Mark Zuckerberg left Harvard to build Facebook. Steve Jobs only lasted six months at Reed College. If you're a young entrepreneur with a promising startup that's already raking in some dough, should you bypass college entirely to focus on building your business?
Don't even think about it, says Mark Cuban. Hustle and hard work -- though critical -- can't replace the lessons you learn in college. Cuban even has advice about the best degree to pursue.
Cuban gives a 17-year-old tough love
On Sunday night's Shark Tank episode, 17-year-old Ehan Kamat pitched Solemender, his device to treat plantar fasciitis pain. Though young, Kamat made clear that he's absolutely committed to the success of his company. The senior in high school said he'd be willing to skip college to build the business, which he started when he was 12 years old. In less than a year, the device has brought in $25,000 in sales.
While the other Sharks passed for various reasons (Barbara Corcoran thought it lacked "sex appeal" and Kevin O'Leary thought there were too many unknowns), Cuban got on a bit of a soapbox about his reason for not investing.
Though he spoke highly of Kamat's hustle and even said the teenage entrepreneur reminded him of a younger version of himself, Cuban wasn't going to bite for one important reason: He felt Kamat should go to college first. "Learn, learn, learn," Cuban advised. "The greatest competitive advantage is knowledge."
By taking the right classes, Kamat could learn critical business-building skills faster than he would muddling through on his own. Cuban stressed the importance of learning the ins and outs of accounting, finance and marketing in particular. "The more you can pull together, the quicker you can make decisions, the more competitive you can be, the greater advantage," Cuban said.
But don't put your business on hold
But he still encouraged Kamat to continue to build his business while pursuing his education. He could grow Solemender from his dorm room while leveraging any business lessons learned in his classes. Instead of traveling to doctor's offices to sell the device, Cuban thinks Kamat is smart enough to hire someone to do that for him. He could focus on managing the company's operations instead.
"I would be devastated if you didn't go to college," Cuban told Kamat. Though the young entrepreneur walked away without a deal, he did get valuable (and potentially life-changing) advice from a billionaire. Education + drive = success.