Dropout Entrepreneurs: Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wouldn’t Have Made It without School

VENTURES AFRICA – Inspirational books and blogs are perverse with stories about successful people that were school dropouts. From Bill Gates to Steve Jobs, many writers and speakers have sought to use successful “drop out’ entrepreneurs as proof of the unimportance of school. One of the latest examples of their flawed argument is Mark Zuckerberg – the US $33.1 billion worth founder of social media giant Facebook.


Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 with some of his colleagues in Havard University. A year later he dropped out of school to focus on the social media site. Today, Facebook is the world’s biggest online platform worth more than $200 billion, over half the GDP of South Africa, Africa’s second largest and most developed economy. Many point to Zuckerberg’s abrupt departure from school as a key contributor to his entrepreneurial success, and as a validation of the unimportance of formal education to making it in life. Aside the Facebook founder, writers have also found strength in some other successful tech entrepreneurs to push their “get out of school” campaign. An article on Business Insider, quoting PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel, claimed college “just isn’t worth it in the age of startups.” Ironically, Thiel holds two university degrees in Philosophy and Law.

More Committed student than School Dropout

Young Zuckerberg (left) graduated with honours from the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy

Although Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to quit school helped him grow his campus idea into a multibillion dollar investment, the input of education in making him a successful techpre
VENTURES AFRICA – Inspirational books and blogs are perverse with stories about successful people that were school dropouts. From Bill Gates to Steve Jobs, many writers and speakers have sought to use successful “drop out’ entrepreneurs as proof of the unimportance of school. One of the latest examples of their flawed argument is Mark Zuckerberg – the US $33.1 billion worth founder of social media giant Facebook.


Zuckerberg founded Facebook in 2004 with some of his colleagues in Havard University. A year later he dropped out of school to focus on the social media site. Today, Facebook is the world’s biggest online platform worth more than $200 billion, over half the GDP of South Africa, Africa’s second largest and most developed economy. Many point to Zuckerberg’s abrupt departure from school as a key contributor to his entrepreneurial success, and as a validation of the unimportance of formal education to making it in life. Aside the Facebook founder, writers have also found strength in some other successful tech entrepreneurs to push their “get out of school” campaign. An article on Business Insider, quoting PayPal Co-Founder Peter Thiel, claimed college “just isn’t worth it in the age of start ups.” Ironically, Thiel holds two university degrees in Philosophy and Law.

More Committed student than School Dropout

Young Zuckerberg (left) graduated with honors from the prestigious Phillips Exeter Academy

Although Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to quit school helped him grow his campus idea into a multibillion dollar investment, the input of education in making him a successful techpreneur can never be over-emphasized. Mark was no doubt exceptional from childhood; at 12, he created a messaging program, “Zucknet,” which his father even adapted in his office. But talented as he was, Zuckerberg’s parents still had to hire a private computer tutor to hone the whiz kid’s skills. The boy wonder was also took schooling seriously; in high school he excelled in literature, earning a diploma in classics. In his junior year he won prizes in science (math, astronomy and physics) and classical studies, and was also very active in sports. He reportedly can read and write French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek, not traits of someone that was uninterested or did not benefit from schooling.

Like Zuckerberg, Bill Gates’ successful career is rooted in the sound education he acquired, starting from his early childhood, so too his Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, even if the latter influenced the former to drop out of Harvard. Gates graduated from high school with a National Merit Scholar—a US academic scholarship award, scoring 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT. Steve Jobs, another weapon of drop out of school advocates, credits his part-time classes in college with giving him ideas that he used in developing the Mac. He had dropped out due to lack of funds. “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” Jobs said in the commencement address he gave at Stanford.

Frontline Supporters of Education

Zuckerbeg (with spouse Priscilla Chan) said in 2014 “the world’s most innovative community shouldn’t also be a home for struggling public schools.”

Even with his dropout status and jaw dropping success, Zuckerberg, like Gates and most successful dropout entrepreneurs, continue to massively support education; something he wouldn’t be doing if they didn’t believe in the importance of schools. In 2010, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to to Newark Public Schools of New Jersey state. Last year he and his wife Priscilla Chan announced another $120 million donation to the public schools of the San Francisco Bay Area. On the donation he said, the world’s most innovative community shouldn’t also be a home for struggling public schools,” a testament to the importance of schools in developing successful innovators and entrepreneurs.

While university degrees cannot guarantee success in life, education and school activity plays an invaluable role in sharpening skills, honing talents and moulding the requisite character for success in life. Mark Zuckerberg epitomises this. It is not surprising that he, like Bill Gates, had two complete years at Harvard, during which they both testify to benefiting greatly from the university’s resources, human and material. Also, cutting your education is no sure ticket to entrepreneurship, Zuckerberg didn’t leave the university until Facebook was already blossoming. Thus, before we get overzealous with the dropout status of these hyper successful guys, let’s sober up to the fact that they were also very committed and hardworking students– the foundation of their succesful careers. neur can never be over-emphasized. Mark was no doubt exceptional from childhood; at 12, he created a messaging program, “Zucknet,” which his father even adapted in his office. But talented as he was, Zuckerberg’s parents still had to hire a private computer tutor to hone the whiz kid’s skills. The boy wonder was also took schooling seriously; in high school he excelled in literature, earning a diploma in classics. In his junior year he won prizes in science (math, astronomy and physics) and classical studies, and was also very active in sports. He reportedly can read and write French, Hebrew, Latin, and ancient Greek, not traits of someone that was uninterested or did not benefit from schooling.

Like Zuckerberg, Bill Gates’ successful career is rooted in the sound education he acquired, starting from his early childhood, so too his Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, even if the latter influenced the former to drop out of Harvard. Gates graduated from high school with a National Merit Scholar—a US academic scholarship award, scoring 1590 out of 1600 on the SAT. Steve Jobs, another weapon of drop out of school advocates, credits his part-time classes in college with giving him ideas that he used in developing the Mac. He had dropped out due to lack of funds. “If I had never dropped in on that single calligraphy course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts,” Jobs said in the commencement address he gave at Stanford.

  Front-lineSupporters of Education

Zuckerbeg (with spouse Priscilla Chan) said in 2014 “the world’s most innovative community shouldn’t also be a home for struggling public schools.”

Even with his dropout status and jaw dropping success, Zuckerberg, like Gates and most successful dropout entrepreneurs, continue to massively support education; something he wouldn’t be doing if they didn’t believe in the importance of schools. In 2010, Zuckerberg donated $100 million to to Newark Public Schools of New Jersey state. Last year he and his wife Priscilla Chan announced another $120 million donation to the public schools of the San Francisco Bay Area. On the donation he said, the world’s most innovative community shouldn’t also be a home for struggling public schools,” a testament to the importance of schools in developing successful innovators and entrepreneurs.

While university degrees cannot guarantee success in life, education and school activity plays an invaluable role in sharpening skills, honing talents and molding the requisite character for success in life. Mark Zuckerberg epitomizes this. It is not surprising that he, like Bill Gates, had two complete years at Harvard, during which they both testify to benefiting greatly from the university’s resources, human and material. Also, cutting your education is no sure ticket to entrepreneurship, Zuckerberg didn’t leave the university until Facebook was already blossoming. Thus, before we get overzealous with the dropout status of these hyper successful guys, let’s sober up to the fact that they were also very committed and hardworking students– the foundation of their successful careers.
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