Top 30 Super Successful College Dropouts Who Went on to Build Multi-Billion Dollar Companies

A true entrepreneur is unstoppable, be it any obstacles or diversions that come their way. If a person in business decides to achieve something, their passion for the same goes higher to an extent that even lack of a college degree becomes an insignificant thing. This article is about such top 30 super successful college dropouts who went on to build multi-billion dollar companies. Not only is their company one of the top names in Forbes, but their journey and hard work set a remarkable example of how to not give up despite hard times. Read on to know more.

Top 30 Super Successful College Dropouts Who Went On to Build Multi-Billion Dollar Companies

A college degree is essential for any job. But beyond such strict scenarios, some people made it despite not having a college degree. The story is of such ‘college dropouts.’

1. Bill Gates and Paul Allen (Microsoft)

Bill Gates and Paul Allen dropped merely at the age of 19 and 20, respectively, purely to focus on Microsoft. They were known to be in a highly reputed institute in the US. However, their passion for computers and early intentions to disrupt the IT industry, even before it was a popular thing, led to the foundation of Microsoft. Further, as history knows, they went on to revolutionize the personal computer industry.

2. Larry Ellison (Oracle Corporation)

Oracle, a well-known database company, was founded by Larry Ellison after dropping out of the University of Illinois and Chicago City College. With his passion for coding and identifying the scope of their innovation in the database management systems, Oracle was founded. Recently, he purchased 98% of the Hawaiian island of Lanai in 2012.

3. Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google)

Larry Page and Sergey Brin were the founding members of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. Both of them left their Ph.D. program to focus on their goal of establishing Google and launched it in 1998. While in their PhD project, they deployed a server as a part of Google project on their college networks, and it was quickly popular amongst the users. They went on to start a multi-billion dollar company even when many of the investors refused to buy their company or even fund them.

4. Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook)

Dropped out in the second year of Harvard, Mark started Facebook in 2004. Previously, he launched two known websites called FaceMash and HarvardConnection, which led to the inspiration for a social media platform. With rapidly growing popularity, he went on to gather Series A funding in no time to improvise the platform, what we know today as Meta. Many famous entrepreneurs of different companies have once been a part of Facebook’s growth, such as Sean Parker, and Dustin Moskovitz.

5. Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla, etc.)

Elon Musk dropped out right after two days in the university to establish his business with his brother. This company was called Zip2, which garnered immediate funding opportunities. His consistent perseverance led him to the launching of SpaceX and Tesla, which would lay the foundation of futuristic technology in space and sustainability. Recently, Elon also purchased Twitter in 2022, further rebranding it to X.

6. Steve Jobs (Apple)

Apple was co-founded in a garage by Steve, after dropping out from Reed University. With superior tech in a technologically progressive era, he introduced the iPhone and Macintosh for consumers’ personal utility. Even today, Apple is leading in the market with its cutting-edge technology and outperforms its competitors.

7. Dustin Moskovitz (Facebook)

Dustin was Mark’s roommate at Harvard University and co-founded Facebook along with him. He further went on to start Asana with another colleague from Facebook. As of 2024, the net worth of Dustin is 953 million dollars. In his initial years, he worked with Mark to develop the platform’s early development and growth.

8. Ted Turner (CNN)

Realizing that his father’s business was failing, Ted joined the family after being expelled from Brown University. With a close understanding of the media market, he ventured into launching the world’s first 24-hour news network, called CNN. This channel was a part of his founding company, WTBS (then renamed to TBS), enabling a superstation concept having all-news in one channel. It was founded under the Turner Broadcasting System (TBS) in 1980.

9. Richard Branson (Virgin Group)

Virgin Group, which is known to have controlled over 400 different companies across various industries, was founded by Richard Branson. Richard left schooling at 15. Furthermore, he launched a magazine despite having struggled with dyslexia at an early age. By nourishing his entrepreneurial spirit, he founded a giant conglomerate that holds airlines, music, networks, and other industries.

10. Ralph Lauren (Ralph Lauren Corporation)

To fund his passion, Ralph dropped out to seek a job two years into his graduating university. While working in the Empire State Building, he would actively sell ties to customers and curate innovative designs to shape the fashion and apparel industry in America. Initially, Ralph was enrolled at Baruch College.

