂
I remember the video disc player…was the kind of tech that forced you to watch a lot of lame movies because it was all you could get if you wanted to use the tech…and yet you still ended up loving it…it was just *too* cool 🙂
I specifically remember watching Moscow on the Hudson 🙂
without the degree was the fact that a very large percentage of the people I knew ahead of me in school who did earn the degree were still ending up with full time gigs at the local grocery store, local video store, drive-thruThat’s part of the problem though. People think that they can go to school, get a degree and then everything falls into place. With some exceptions (medicine or in demand careers) it doesn’t work that way. Without the hustle unless you are exceptional in some way you probably might end up in a mediocre job. And that has always been the case but probably more so today I’m guessing.Now there are many reasons for this of course. In some cases it could be the attitude of the parents not really knowing enough to push kids in the right direction. Or it could be kids wanting to just have fun at college. You know how much fun I had at college? Zero fun. I don’t think I went to a single party at all. That said the college that I went to plenty of people went to parties and did just fine. I also didn’t live on campus I commuted which was quite rare at the college I went to.
Agree.In my case, I think there was a lack of direction from the lower levels…we were raised to think “go to college” not “become a success”…it was (I think in hindsight, wrongly) assumed that just doing the first thing was going to bring the second thing (the system would guide us and figure it out for us).The truth is that *you* have to guide and work the system, whatever the system is…otherwise you *will* lose.I think we have to do a better job of teaching kids *this* than the generation(s) before us did…
I think that the generations before us taught us what worked for them. This system worked quite well for my dad, during the lifelong employment era. (White, male, elite college, military, programmer.) And my grandfather. (White, male, college, law school, corporate exec.) My other grandfather (white, male, college, engineer) would have had an equally charmed life had he not died young.What works for us — to the extent that we even know what it is, because as far as I can tell, it’s working for a smaller group — has some probability of being equally inapplicable for our kids and theirs.
The truth is that *you* have to guide and work the system, whatever the system is…otherwise you *will* lose.Well that’s true but if everyone works the system then there are diminishing returns and it becomes harder.My personal feeling is that you can’t teach hustle.I mean isn’t that true in sports? Either you have the hustle or you don’t. Even I know that.
“You know how much fun I had at college? Zero fun. I don’t think I went to a single party at all.”This explains SO much.
I actually knew you would reply to that. I handed you that softball for Chanukah.Is that the best that you can do? Try harder.
And a happy chanukah to you too.May the Schwartz be with you.(I know, not funny. But I love using that line this time of year)
Hopefully the police won’t kill another unarmed Schwartz.
I should have also said that I am still *very* much in the long tail group myself…
if you do know what you want to doAnother thing I think is epidemic is students headed off to college and they don’t really know why. That’s a bad move, if you ask me.
Yes – and *very* common I think.If you don’t know what you want to do yet, I still think college is a fine place to get exposure to a lot of different and interesting things…but then you should pick that 1st school based on that approach (and keep the budget in mind for sure)…once you know what you want, then you should pick the best possible path you can to get it (School or not) 😉
Thanks for sharing the Mike Olson article. He makes great points. I’m amazed when I see 20-somethings running companies. It just makes me think company has an excellent board that is very active in making sure the CEO doesn’t screw it up.
How about in order to become a VC? i’d argue 90% are ivy league.
i wonder that as well.
Me too – possibly. especially as the institutional definition includes “seed” more and more, and there is a higher propensity for people managing their own money in this category?
more and more are just successful entrepreneurs/operators, no?
I also wonder if this is some kind of unwritten LP mandate?
what are their high school backgrounds?
I would be interested to hear more about the composition of those who did not go to college. Were they young (18 – 20) and technical founders? Were they older (35 – 40) and had considerable industry experience? Certainly would be fun to dig in here.
Contrast this to a country like in France, where if you don’t have a university degree (or 2), good luck getting anywhere…unless you become a great chef. Thank God for those great french chefs who don’t have a university degree. The Michelin stars are their college diplomas.
