12 Entrepreneurs Who Got Started in College

12 Entrepreneurs Who Got Started in College

There’s a common misconception that you attend college, work your tail-off, secure a great job, and enjoy your life. But, why wait until after you’ve graduated from college to start a business? You could be like any of the twelve following entrepreneurs and get ahead of your peers by launching a business while still in school.

Nowadays, everyone at university knows these launching business type things happen and so their minds are already in a mindset of excitement and progression. Ideas literally jump out at you on a daily basis. The main thing to remember is that the ideas are great -- but most anyone can come up with an idea -- it's the implementation of that idea which takes the smarts and the grit - the time and the money.

1. Mark Zuckerberg

Arguably one of the most well-known, and successful, entrepreneurs who started their business while attending college is Mark Zuckerberg. In 2004 Zuckerberg founded ‘The Facebook’ in his Harvard dorm room. Originally intended to be a private website for his Harvard classmates, the social network spread across college and university campuses before becoming used by more than 1.65 billion people globally.

Today, Zuckerberg is worth close to $50 billion.

2. Daniel Ha

Daniel Ha may not be a household name like Mark Zuckerberg, but there’s a good chance that you’ve used his platform, Disqus if you’ve ever left a comment online. Ha, along with classmate Jason Yan, started Disqus in 2007 while both were attending the University of California, Davis was studying computer engineering. By 2011, Businessweek named Ha as one of the "Best Young Tech Entrepreneurs 2011.

Daniel Ha left school to focus on building his startup, which has more than one billion unique visitors each month. He’s currently the CEO of the company as well.

3. Michael Dell

Who hasn’t heard of the multi-billion dollar business that was named after its founder? Dell actually started in a dorm room while Michael Dell was attending the University of Texas, Austin a s pre-med student in 1984. He simply upgraded older models and sold them to customers. His business continued to grow until it went public in 1988.

Dell became the youngest CEO to ever have his company ranked in the Fortune 500 in 1992 and today is worth around $23 billion.

4. Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian

Known as the front page of the internet, Reddit was founded by a pair of students at the University of Virginia in 2005. While Reddit itself was founded after Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian had graduated university, this dynamic duo worked on several other tech ventures while attending college. Reddit was acquired by Conde Nast in 2006 and since then Huffman has founded the airfare search site Hipmunk, while Ohanian is a partner at Y Combinator.

5. Alexandra Diracles

How can you get more young women interested in coding? Alexandra Diracles and Melissa Halfon came-up with Vidcode, which allows teenagers to load Instagram videos of programs and share them with their friends or family socially, after they met at Startup Weekend NYCED. Diracles was a student at New York University, while Halfon was a software developer. Their prototype won first place at at Startup Weekend EDU in New York City in 2014.

6. Frederick W. Smith

While attending Yale in 1962, Frederick Smith wrote a paper for his economics class that outlined how an overnight delivery service could thrive in the information age. Legend has it that Smith received a C for his paper. Regardless, this paper survived as the inspiration for the company that Smith would eventually found in 1971

Federal Express, FedEx for short, is now a well-known global courier that exceeds revenues of $47 billion.

7. Jerry Yang and David Filo

While attending Stanford as graduate students in 1994, Yang and Filo came to the conclusion that they needed to organize their online surfing efforts. This lead to the creation of the Yahoo! directory. In 1996 the company went public, and despite some rough times, is the fifth most popular website in the world with almost 7 billion monthly visitors.

8. Marc Andreessen

While working at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois, Andreessen met Eric Bina. Together, Andreessen and Bina developed a user-friendly browser that also contained integrated graphics. Originally named Mosaic, the web browser went live in 1993 and quickly won over thousands of users. The company changed its name to Netscape, since credit under Mosiac went to NCSA.

American Online and Sun Microsystems acquired Netscape for a cool $4.2 billion and Andreessen and Bina were just six inductees of the first World Wide Web Hall of Fame ceremony. He’s also a General Partner of Andreessen Horowitz

9. Albert Manero

As an engineering Ph.D. student at University of Central Florida, Albert Manero founded Limbitless Solutions. This innovative nonprofit business uses 3-D printing to create affordable, bionic arms for free. Limbitless got a major PR boost in 2015 when Iron Man himself, actor Robert Downey Jr., presented 7-year Alex Pring an "Iron Man"-themed bionic arm.

10. Larry Page and Sergey Brin

Don’t feel bad if you don’t recognize these names at first. You should, however, definitely be able to recognize the company that they founded while attending Stanford to earn a PhD in computer science (Page) and PhD in mathematics (Brin). In fact, you probably use it everyday. And, it’s called Google.

In 1996, they left school to work on their search engine that would deliver search results based on relevance. Today Google, now known as Alphabet, is the most popular website in the world and is one track to become the first U.S. company to reach the $1 trillion mark.

11. Bo Peabody

Peabody, along with classmate Brett Hershey and an economics professor Dick Sabot, started Tripod.com in 1992 at Williams College. The site, which provided web hosting services for college students, is remembered for being one of the first social networks online. Tripod.com was sold to Lycos in 1998 for $58 million in stock.

Peabody has since co-founded Streetmail, VoodooVox, FullTurn Media and UplayMe and is currently Venture Partner and Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Greycroft Partners.

12. Steve Wozniak

The Woz, iWoz, the Wonderful Wizard of Woz, was enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley in 1971 when be began working with Steve Jobs. The duo’s first business venture was building “blue boxes” that would allow people to make long-distance calls for free. Woz dropped out of school in 1975 and focused on building circuit board designs and operating systems. This little venture would eventually become the juggernaut that is Apple.

Wozniak left Apple in 1985 and has worked on numerous businesses like CL 9 and Wheels of Zeus (WoZ). He also published his autobiography, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon: How I Invented the Personal Computer, Co-Founded Apple, and Had Fun Doing It in 2006.


About the Author

John Rampton is an entrepreneur, investor, online marketing guru and startup enthusiast. He is founder of the online payments company Due.

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