The Most Successful College Dropouts In History

by Michael

Successful Entrepreneurs Who Were High School or College Dropouts

To celebrate us college dropouts I thought I would compile a list some of the top entrepreneurs who dropped out of college and then went on to make it big in the business world!

Top 30 College Drop Outs Who Made It Big In Business

Rank
Name
Business
Dropped Out At
Age
Networth
1
Henry Ford Ford Motor Company
16
Dead
$188 Billion (in 2009 dollars)
2
Bill Gates Microsoft
19
53
$59 Billion
3
Larry Ellison Oracle
20
64
$27 Billion
4
Sheldon Adelson Las Vegas Sands Corp.
19
77 $26 Billion
5
Larry Page Google
Graduated University of Michigan
35
$18.5 Billion
6
Kirk Kerkorian Tracinda
12
91
$18 Billion
7
Michael Dell Dell
19
43
$17.3 Billion
8
Paul Allen Microsoft
20
56
$16.0 Billion
9
David Geffen Geffen Records
21
65
$6.5 Billion
10
Steve Jobs Apple
18
53
$5.4 Billion
11
Richard Branson Virgin
16
58
$4.4 Billion
12
Takafumi Horie
Livedoor
22
35
$3.6 Billion
13
Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren
20
69
$3.6 Billion
14
Subhash Chandra Goel Zee TV
12
58
$2.3 Billion
15
Jerry Yang
Yahoo
Graduated Stanford
40
$1.9 Billion
16
Mark Zuckerberg
Facebook
19
23
$700 Million
17
Russell Simmons
DefJam
19
52
$340 Million
18
Matt Mullenweg WordPress
18
25
$200 Million
19
Mahesh Murthy
Pinstorm & SeedFund
19
43
$200 Million
20
Jawed Karim
YouTube
21
30
$64 Million
21
Kevin Rose
Digg
21
31
$60 Million
22
Jared Isaacman United Bank Card
17
26
$50 Million
23
Kevin Sproles
Volusion
18
26
$17 Million
24
Shawn Fanning
Napster
19
28
$7.5 Million
25
Scott Wainner ResellerRatings
20
26
$7 Million
26
Rob Benwell Blogging To The Bank
18
23
$5 Million
27
Graham Langdon
Entrecard
19
21
$3.2 Million
28
Kristopher Tate
Zooomr
17
20
$3 Million
29
Aaron Levie
Box.Net
20
23
$3 Million
30
Reed Caldwell
ServInt
19
32
$2.5 Million

An Inspiring List Of Entrepreneurs

Interesting and inspiring selection I think you will agree. Not all are complete dropouts – some actually have pretty impressive academic achievements to their name but alas the call of their Entrepreneurial Ventures took them to leave those studies and instead go on to create considerable wealth plus businesses that in some case have touched Billions of people.

Take for example Jerry Yang of Yahoo, who created Yahoo as a graduate student at Stanford University to monitor his personal interests in the early days of the Web. Yang’s official biography even contains the standing joke that he is “currently on a leave of absence from Stanford’s electrical engineering Ph.D. program,” ;-)

And there is of course Larry Page of Google – another Stanford doctoral program dropout.

One entrepreneur who in particular impressed me was Michael Dell – who started a computer company called PCs Limited while attending the University of Texas in Austin. It became so successful that Dell dropped out of school to operate it, and the company eventually became Dell, Inc, with revenues of $57.4 billion in 2007. In 2006, Dell and his wife gave a $50 million grant to the University which he attended but never graduated from.

One remarkable fact I noted when compiling this list, was the number of businesses that started of in a garage. Take for example the HP corporation which started life in a tiny 12×18 foot garage. And then there is also Google and Apple who started life in a garage.

And the Most Notable Young Entrepreneurs Of Recent Times?

Well it is Mark Zuckerberg of course.

Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg has an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion and believed by some to be the wealthiest man younger than 25 in the USA. Mark Zuckerberg, like Bill Gates, is a Harvard dropout.

After launching Facebook school-wide from his dorm room at Harvard in February 2004, Zuckerberg began devoting more and more time to his program, gradually spreading it to other schools. By that summer, Zuckerberg and his roommate Dustin Moskovitz had released Facebook to nearly 30 schools, and the website was growing too popular to be run part-time.

Where to go from here

Retireat21 is packed with helpful information and advice from some of the leading entrepreneurs in the world. For inspiration I would suggest you read some of our high profile interviews and check out our young entrepreneur rich list!

