14 Wildly Successful College Drop-Outs Who Will Make You Reevaluate Starting School This Fall

1. Mark Zuckerberg ditched Harvard so you could “poke” your friends.

The story is pretty well known—Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard back in 2004 to move to Silicon Valley and work on Facebook. The company began in his dorm room in February 2004 and then went public in the fall of 2012 in what is the biggest tech IPO ever—$16 billion. According to The Facebook Effect, it took Zuckerberg a grand total of five minutes to officially decide that he was going to drop out of Harvard and focus on Facebook full time.

2. Sophia Amoruso’s resume reads: janitor, Subway employee, CEO and founder of a multimillion dollar fashion company.

Amoruso explained in her book #GIRLBOSS that she had a lot of difficulty getting through high school. She ended up dropping out of community college and started working as a security guard at an art school to get health insurance. In 2006, she started an eBay store that sold vintage women’s clothing—which exploded into what is now known as the fashion retailer Nasty Gal. Nasty Gal has hundreds of thousands of customers regularly and stores in more than 60 countries.

3. While you spent all of high school trying to be Tumblr famous, David Karp spent all of high school creating Tumblr.

Karp never even made it to college, and actually didn’t even graduate high school before he founded Tumblr. Tumblr is now the United States’s 9th most visited website, and Karp, who is only 30 years old, is worth approximately $200 million.

4. Before he could even legally drink, David Ek co-founded Spotify.

After only eight weeks back in 2005, Ek dropped out of the engineering program at the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden. At the age of 21, a couple of years after he tried to apply for an engineering job at Google, he co-founded Spotify—a musical platform that now has more than 32 million subscribers worldwide.

5. Ty Warner dropping out and getting fired inspired the main source of your childhood happiness.

Warner dropped out of Kalamazoo College after only a year so that he could try and start an acting career in Hollywood. After that failed, he went to go work at the Dakin Toy Company, which is where his father worked. In 1980, Warner was fired from that job and after taking a trip to Italy, he was inspired to continue making his own plush animal toys. This led to the creation of Ty Inc.—the famous maker of Beanie Babies. In 1998, 18 years after he was fired from his first job, Ty Inc. had reached annual sales of $1.4 billion. Warner’s current net worth is estimated at $2.5 billion.

6. Lady Gaga skipped music class and went straight to releasing one of the greatest debut albums of all-time.

Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta spent only a year at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts before dropping out to pursue her music career. She was signed to Interscope Records at the age of 20 and her 2008 debut album The Fame won five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Rolling Stone dubbed it as one of the “100 Greatest Debut Albums of All-Time.” Says Germanotta, “I loved NYU, but I thought I could teach myself about art better than the school could. I really felt New York was my teacher and that I needed to bite the bullet and do it alone.”

7. As a teenager, Pete Cashmore launched a website that attracts more than 20 million unique visitors per month.

Like Karp, Cashmore didn’t even make it to college. Cashmore spent a lot of time on the internet growing up, because his medical issues made it difficult for him to socialize with his peers in person. At the age of 19 he launched Mashable, which is now one of the most visited online publications. In 2012, Cashmore was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people and he is worth (at the age of 30) $95 million.

8. Bill Gates decided college wasn’t for him, and the rest is history.

Before Gates even arrived at Harvard, he had been familiarizing himself with programming computers for almost five years (when he was 13 years old, he programmed a computerized version of tic-tac-toe). Gates famously dropped out of Harvard in 1975 to create and focus on Microsoft full time. He is now estimated to be the richest man in the world.

9. Before the iCloud there was Arash Ferdowsi and DropBox.

After his junior year at MIT, Ferdowsi dropped out to found DropBox, which quickly blew up from a tiny startup to a service that is now used regularly by hundreds of millions of people. Ferdowsi became a multi-millionaire by the age of 27 and has a net worth of $400 million.

10. You can thank Susan Lyne for your insatiable crush on all male doctors.

Lyne transferred from George Washington University to the University of California at Berkeley to an art school before deciding that college wasn’t for her. Instead, she went on to be the president of ABC Entertainment in the early 2000s and is responsible for green lighting shows such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Desperate Housewives.” Later, she became the CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Gilt Groupe and recently was named the head of AOL’s content brands.

11. Matt Mullenweg is indirectly responsible for how Beyonce set up her website.

In 2004, Mullenweg dropped out of the University of Houston, because he had already developed the early beginnings of WordPress—an online platform that helps companies create websites. Notable brands that use WordPress are The New Yorker, BBC America, Beyonce, Sony Music, and Variety. WordPress now gets 140 million visits a year and Mullenweg, now 32, is worth $40 million.

12. John Mackey wanted to run an alternative food store in 1908s Texas, and it ended up exploding into what is now the mecca for all your hipster friends in Brooklyn.

At the age of 25, Mackey had already dropped out of several Texas colleges throughout the ‘70s. In his mid-20s, he joined a vegan co-op, fell in love, dropped out for the last time, and then borrowed $450,000 so that he could open a natural-foods store in Austin, Texas. Over twenty-five years later, Whole Foods does more than $12 billion in sales and Mackey himself is worth $100 million (which is consequently the also cost of one shopping trip at Whole Foods).

13. The ultimate girl boss, Elizabeth Holmes, left Palo Alto prestige to become the youngest female billionaire.

As a sophomore at Stanford University in 2003, Holmes founded Theranos, the healthcare technology company. After trying to balance both the company and school, Holmes ended up dropping out of Stanford to focus on Theranos full time. Now the 31-year-old is the youngest female billionaire in the United States and has an estimated net worth of $4.6 billion.

14. Chris Lavergne is literally the reason you’re reading this article right now (very meta!).

Lavergne’s senior thesis at Hampshire College was focused on the “business of writing,” which led him to create what would eventually be the concept of Thought Catalog. In 2008 he registered the domain, and after quitting his job, began to focus on publishing Thought Catalog writing at the beginning of 2010. Two years later, the site was accumulating 2.5 million unique visitors per month, which exploded into 34 million unique visitors in mid-2014. Thought Catalog Logo Mark


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