Over the past 50 years, a surprising number of successful companies have been created by collegiate entrepreneurs who have yet to graduate. By combining creativity and determination and taking advantage of the resources available to them while in school, bold innovators have managed to scratch an itch consumers may not have known they had. In the process, these young collegiate entrepreneurs have made their fortunes.
We look back to the 1970s because two successful companies founded in that decade are still in operation today. One, in particular, has changed the world as we know it. Started in 1975 by Paul Allen and Bill Gates (Harvard University), Microsoft started simply with the objective of developing and selling BASIC interpreters for the Altair 8800—the first commercially successful personal computer. Since then, through innovation and strategic acquisition, Microsoft has grown to become a multinational technology company that develops, licenses, manufactures, supports and sells computer software, personal computers, consumer electronics, and other services. And Bill Gates has become the second richest man in the world with a net worth of $81.3 Billion.
Also, the 1970s saw the startup of Kinkos by Paul Orfalea (University of California at Santa Barbara). Copy machines were new technology; Orfalea, as one of true collegiate entrepreneurs, had the bold idea to make this technology available to the masses. He borrowed money to buy a copy machine and rent a 100-square foot space near his college campus. From a small beginning, entrepreneurial history and his fortune were made.
Collegiate Entrepreneurs and Their Bold Businesses
The 1980s gave us the founding of Dell Computers by Michael Dell (University of Texas at Austin). Dell’s innovative contribution was selling personal computers directly to consumers. In addition, piggy-backing on and contributing to personal computing popularity, the advent of public access to the internet in the mid-1990s accelerated college student startup success. Included among a number of Internet-based services founded in the 1990s were the competing search engines Yahoo!—founded by Jerry Yang and David Flow in 1994—and Google—founded in 1998 by Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Stanford University).
Riding the internet wave, business startups have boomed exponentially in the 21st century. Collegiate entrepreneurs have provided us with convenient services, some of which we would consider essential, including; Facebook, Dropbox, Reddit, WordPress, Snapchat, Hourlynerd and Envoynow.
Scott Gerber, the co-founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, provides the following tips for collegiate entrepreneurs aspiring to create successful businesses. Take advantage of university resources—get involved in programs where you can learn how to and can actively run a business; find out about funding sources or opportunities available throughout your stay in college; test your product on students on campus to get feedback; and find a mentor to learn from and bounce ideas off of. Undoubtedly, Gerber’s advice is practical for aspiring entrepreneurs of any age—especially collegiate entrepreneurs—and it can lead to bold business triumph.