About Michael

I'm Michael, I created this site back in 2009 and since then it's received over a million visitors from all around the world. We offer tutorials and inspiration for online entrepreneurs wanting to achieve more. I created Popup Domination, which has over 25,000 customers. If you want to see my blogging strategy, take a look at Masters Blueprint.

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86 comments so far… Leave a reply

  1. Rachna

    Very interesting post Michael, love your site!

    • Melissa Michaels

      Great comment!

  2. Michael

    Thanks Rachna! Means a lot coming from you.

  3. Brandon Eley

    It's important to note that most of these people didn't quit school until they were already successful. The truth is that the vast majority of college students (i.e. 99.999%) will never reach this level of success. Finishing college gives you something to fall back on later in life if things don't go your way. It's also worth noting that many of these people are Harvard or Stanford dropouts... and their families were worth considerable amounts of money before they ever went into business. It almost sounds like this post is encouraging college students to drop out by showing all the successful entrepreneurs who have "made it," when the vast majority of new businesses fail.

    • Mohamed Cassim

      Hi Brandon, My dear friend, now education and medicine are industries, businesses just like any other businesses. That's what 99.999% are not reaching that success after years of hard studies and spending thousands. I know it, why I without any money and with little education with my raw sweat, tears and hard work, I started a small business about ten years ago and built it up to three world class factories employing over 700 workers among them many are college graduates. This sums up present day college education, the bold and brave always conquer the world, come what may, with or with out education - its always the rock hard will and determination to achieve some thing for them and the society push them to this heights which the college graduates lack, most of them simply think the college degree would bring every thing.

  4. Abdulrehman

    Great post, by the way Graham is 23, not 21!

  5. Stephen

    Wow. Bill Gates is a dropout?!

  6. Shonika Proctor, Teen Biz Coach

    @Brandon, Well said. And if I may add, you sometimes hear of remarkable stories of people who quit whatever they were doing to pursue something like music, acting or sports careers. And entrepreneurship is the same but different. Yes, you should fully pursue your passion, but I think Seth Godin says it best when he says that 'You don't know what people will take to.' So just because Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook doesn't mean if you decide to go out and build a better, cooler version that people will jump to that. You just never know what will excite people. Also, most people who tend to want to support you in your endeavors (financial or otherwise) focus more on what you have done vs. what you will do. So it helps to have some track record of your success. What you think is cool is relative. People basically will take you more seriously if they see that you have produced something and are showing slow and steady sales growth. And lastly, the people who are most successful also realize that everything around them is a tool to their success, not an obstacle. Your school is a resource. Your community is a resource. Your parents and your friends parents are resources. Remember how Facebook got started---within the university with the primary target audience being college students. So in some respects Mark Zueckerberg was still managing the resources that he had alloted to him at that time. So folks, bottom line, choose to run to something not from something in your entrepreneurial pursuit. And best wishes to all of you emerging entrepreneurs regardless of your personal or professional endeavors. @teenbizcoach

  7. Yan Susanto

    What a powerful list, Michael! You've set the bar higher for Retire@21. It's definitely worthy of Digg or Stumble. Yan PS: Coincidentally, I dropped out of college too so hopefully I could get into the list soon.

  8. Michael Dunlop

    Shonika, great point! A lot of people do dropout and work really hard and never make it! You have to have a plan b... just in case. Yan, Thanks very much mate! Hopefully we will see both of us on the list soon.

  9. Charlie

    Good post, $59 billion for Bill Gates :O

  10. Katie

    I like the fact that all these people have been so successful and did not complete college. I like that the majority still make money online today with their big venture or side shifted slightly to another area. It shows that it is possible for anyone to make money and progress to something exceptional

  11. Ben Jacob

    Do you think that Larry Page and Jerry Yang where drop outs when they found their company ? I don't think so, They must be Graduates then.

  12. Michael

    Actualy Ben they had to drop out of College to work on their business, when they became a success they completed their courses. Thanks Katie and Charlie!

  13. Robby G

    @Yan: Just give it time, it'll come. Keep up the good work as you've been doing and it's bound to happen. Best of luck to everyone. Nice post.

  14. Top 30 College Drop Outs Who Made It Big In Business : COED Magazine

    [...] To celebrate us college dropouts I thought I would compile a list some of the top entrepreneurs who dropped out of college and then went on to make it big in the business world! [Retire At 21] [...]