11. Michael Dell (Dell Technologies)

Dell Technologies was founded in the dorm room of the University of Texas at Austin, eventually after which Michael dropped out at the age of 19. The initial investment was just $1000, which led to a revenue of $88.4 billion in 2024. As of today, Dell is one of the pioneers in the personal computer industry which provides built-to-offer systems, leading to global disruption in the technology industry.

12. Micky Arison (Carnival Corporation)

Carnival Corporation is a leading giant in the shipping industry, a legacy of Arison’s family business in cruising. With an aim to make cruising accessible to a mass audience, Micky focused here after the dropout from the University of Miami. He initially started with his father’s business in real estate, but it was not for long until he realized his entrepreneurial potential and scope in the cruising industry. Today, Carnival Corporation is the world’s largest cruising company, and its revenue as of 2024 is over 2500 billion dollars.

13. Evan Williams (Twitter, Medium)

We all know the freemium blogging platform and a direct rival to WordPress- Blogger. Started by Evan Williams and his newfound interest in coding. He further went on to co-found Medium and Twitter after Google acquired Blogger. Twitter’s feature of short blogging and social media combined set a new trend and is one of the most prominent platforms of 2024 (now known as X, after being acquired by Elon Musk). He is a dropout from the University of Nebraska.

14. Travis Kalanick (Uber)

Travis dropped out of UCLA and had multiple startups in his lifetime before focusing full-time on Uber. The app-based ride-sharing or taxi options were a groundbreaking innovation at the time when Uber was launched, with little to no competition. Given the affordability and customer experience, it quickly grew popular. As of today, Uber houses over 30000 employees and has 4 companies under its ownership.

15. Daniel Ek (Spotify)

Daniel dropped out in his first year at the Stockholm School of Economics after finding it boring. In 2006, Spotify was co-founded, which held a massive library of music in one place and challenged the ownership of songs from different media houses. This subscription model created a new musical lifestyle for people and altered songs and podcasting habits globally. Before being the founder of Spotify, he worked at Advertigo, which was further sold off to Tradedoubler.

16. Steve Madden (Steve Madden, Ltd.)

Steve left Queens college to start a shoe business, sold from his car trunk. This was the inspiration to manufacture and start a trendy and affordable shoe line called Steve Madden Ltd. Today, it is a major fashion brand in the footwear industry, expanding its focus into handbags, apparel, and accessories. The major reason for his popularity was the chunky fashionable platform shoes from the 70s that became the hallmark.

17. Jan Koum (WhatsApp)

After being a dropout from San Jose State University, Jan Koum co-founded WhatsApp. This revolutionary app caused a massive disruption in the mobile communication industry, where SMS held dominance and was also a costly mode of communication. The app has always focused on free and secure mobile messaging and has become an essential part of everyone’s life globally. Eventually, it was acquired in a record-breaking deal by Facebook.

18. Kevin Systrom (Instagram)

Another essential application of everyone’s life was founded by a dropout- Instagram. After leaving his strategic management lessons at Stanford, Instagram was co-founded by him in 2009. It became the first image-only social media platform with powerful features to captivate users, eventually being acquired by Facebook. Today, Instagram is one of the most essential apps required for entertainment.

19. Jack Dorsey (Twitter, Square)

Jack dropped out to focus on web development, his keen interest. He resonated with the idea of short real-time communication through microblogging called Twitter and became its co-founder. Further, he also became a co-founder of Square, which catered to small businesses for financial transactions. He dropped out of New York University.

20. Naveen Tiwari (InMobi)

Naveen studied at IIT Kanpur. In 2007, when mobile dominance in the technology industry was seeing a rise, he identified a gap where mobile-based advertisements were limited. That gap led to the birth of InMobi, which catered to ads and led to the growing mobile user base in India. Eventually, InMobi became a global leader in the cellphone industry. It was also India’s first unicorn company in 2011.

21. David Karp (Tumblr)

Dropped out at the age of 19, David ventured into establishing a microblogging platform called Tumblr. The popularity of Tumblr back at the time of its launch was peaking high, leading to its acquisition by Yahoo in 2023 for a whopping 1.1 billion dollars. Tumblr, which is a still actively used social media platform, is now owned by Automattic.