Money line of the post…”able to see, recruit, make, and sell”
PERSONAL CHEMISTRY, PERSEVERANCE & PRODUCT EXECUTION.These matter as much as qualifications, imo.My banking team was Harvard MBA (GPA 4.0), Columbia MBA, Cambridge PhD in AI (Rhodes Scholar) and me who was the youngest and only female.Our team’s chemistry dynamics was great so that’s why we got to do the most interesting projects.Without positive chemistry, a team can deliver almost 0.
So basically you should invest in startups instead of yourself? Would the same be true if it was a top 20 school? Seems like a lot of the anti-college guys came from top 20 colleges…
As I said to Brad below, “we don’t need no stinkin’ badges”.Nike says: “Just do it”Under Armour says: “I will”It’s all about “permissionless” action.
Yeah but how many of them have BFAs? 🙂
BFA for the win!
I think many of the comments here, and on Fred’s original post, are missing the point. The question isn’t “College or no college?” but rather “college at $250K+ of investment and six figures of debt or something else?” What is the value of the credential?If you are doing well financially but not independently wealthy, you will receive little to no aid. Is THAT investment worthwhile? Brad Feld’s comment below is funny because it’s MIT vs. Stanford. But kids and parents are asking themselves about MIT vs. Umass because $250K+ is a staggering sum of money. University Presidents and Trustees are really tone deaf to this issue.
I’m thinking of becoming a VC, I think its a great alternative to the traditional college / debt track. I have about 6 – 8 weeks available to learn how to become a successful VC. Are there any online or in person academies similar to Flatiron where I can learn everything I need to know? I don’t need to be the best at it, I just need to be able to handle the day to day stuff. Fireside chats, blogging, fund raising, investing in companies…
Is there a discernible difference in the style of companies that these different classes of entrepreneur tend to build? Product? Culture?
How did those without college degrees get introduced to you?I invested in a graduate degree, but the #1 reason was because I knew I needed to expand my network.
When I was in HS I wrote a paper for a creative writing class that was titled “Is College Really Necessary?” I remember my teacher absolutely shredded it for a variety of reasons, but primarily cause it was quite antithetical to the thinking of the time. Like many, I grew up in an era (and environment) where it was almost heretical to not get a college degree. I might also add there was also this perception of “careers” where, if desired, one had the opportunity to work and earn a stable living w/ a single company for many years. That dream is obviously way over.I ended up getting two degrees (BBA, MBA). The value of those degrees for me is rooted more in the intangible than tangible. The ability to craft and communicate sound ideas, the ability to think strategically, the ability to work within groups, the ability to craft a biz plan and vet an idea from a host of different perspectives (e.g., financial, marketing, strat planning) and the ability to convince others of the merits of my ideas/thinking can all be traced back to my educational roots.Too often I’ve encountered entrepreneurs who have a strong creative vision but are sorely lacking in business fundamentals. No problem if they recognize their deficiencies and surround themselves w/ others possessing complementary skills, but very often that isn’t the case.I’ve often wondered what % of unsuccessful exits can be traced to poorly crafted ideas and/or poor execution, with the latter due in large part to poor biz fundamentals by team management.
Yup. I’d make the point that more and more universities are stressing entrepreneurship and some have a degree in it. It’s not a be all end all but a lot of great companies get incubated inside universities. I started Hyde Park Angels in Chicago to take advantage of it. Happy to help anyone else that wants to start a college affiliated group. But I will warn you-it’s really fucking hard
The central logic is the same; education comes in many forms and how you acquire and process those inputs produce deeper meaning and often results. There’s one side of the equation measured here, ROI but the other side is equally important-opportunity costs.
I like that. You need to be able to “see, recruit, make & sell”.That’s great!
It is a good information that you were able to show on what are they things that they need to expect in college and what are the nearest possible happenings that they might encounter as a student in the field of business.
I would bet on that as well, but only after adjusting for grade inflation :).