Top 14 tech billionaires who dropped out of college

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Tech billionaires who dropped out of college

In the rapidly evolving tech space, having a college degree is traditionally considered the direct ticket to success. However, we know of the success stories of iconic tech figures that have challenged this conventional wisdom. This article summarizes the world’s top 14 tech billionaires who dropped out of college. These extraordinary individuals defied the convention. They took the tough decision of abandoning academia and pursuing their ambitious tech visions.

Disclaimer: This post does not, in any way, propose for the reader to drop out of college to start up a company.

1. Mark Zuckerberg

Company: Meta, Inc.

Former college: Harvard University (joined: dropped out: 2005)

Why he dropped out: To focus on developing Facebook.

Net worth: US$107B (as of July, 2023, Bloomberg).

Mark Zuckerberg is an influential American tech entrepreneur and the man behind Meta, Inc. –the company originally called Facebook. According to sources, Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard University in 2005 to focus on developing Facebook, Inc. He founded the world’s biggest social media platform in 2004 while he was a student at Harvard University where he studied psychology and computer science.

In less than two decades since he said bye to Harvard, Zuckerberg is now one of the richest persons on earth. Meta, Inc. currently owns over 90 companies, including Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus VR. In addition to these well-known social media platforms, Meta also owns other companies such as Onavo, CTRL-Labs, TBH, LiveRail, RedKix, Giphy, and Parse.

So, can we say Zuckerberg would have achieved such great financial success even without going to Harvard? It’s difficult to tell.

However, we know that attending Harvard enabled Zuckerberg to meet Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, Andrew McCollum, and Eduardo Saverin. With the help of these four, Zuckerberg launched the FaceMash, which became Facebook and later, Meta.

2. Steve Jobs

Company: Co-founder, Apple, Inc.

College:  Reed College (joined: 1972, dropped out: 1972)

Net worth: US$10.2B (at the time of his death, Just Richest).

Steve Jobs is the second giant we’ve had to mention in our tech billionaires who dropped out of college. He is an American entrepreneur and co-founder of Apple, Inc.

Jobs alongside another college dropout, Steve Wozniak, worked on the project that gave birth to Apple. The duo had the vision of making small computers that people could have in their offices.

Jobs dropped out of college for various reasons. Some sources claim that Reel was an expensive college and Jobs’ family struggled to pay his tuition. Others claim that Steve Jobs felt he wasn’t getting much from his college education.

However, Steve also had a business vision, which immensely contributed to his dropping out of Reel University. Passionate about technology, he believed that dropping out of college would allow him to focus on starting his own company.

3. Bill Gates

Company: Microsoft, Inc.

Former college: Harvard University (Joined: 1973, Dropped out: 1975)

Reasons for dropping out: To focus on building Microsoft.

Net worth:  US$132 (as of July, 2023, Bloomberg)

Microsoft founder, Bill Gates, is a technology a tech icon and a former Harvard University student who never graduated. He Joined Harvard in 1973, dropping out after two years to focus on building his business empire.

“Bill Gates told his university professors that he’d be a millionaire by the age of 30. He became a billionaire by the age of 31.” UberFacts.

4. Evan Williams

Company: Co-founder, Obvious Ventures, Twitter, Odeo; Founder, Medium (website), Blogger.

Former college: University of Nebraska–Lincoln (left without graduating according to sources)

Net worth: US1.8B (as of May 2023,

Reasons for dropping out: To pursue his aspiration of starting and running his own business.

Evan Williams is a technologist and co-founder of Twitter. He joined Nebraska-Lincoln but dropped out to work on growing Twitter.

Around 1999 or 2000, Evan Williams started his personal blog, EvHead. He used the platform to share his personal thoughts with the world. At the time, Evan worked at O’Reilly, a business and technology online learning platform.

5. Jack Dorsey

Company: Twitter co-founder, Block (formerly, Square), Bluesky Social.

Major and college: Science and Technology, University of Missouri–Rolla (Joined: 1995, dropped out:1997), New York University (Joined: 1997, dropped: 1999) according to

Reasons for dropping out: To work on his idea of Twitter.

Net worth: US$4B (Forbes)

Jack Dorsey is an American tech entrepreneur who dropped out of college twice. In 1995, Dorsey joined the University of Missouri-Rolla. In 1997, he transferred to New York University but dropped out two years later to pursue his dream of starting Twitter.

With the success of his ventures, Jack Dorsey became a role model in the global tech industry. He has repeatedly appeared in the Forbes list of the world’s tech billionaires while Time Magazine listed him among the most influential people globally.

