A question I am often asked by students is “Should I drop out of school to pursue my startup idea?”.
Steve Jobs did it. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg too. Why not you?
Most of the time the question is “no”. Here’s a few of my reasons:
- Your opportunity cost is low.
- You can make your coursework applicable.
- Free consulting from faculty who would otherwise charge a lot in consulting fees.
- The degree is valuable for a lifetime.
- People are more willing to share their time for free with a student.
- You can get discounts to conferences and other events.
- You don’t have to start paying your student loans until you’re done.
- Your mom will not be happy.
- “Getting a job” is a solid Plan B.
The counterargument is that there are cases when one should leave school early. Here are a few:
- The startup is taking off at an astronomical rate.
- You work out a path where the default situation is “return to school”
- You’re an athlete who could get paid.
I put this questions out to my friend, entrepreneur, and author Josh Cross. He faced the same dilemma when he was starting a company while finalizing his PhD. Here are his thoughts:
” I would use this a test for if you should drop out: Can you convince other people to “drop out” with you. Now, by “drop out”, I mean different things for different people. If that person is <name of an experienced entrepreneur>, then I mean: can you convince him to stop doing whatever else he’s doing and join your newfangled ABC Corp. If that person is <name of an experienced venture capitalist>, then what I mean is: can you convince him to give you money? If you can get a few people to join your team and can get anybody to give you any substantial amount of money (for starters, I’d say something like $100k), then dropping out is something that I’d definitely consider. Warning: notice that I said that “I” would use the above as a test; I’m not suggesting that you should use the above as a test.”