  15. acompanhantes

    always looking for something interesting subject and always think. thanks and great job acompanhantes

  16. player

    Wow, impressive list. Although dropouts, they certainly didn't lack in the brainpower category. Or, the work ethic....

  17. Randy

    i like it keep it up but where is the info the black entrepreneurs like myself i need more info on like how and where to get funding.

  18. Alvin Yudistira

    Outstanding posting, keep your great work Michael.

  19. wert

    great post mic.

  20. Best CSS Gallery

    Great post! Really interesting and inspiring selection.

  21. Xscape

    Yea, to reiterate what Brandon said, don't take this has motivation TO drop out of school. I believe a statistic said that 90% of small business owner creators had a college degree. If you're able to find success, then run with it, but don't believe the road to success is dropping out.

  22. James Rayers

    It's a nice list but how do people who graduated qualify for a college dropout list?

  23. dhiren

    Nice post. But how could you miss out the legendary Dhirubhai Ambani?

  24. Creative Writing Tips

    James, I was thinking that they probably got their degrees AFTER their business became hugely successful from dropping out. This list just reinforces the power of the technology industry. So many big tech companies were created by people who just had a dream and a desire to pursue it.

  25. Play Games Win Prizes

    The thing is with some of these guys is that they had money in the background of their life already, so none of this success really mattered to them. -Mike

  26. ByronOrpheus

    It's worth noting that Hotmail.com co-founder Jack Smith didn't just drop out of college, he flunked out. 12 years later he sold Hotmail to Microsoft for $400,000,000.

  27. RetireAt21: Young Entrepreneurs Making Money Online - Review » Blogussion

    [...] Most of the inspirational writings are posted there, and even more list posts. Awesome lists like The Most Successful College Dropouts in History, and others are posted there a lot. Like I said before, RetireAt21 is huge on motivating you to [...]

  28. Some Other Cool Crap Around The Internet Before You Go To Bed | GuyFix - F*ck Work!!! Be Entertained.... Entertainment. Gadgets. Cars. Guy Stuff...

    [...] THE MOST SUCCESSFUL COLLEGE DROPOUTS IN HISTORY [...]

  29. Marketing Man

    There is hope for non-conformists, it seems! My favourites amongst these are Matt Mullenweg (I really love WordPress and its success is only but a taste of things to come!) and Jawed Karim.

  30. Marting Lewis

    With a bit of luck, some of these guys will become professors at a University of Real Life.

  31. jheLo

    This is very much impressive! It's very surprising that those people behind the most successful names in I.T. are college dropouts back then.

  32. Bob Wainner

    For Brandon Eley above: Brandon...as Scott Wainner's Father, I can promise you, that Scott did not come from a WEALTHY FAMILY...Scott is a total self-made man. Got his 1st computer at the young age of 6 and he was hooked! He developed 2 successful websites while he was in High School. You might also be interested to learn that Scott earned his pilot's license in a Cessna aircraft at the age of 15...he's just a very bright young man. But, I think the thing that makes my Son so successful is that he is very "grounded" and keeps his success in "perspective". He is now 31 and has 4 very successful websites...along with a very successful book he co-authored about "over-clocking computers"...can you tell his Father is very proud of his Son?! *smile*

  33. Mindie

    How about the women?

  34. Juan Jones @ Make money online free

    Very good post. I hope to see my face up there someday.

  35. Scott Duncan

    I am looking for exactly the information on this post for my winners bible... the bit with the heroes and mentors in it... I did not steal the photo's, I am just looking for inspiration.

  36. Hack James

    It made me laugh knowing that the hottest site of today (Facebook) was created by a college dropout.

  37. Stella

    Going to college does not determine anything except that the student will spend countless hours in a classroom following someone else's lesson plan (for better or for worse) and either spending a lot of money or securing plenty of scholarship for it. Now comes the time of the autodidact. At the end of the day, who's going to get commissioned for work? Who will have the knowledge and motivation? The "renaissance men" or the "formally educated" people? Whichever ones learn and apply out of a sense of wonder. The money and jobs are a byproduct of a deep curiosity in pure research that drives us on. Every dropout on this page, no matter his trade or business, is a scientist with a vision. Of course, life's comforts can be obtained from other viewpoints, but the emptiness is felt despite any material aquisition.

