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Does the university system help entrepreneurship?

·Contributor
·3-min read
Close up picture of a group of four young people
Some of the most famous entrepreneurs on the planet have degrees from some of the most prestigious universities. (Source: Getty)

As a 21-year-old who runs a few businesses and with some success under his belt, the most common question budding entrepreneurs ask me is: If I’m planning to start my own venture, is a university degree worth my time?

My plan was always to go into entrepreneurship, but I wanted to develop the skills at university first.

So I started a double-degree in business and computer science in 2018, but by February 2020 I had dropped out.

After all, some of the most famous entrepreneurs on the planet have degrees from some of the most prestigious universities. Take Jeff Bezos, who graduated with an engineering and computer science degree, for example.

On the other hand, you have a long list of billionaires that follow the classic trope of not attending university or even dropping out, including Jack Dorsey, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg.

So why did I drop out?

It wasn’t from a lack of trying, or a lack of achievement. It was because I felt that spending the next two years building a business venture instead of finishing my degree would be a better use of my time.

And I’m not the only one, Elon Musk was even quoted at a conference in 2020 saying, “I think college is basically for fun and to prove that you can do your chores, but they’re not for learning”.

And in the final semester of my second year I had, what I now realise was a necessary catalyst for change.

Here’s what happened.

In October 2019, I was involved in a practical digital marketing class which involved a group of students building advertising and marketing campaigns for fake businesses. Conveniently, I had already started on my entrepreneurship ventures so I used all the practical knowledge I had experienced and applied it to the university assignment.

I applied unique, out of the box approaches to all of my projects to make my work stand out… and soon after found out that I was in line to fail the class.

Why?

A teacher felt I had a lack of understanding around marketing principles and an unsound application of the skills taught in the class.

And less than six months later (at 19-years old), I launched one of my earliest ventures in the first month of the COVID-19 lockdown and earnt $70,000 in 28-days… using those same skills.

Here’s what university taught me

What university taught me is that what a student learns during a degree sometimes can’t be put into practice, and also vice versa, sometimes experience is worth its weight in gold.

This is the classic debate of book smart vs street smart. That is, knowing what to do and knowing how to do it are two separate skills.

And as an entrepreneur, having only one of these skills will only get you so far.

I could also argue that without my two years at university building up a strong work ethic, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

It’s worth remembering too, that for 99 per cent of people, university is the right fit to develop the correct and niche skills needed for the career path they want to go into.

But in my experience, as an entrepreneur, time is your greatest resource.

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