Should You Drop Out of School to Start a Company?

During SXSW Interactive 2014, 3 Day Startup hosted a panel to discuss a much debated topic among student entrepreneurs: “Should you drop out of school to start a company?” Some of the points discussed included, entrepreneurial timing, the university as a startup platform, and the culture of risk taking.

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The diverse panel of individuals included, Mike Gibson, VP for Grants at the Thiel Foundation, Connie Bourassa-Shaw, Director of the University of Washington’s Arthur W. Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, and Andy O’Hara, Founder and CEO of Chiron Health. Cam Houser, CEO of 3 Day Startup, moderated the discussion.

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Why the University is the Ideal Startup Platform

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The entrepreneurial spirit at the university level is willing and eager: nearly 90 percent of young people believe that entrepreneurship education is important according to the Young Entrepreneur Council. And with the advent of the internet, free access to resources, and lowered barriers to entry, students can now start companies with minimal capital. At 3 Day Startup, we help students start companies through our experiential education entrepreneurship programs. Through our work with 5,000 students at 45 schools across the world, we’ve realized that the university is an ideal startup platform.

Ambitious and smart people

College is by no means a prerequisite for starting a successful company, but there are a number of factors that allow it to give rise to startups. The first reason is that on average, institutions of higher education tend to attract both ambitious and smart people. When Forbes profiled young disruptors, innovators, and entrepreneurs in their annual list of 30 under 30, the 14 of the top 15 individuals highlighted in each category attended or graduated from college. In fact, many of the men and women profiled on this list attended an Ivy League institution. (The list touched on 15 industries that ranged from Education to Tech and profiled in depth one individual in each category.)

This raises an inevitable question: Why was the university experience a part of their entrepreneurial journey?

One simple explanation may be that ambitious and smart people strive to attend the very best educational institutions should circumstances allow, displaying the discipline and work ethic that’s critical to achieving such levels of future success when launching an early stage startup.

Students at Education City build Startups in first 3DS Doha

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Students and mentor Dave Mawhinney

There is an electricity to rapid progress, an excitement to purposeful work, and an awe that surrounds the experience of drastic, yet positive change. The people of Qatar know this intensity better than most: A fishing village as capitol in the 50s, British protectorate until the 70s, and then a recent decade of natural resource wealth turned into a long-term commitment to establish top-notch universities, museums, and the many other foundations of human capital. What follows is a recap of several days working at the intersection of Qatar’s hopes to turn into the innovation, diplomacy, and culture capital of the Middle East.  If you’re interested in hosting a 3 Day Startup program on your college campus, drop us an email: founders@3daystartup.org

At 3DS, we have long fostered the notion that the university is the ideal center for an ecosystem’s entrepreneurial activity. After all, where else is there such an intense concentration of talent, intellectual capital, diversity, resources, and most importantly, time to invest in projects that are both innovative and commercially viable?

So you can imagine our pleasure when the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Qatar asked us to bring our 3 Day Startup program to Education City in Doha, Qatar. For those that aren’t familiar, Education City is a 14 square kilometer (5.5 sq. miles) development housing the Middle East campuses of Carnegie Mellon University, Texas A&M University, Virginia Commonwealth University, Georgetown University, Northwestern University, and several others. We were excited about the opportunity to help students from these campuses (and from Qatar University and the College of North-Atlantic) start real technology companies.

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