6. Larry Ellison

Company: Oracle Corporations

Former college: Computer design and technology, The University of Illinois (Joined: 1966, Dropped out: 1966)

Net worth: US$130B (As of June 2023, Fortune)

The co-founder of Oracle Corp, Larry Ellison, is the only tech investor on this list, who dropped out of college just before taking the final exam. In 1992, Ellison met Bob Miner and Ed Oates. The three founded Oracle

7. Paul Allen

Company: Co-founder, Microsoft; Founder, Allen Institutes for Brain Science, Cell Science, Stratolaunch Systems, and Apex Learning.

Former college: Washington State University

Net worth: $20.3B (at his death, Made Money).

Paul Allen was among the tech billionaires who dropped out of college. Two years after his admission to Washington State University, Allen joined Honeywell to work as a programmer, an undertaking that saw him abandon his education journey.

He later co-founded Microsoft Corp, which he left, and founded Allen Institutes for Brain Science.

8. Elon Musk

Company: Co-founder, Zip2, (which later merged with Conformity, the parent company to PayPal); Founder, SpaceX, Starlink (developed by SpaceX).

Former college: Stanford University (1995 –dropped out in 1997), Queen’s University (1989-1991, transferred to the University of Pennsylvania graduating with BSc. Degree in physics and economics), University of Pretoria.

Net worth:  US$242.7B (as of July 11, 2023, Forbes World’s Real Time Billionaires)

Most people know Elon Musk as the man behind Twitter. However, not many people are aware Musk is a college dropout from Stanford University.

He attended his physics class for two days before deserting the course, feeling that the internet had a greater potential to change the world. The ambitious vision led Musk to found an internet-based system that helped businesses and organizations to access newspapers. He named the company, Zip2.

In 1999, Musk’s online platform would strike with Compaq, which purchased it for $309. Besides Zip2, Musk also co-founded other companies such as PayPal and Tesla. He is also the founder of the designer and manufacturer of space rockets, SpaceX.

9. Kevin Rose

Company: co-founder, Revision3, Digg, Pownce, and Milk. 

Former college:  Computer Science major, University of Nevada Las Vegas (dropped out in 1998)

Net worth: US$120 Million, (CAKnowledge)
Kevin Rose dropped out of the University of Nevada to code software. He is a co-founder of Digg –a social news website. In 2012, Digg sold for $500k.

Rose’s tech investments were not limited to Digg. He holds shares on Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare.

10.  Mike Lazaridis

Company: Research in Motion (later rebranded as BlackBerry Limited)

Former college: The University of Waterloo

Net worth:

The Canadian businessman, Mike Lazaridis, abandoned his major, a degree in electrical engineering, for which he had enrolled at the University of Waterloo. His journey out of college started when General Motors offered him a $600k contract to develop a computer system for the company.

With the deal, Lazaridis collaborated with two other friends to launch RIM; an undertaking that saw him become one of the world’s top tech billionaires who dropped out of college.

11.  Austin Russell

Company: Luminar Technology founder

Former college:

Net worth: $1.2 billion (Hurun Report, July 2023)

A discussion on tech billionaires who dropped out of college is incomplete without the mention of Austin Russel. In 2012, Thiel Fellowship offered Russel a $100,000 grant to build his business ambition. The foundation offers grants to young people who choose to build new things instead of sitting in a classroom.

After receiving the grant, Russel abandoned Stanford University and started his company, of Luminar Technologies, to which has since been the CEO. In December 2020, Luminar Technology went public, pushing Austin Russel up the ladders of wealth creation.

Russel, who recommends dropping out of college, is one of the most recognized self-made billionaires.

12.  Alexandr Wang

Company: Co-founder, Scale AI

Former college: Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Net worth: US$1.1B (Stack Stashers)

The world’s 2023 youngest self-made billionaire, Alexandr Wang, dropped out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2016. He enrolled at MIT to study BSc. in Mathematics and Computer Science.

In the same year, Wang joined the world’s biggest startup accelerator, Y Combinator, and co-founded Scale, AI.

13.  Evan Spiegel

Company: Snap, Inc.

Former college: Stanford University

Net worth: US$2.7 (Forbes, June, 2023)

Evan Spiegel is the CEO and co-founder of Snap Inc. He was to graduate from Stanford University in 2012. However, with just a few classes to receiving his degree, Spiegel dropped out to focus on Snapchat.

14.  James Park

Company: Founder, Fitbit

Former college: Harvard University

Net worth: $660M (Celebrity Net Worth, June 2023)


That’s the summarized list of the world’s top 14 tech billionaires who dropped out of college. A common observation from their stories is that they all abandoned college education to nurture their dreams and pursue their ambitions.

With audacity and unrivaled intellect, the college dropouts were made to heights. One question is, however, hard to answer:

Would these tech billionaires have amassed colossal fortunes and disrupted industries with a college degree?

Denish Aloo

I'm a tech enthusiast with a deep-rooted passion for digital technology and an interest in entrepreneurship. I see endless business opportunities in the modern digital revolution.

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