I’ve been reading with interest some responses to Peter Thiel’s (founder of PayPal & Facebook investor) announcement that he is to provide 24 young people with $100k to drop out of college and start their own businesses. http://www.fastcompany.com/1755089/legendary-investor-peter-thiel-names-dream-team-of-whiz-kids
It seems that he believes that the benefits of higher education are over-hyped, that “traditional education steers young people away from entrepreneurship and into steady jobs” ref and he’s picked an impressive team of young people to prove his theory. But therein lies the paradox. If this group of incredibly talented, but clearly non-conformist, individuals can become the most successful entrepreneurs of tomorrow, without finishing college, does it therefore imply that higher education holds everyone back from becoming successful entrepreneurs?
Its true that the vast majority of graduates are looking for steady employment, but that is true for the vast majority of working-age people.
A university education, and the subsequent degree, gives young people specialist knowledge and confidence in their own ability to achieve whatever they set out to achieve. For most, that will be a steady job, but for some it will be to build the Microsoft or Amgen of the future. Maybe they will start the company from scratch, or maybe they will work their way up through the ranks to become the CEO that takes their company to the next level.
Its true that many successful entrepreneurs are non-conformists who would never have followed a conventional educational path. These are the ones we seem to hear about the most. There seems to be an inverse snobbery about people having academic qualifications. Why is that? Is it because an academic qualification is still seen as somewhat elitist? Is it because people like to hear about those that triumph ‘against the odds’?
I’m willing to bet that for every one of these high profile, self made successes, there are many more that are successful because they worked hard to complete a degree, getting the best education that they could in order to be the best they could be. I think we should celebrate these individuals, and highlight the role that education played in their success. Maybe then we would see even more graduates go on to become successful entrepreneurs and ‘intrepreneurs’ (innovate from within an existing company). What do you think?