Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Charles and David Koch do not have business degrees. Bill Gates, Larry Ellison and Mark Zuckerberg never finished college. Only Warren Buffett and Michael Bloomberg completed college with a business degree. These are the top 10 billionaires in the US.

So, what does this mean for you and your entrepreneurial dreams? Do you attend college? Do you start a company at 18 if you have an idea ready?

In a recent study out of Northwestern University, researchers found out that the average age of a founder these days is 45 years old. More importantly, the average age for an exited (successful) founder is closer to 47. Yes, the Facebook story of a couple college nerds finding brilliance at a young age makes for great headlines and a compelling narrative.

Turns out that experience counts for starting your company.

The report also goes on to say that founders with three or more years of experience in the industry of their startup achieve greater success.

So, what does this mean for your college aspirations? I am not in the Peter Thiel camp that you must forego college to be a great founder. But I am in the camp that you need to gain a certain level of experiences to raise your chances of success.

What kinds of experience do you need and can you replicate that in college?

  • Leadership - no reason not to start something and recruit a few employees
  • Perseverance - can you balance classes and a startup and muscle through the low points
  • Financial Modeling - EVERY founder needs to be able to model their business (take a finance class)
  • Sales - sell something then do it again. Get in front of hundreds of sales opportunities.
  • Fundraising - this is the kicker as Pitch Competitions don't really count.

Jeff Bezos worked on Wall Street for 8 years before starting Amazon. Larry Ellison worked for a number of computer companies in the bay area for 11 years before starting Oracle.

Where are you going to get your experiences from? Wait until after college? Start them in college? Or, forego college? It doesn't really matter as long as you begin to accumulate those hands-on skills.