  38. Stella

    And, yes, Mindie, how about the women? ;)

  39. Kantis Simmons

    Hey Michael, Great looking redesign. Love your content and this article. This article and this topic has been baffling me the last few months because I work heavily in the school industry. As an Academic Success Strategies who delivers speeches and develop resources for students to succeed in school (and a recipient of many college degrees myself) many students need to understand both the concepts of Education and HUSTLE! Working smart, staying focused, and sticking to a plan is something that needs to be re-emphasized in our school systems over and over. The perception that having a college degree or getting and education is the Key to success is so NOT true. But its the application of the things you learn in school plus smart hustle with diligence is the key to amazing success. Great article and thanks for all you do Michael. ** And yes where are the women?

  40. Brandon

    nice list, but I do have a question... the list is about college drop outs, not people who graduated college (i.e. Larry Page, and Jerry Yang) they shouldn't be in the list if you are talking about college drop outs... why put them in the list?

  41. aditia

    Wew, Matt Mullenweg and Kevin Rose I never though about them leaving college, btw great post michael

  42. Azad Shaikh

    Awesome list man. I was too thinking of dropping out of my college but i didn't. What are the chances of success for non dropouts. LOL Thanks!

  43. stephanie

    wow. i cant believe they're all drop outs..inspirational! well, as they say, you only get to use 10% of your learning in the classroom in real life. i like your posts..really interesting. keep it up!

  44. diana

    that Jared guy is my new business hero !

  45. Man

    List was good, but if you see lot of those business are having a shaky ground, they will wipe out in next few years and even there wealth, there is lot of competition in the market to be success. You don't need to drop out from any school to be success, what you need is a out of the box thinking brain.

  46. Amit kumar

    Hi Really great post ...they are really heroes of the internet world ....

  47. Aaron Darko

    WOW, So many people didnt know these guys quit uni. So inspiring to know that you too can be one of these mega successes. Always remember this, whats possible for one is possible for all

  48. Stclair

    Michael, Thanks a billion for this site and these articles. I had to quit school due to financial reasons and plan on finishing but success doesn't come from following someones curriculum, it comes from following your heart and being driven to succeed. I will be on this list sooner than later.

  49. Suds

    Another college dropout/entrepreneur/billionaire/genius is Rush Limbaugh. He's estimated to be worth at or just over a billion dollars.

  50. francesco

    you should mention Gurbaksh Chahal too He left school at 16 and sold his first company at 18 for 40 millions and his second company for 300 millions (bluelithium) to yahoo

  51. thushy

    very nice post, good to a lot of the high tech guys are drop out's, but in my case nothing happen so far :)

  52. Maryagirl

    Its hard to believe but I know some of the college dropouts who is very successful in their career now. Thanks for sharing this, I really like your blog and i really appreciate the excellent quality content you are posting here.

  53. Amandeep Singh

    A very inspiring an informative post Michael :) They rock the internet :)

  54. Raizel

    Hey - for strong fantastic black entrepreneurs, I think Farrah Gray is a super person to model - read his books - adopt his winning 'can do', positively focused attitude - this is a common theme for every single person on this list as well. The amount or type of education is somewhat coincidental. It's the attitude, drive, and positive focus that ends up creating the success. No one ever accused Ford of having a 'proper education' - in fact many people who Did have the 'proper education' accused him of not 'being smart enough' to be so successful! I tool I love that has really helped me 'retrain my brain for success' is regularly playing Robert Kiyosaki's Rich Dad Poor Dad "Cashflow 101"- lots of fun and totally worth the time put in. I am female and I have gone from a lifetime of negative cashflow and debt to just now (in this economy) starting to see positive cashflow and my pathway to spiral up to success. The key is not the external education, but how you push to learn for yourself and get into action, make your mistakes faster and learn to build and maintain feeling good and having a positive attitude regardless of what is externally "happening." My world started shifting in a success direction once I accomplished these foundations inside myself. I am training my 3 teenage daughters in this path also. Michael, THANK YOU for your inspiring information and attitude. It really helps!

  55. Ryan

    You're missing Mike Lazaridis. Net worth $1.7 Billion. Dropped out of the University of Waterloo to start Research in Motion, the developer of the Blackberry

  56. Usama

    So dropping out means success doesn't it? No, passion, hard work, research and originality means success.