22. Arash Ferdowsi (Dropbox)

Dropbox revolutionized the cloud storage platform in 2007, co-founded by Arash Ferdowsi, after dropping out from his university. The constant hassle of carrying data in a USB and transferring it manually was the major obstacle he overcame. Now, Dropbox has over 500 million users and provides easy file transfer solutions, inspiring many other companies in this domain.

23. Matt Mullenweg (Automattic, WordPress)

It wouldn’t be for WordPress if Matt hadn’t dropped out of the University of Houston to establish Automattic and WordPress. Today, it is a basic element of most of the websites. Matt managed to redefine internet blogging, and went on to garner millions of users in no time. The emergence of WordPress challenged the dominance of paid services at that time. Further, it established freemium and open-source projects and also acquired multiple companies such as Tumblr.

24. David Neeleman (JetBlue Airways)

By dropping out just before the final year, David Neeleman became the founder of JetBlue Airways. Majorly operating out of New York’s JFK airport, it operates over 1000 flights every day as of today. However, before establishing himself as the founder of JetBlue, David helped his grandfather in the grocery business, volunteered in the slums of Brazil as a Mormon, and founded multiple successful ventures in the travel industry.

25. Sean Parker (Napster, Facebook)

Sean Parker, a dropout from Stanford, is a popular name in the internet industry for launching Napster. Further, he served a presidential position on Facebook. He went on to become a founder of multiple organizations, along with the Parker Foundation. Initially, Napster faced some legal difficulties and controversies. Parker was also known for safely hacking the FBI and served in community service.

26. Harry Wayne Huizenga (Waste Management, Blockbuster Video)

Harry dropped out not only to launch a waste disposal company, but also to later on acquire a future video rental giant called Blockbuster Video. For this, he had to drop out of Ferris State University right before his sophomore year. The trash hauling company was called Waste Management, and he had to allegedly borrow $5000 from his father to buy his first garbage truck. The company eventually made its position in the Fortune 500.

27. Rachel Lim (Love, Bonito)

After dropping out from Nanyang Technological University, Rachel Lim established ‘Love, Bonito’, an online fashion-based e-commerce store that provided fashionable apparel suiting modern Asian women. The trend and market gap identified by Rachel became a massive hit and popular among the users. It was founded in 2005 and the head office is located in Singapore.

28. Don Peebles (The Peebles Corporation)

After leaving Hampton University, Peebles ventures into real estate which leads to Peebles Corporation in the US. Today Peebles is a leading real estate company that creates development opportunities in mixed-use commercial, hospitality, and residential properties. As of today, the net worth of Don Peebles is over $700 million.

29. Kailash Katkar (Quick Heal Technologies)

Kailash dropped out of PICT, a leading technological college in Pune, to establish Quick Heal. Observing the rise of malware spread and lack of effective mediums to combat it, he founded an anti-virus company in 1993. Today, Quick Heal Foundation also runs cybersecurity awareness campaigns to combat threats and attacks in the modern-day internet landscape.

30. Ritesh Agarwal (OYO Rooms)

Ritesh Agarwal launched OYO to solve the problem of budgeted and standardized hospitality across India. By offering convenience and hygiene, he went on to launch a chain of globally leading OYO rooms and it has been picking up pace and popularity since then. To bring disruption in the hospitality market, Ritesh had to drop out of IIT Delhi.

Conclusion

Here, we have completed the list of the top 30 super successful college dropouts who went on to build multi-billion dollar companies. Hence, with some extraordinary qualities such as strong passion, vision, risk-taking spirit, and leadership skills, it doesn’t matter whether you’re a graduate or not. If you’re someone who feels down lately, do read the above examples and their journey to be inspired. With this, let us know what you think about these blogs in the comments.

Rishika Desai- Cyber Intelligence Threat Researcher

Author Bio: This article has been written by Rishika Desai, B.Tech Computer Engineering graduate with 9.57 CGPA from Vishwakarma Institute of Information Technology (VIIT), Pune. Currently works as Cyber Threat Researcher at CloudSEK. She is a good dancer, poet and a writer. Animal love engulfs her heart and content writing comprises her present. You can follow Rishika on Twitter at @ich_rish99.


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