  57. Mads

    Janus Friis, the co-founder of Skype was a high school dropout too. ref. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Janus_Friis You write on this page http://www.incomediary.com/30-richest-internet-entrepreneurs/ that he is worth $1.3 Billion, so he takes a 16th place. Thank you for a great website. Mads

  58. EDdys VElasquez

    Loving all these lists!! woo! Keep posting them :)

  59. allen

    One missing is gurbaksh chahal he dropped out at 16 becuase he start a business and sold it for 40 million and then made another business and sold it for 300 million :)

  60. Javad

    Great post Micheal. Very inspiring!!

  61. ela

    nice! so inspirational! keep it up! this site is cool! :)

  62. martin delolmo

    i want to know if there is anyone out there that can help a church with a school and a security company.all non profit.to succeed in life and be well known thru out the world.please help.god bless

  63. Sudhir Ranjan Chaudhury

    Great work......Michael...very motivating stuff!

  64. stanley

    great work mate, someday i hope to be in this list, though am a graduate never wish to be a drop out. school is good thats where you get the basic knowledge of how to start......

  65. stanley

    nice one mate, you are a great guy, but school is the basics to starting any bussiness.....

  66. Greg

    Impressive list. Thanks for making this post available on your blog. You are doing a great job.

  67. jhon

    Larry Page is not a dropout, he was a Phd candidate.

  68. Mightee

    i didn't know that larry page was also a dropout and he is just years old and CEO of Google amazing :O

  69. James

    Hi this is so awesome. i have dropped out of college, and started my own youtube show on youtube. check it out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5Ziv-G4NhsM

  70. GEOFF KINGS

    Helo Micheal,i realy enjoy your work,just keep it up,i thin k you have touched and changed many life through posting,i thank GOD for you guy,but i need a solution to my problem,i think the only software i can use is only joomla but i don't realy know most of the extensions and there work,please can you just help me on the type of software i can use that will be more easy for me to get a profesional site like incomdiary or retire21

  71. antispyware

    your blog is very informative. keep blogging.

  72. Master Elvis

    that is such an inspirational article..hope we also get to be so great as we also start out....http://www.254joblink.blogspot.com

  73. fazal mayar

    This is a catchy title, the term '' College Dropout '' seems to shock people as it gives message to people that he had hard times in life or he ruined his life but he survived! And he is now successful! Good list.

  74. Fisayo @ Secrets of Entrepreneurship

    Great list Mike, Thanks for the inspiration.

  75. Example

    It is not just drive that makes these people successful. Nor is it luck. It is hustle. It is a crazy concoction of skill, luck, and hustle. My favorite of these entrepreneurs is Russell Simmons. It says something that he did not build a technology, but helped build a lifestyle. I wish that Hollywood would make documentaries on each of these guys. I love the list. Thanks!

  76. notadropout

    I must say great post and guess what I m too old and too late to see this. Anyhow, In India we have many successful businessman with no education at all. They eventually learn the trick.I did a research and found surprisingly most dint do basic schooling. Though they do not own billion dollars but they own millions at least. Some of them are in to heavy equipment manufacturing which to my surprise need basic education. However, it all comes down to who learns more to do great business and the above greats show education in college is not necessary, right attitude is! Great post!! And yeah good to see Subash Chandra there.

    • Sanaulislam

      You are right

  77. kenal

    This is inspiration. All it took was a billion dollar idea and hard work.

  78. Rick

    What's most interesting to me is how quickly the decline of American industrialization came (Henry Ford) after the Gate's era, and our prized GDP is Facebook. Just how far off course can we drift before a melt down. At some point folks will grow old of all this gadget tech and social media stuff. As for the education, well it's a good thing, but once your able to read and comprehend there is little to stop anyone from expanding knowledge on your own. As for the recent economic decline, it's at the hands of the wildly well educated and they have failed hugely. Raw materials into finished product, that's how you build a nation, just ask Mr. Ford.

  79. Giselle

    Wow no love for the females huh? ;-)

  80. Utah Saint

    Cannot believe Henry Ford would have been worth so much more than Bill Gates or anyone else on the list!

  81. puttaraja bv

    All are college expelled or droped out.. but I have been expelled from a company (I don't want to mention the company), I am very impressed after seeing this list of great peoples... I think my name also will be jn this list from 5 years from now... Hmmm Puttaraj bv

  82. Ronie

    cool this will help with my project thanks but i think you need to update steve jobs is dead...

    • Josh

      I think most people know.

The comments are closed.