7 of the World's Most Successful Entrepreneurs Who Started Their Businesses as Students

United States North America Higher Education News by Erudera News Oct 14, 2022

Mark Zuckerberg- founder of Facebook.jpg

Although starting a business during studies seems very challenging because work and study needs to be balanced, many of the world's most successful entrepreneurs have launched their start-ups while they were still in college.

Erudera has listed 7 of these entrepreneurs, some of whom worked on their start-up ideas in dorm rooms and others launched their business from garage.

Microsoft's founders Bill Gates & Paul Allen

The history of the world's largest personal-computer software company, Microsoft, begins in April 1975, when the two founders Bill Gates and his childhood friend Paul Allen, signed a contract with the American electronics company Micro Instrumentation and Telemetry Systems (MITS) to adapt the popular programming language BASIC for use on the Altair computer. Bill Gates was a student at Harvard University, while Paul Allen was studying at Washington State University at the time. Both dropped out of university after two years of studies.

Allen left Washington State University in 1974, joining Gates to develop software for the first microcomputers by adapting BASIC. In 1975, Gates also left Harvard and founded Microsoft with Allen, later becoming Microsoft Corporation.

Bill Gates as a student.jpg

Bill Gates as a student

Image source: Bill Gates' official Twitter account

Fast facts about Bill Gates:

  • He wrote the first software program at the age of 13
  • He entered Harvard in 1973 and left after two years
  • Gates was named CEO of the Year by Chief Executive Officers magazine

Facts about Paul Allen:

  • Allen met fellow student Bill Gates in the computer lab at the private Lakeside School in Seattle
  • He dropped out of Washington State to work at Honeywell in Boston
  • He contributed over $2 billion to charity

Yahoo founders David Filo & Jerry Yang

In January 1994, Jerry Yang and David Filo, both Electrical Engineering graduate students at one of the most popular universities in the world, Stanford University, founded Yahoo, a search engine marketing company. Initially, the website was named "Jerry and David's Guide to the World Wide Web." It was renamed Yahoo in April 1994.

Quick Facts about David Filo:

  • He has a BS degree in computer engineering from Tulane University and MS in electrical engineering from Stanford University
  • Donated about $30 million to Tulane University's School of Engineering
  • Together with his wife Angela, Filo established the Yellow Chair Foundation in 2000

Facts about Jerry Yang:

  • He rejected a nearly $45 billion offer from Microsoft when the company wanted to join Yahoo
  • Yang holds an MS degree in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University
  • Yang has served on Stanford University's Board of Trustees since October 2017

Google's founders Larry Page & Sergey Brin

While considering Stanford University to pursue studies, Larry Page met Sergey Brin in 1995, leading to the foundation of Google, the most widely used search engine.

At the time, Sergey Brin was a second-year grad student in the computer science department at Stanford. Google officially launched in 1998 and attracted the attention of Sun co-founder Andy Bechtolsheim, who donated $100,000 to the company. Back then, Google HQ started in a garage in the city of Menlo Park, California, while today, it has more than four billion active users.

Facts about Larry Page:

  • Larry received a Bachelor of Science in computer engineering from the University of Michigan
  • He was only 23 years old when he came up with the Google idea
  • He was the first child in his elementary school to complete a task in a word-processed form

Facts about Sergey Brin:

  • Brin invested over $100 million for Parkinson's disease research to be conducted
  • He earned a Bachelor's degree in mathematics and computer science at the University of Maryland
  • Brin's mother was a NASA scientist, and father a mathematician

WordPress founders Matt Mullenweg & Mike Little

The open-source software, known as WordPress, was created in 2003 by student Matt Mullenweg, a freshman at the University of Houston, and Mike Little, an English web developer.

During his first-year studies, Mullenweg was an active blogger on the open-source b2/cafelog platform. After Mike Little contacted him, the two invented WordPress, building the platform on the same b2 codebase.

Facts about Matt Mullenweg:

  • Mullenweg is a bookworm
  • He started a fundraising campaign on his 30th birthday to ensure that everyone has access to safe drinking water, collecting an amount of $44,000
  • Matt's father, Chuck Mullenweg was a computer scientist

Facts about Mike Little:

  • He runs Zed1.com WordPress Specialists
  • He received SAScon's "Outstanding Contribution to Digital" award for his work with WordPress

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook was invented on February 4, 2004, by Mark Zuckerberg, who at that time was a second-year student, also at Harvard University. Zuckerberg worked on the first version of Facebook in his Harvard dorm room with the help of his roommates Chris Hughes and Dustin Moskovitz as well as friend Eduardo Saverin.

The social network was initially created to help Harvard students connect, but the next day it hit thousands of users. Facebook expanded to Stanford, Columbia, and Yale in March 2004.

″Ten years ago, you know, I was just trying to help connect people at colleges and a few schools," Zuckerberg told Freakonomics Radio.

Mark Zuckerberg delivering a speech.jpg

Zuckerberg delivering a speech at F8. Image source: Zuckerberg's official Facebook page

According to Forbes' Real-Time Billionaires, Zuckerberg was listed as the 23rd richest person in the world as of October this year after his net worth was reported to be $49.4 billion. On October 28, last year, Zuckerberg announced that Facebook was changing its name to "Meta."

Today, Facebook has 2.9 billion active users in a month and a market capitalization of more than $500 billion.

Facts about Zuckerberg:

  • He was named Time Person of the Year in 2010
  • Zuckerberg donates $100 million to the Newark, New Jersey, public school system.

Reddit founders Alexis Ohanian & Steve Huffman

The history of Reddit started at the University of Virginia when two university's roommates, Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, created the platform on June 2005, together with Aaron Swartz.

Steve Huffman and Alexis Ohanian, both at the age of 22 and graduates of the University of Virginia, founded Reddit after receiving funding from Y Combinator. However, they decided to sell it the next year - in October 2006 to Conde Naste Publications.

Alexis Ohanian Sr..jpg

Image source: Alexis Ohanian Sr. official Facebook page

Facts about Alexis Ohanian:

  • Ohanian wrote the bestselling book "Without Their Permission: How the 21st Century Will Be Made, Not Managed."
  • He was on the Forbes 30 under 30 for two successive years
  • He is the designer of the mascots in every company he has started

Facts about Steve Huffman:

  • He left Reddit but returned later again
  • While at the University of Virginia, Huffman's idea for ordering food via mobile was rejected
  • He is an advocate for net neutrality

Snapchat founders Bobby Murphy, Evan Spiegel & Reggie Brown

The American social media Snapchat was created by three Stanford University students, Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown. While pursuing studies in product design at Stanford, Spiegel proposed an idea to create an app where exchanged messages and pictures would disappear. Other classmates initially laughed at this idea. However, later in the same year, Spiegel discussed the idea with his Stanford classmates Murphy and Brown, and the three launched Snapchat as "Picaboo" in July 2011. The app was renamed Snapchat in September of the same year.

Today, via Snapchat, 293 million daily users share disappearing messages, photos, and videos.

Facts about Bobby Murphy:

  • Time named Bobby Murphy as one of the "100 Most Influential People in 2014."
  • He was 22 years old when he co-founded Snapchat
  • He also met his wife, Kelsey Bateman, at Stanford

Facts about Evan Spiegel:

  • Evan Spiegel became the world's youngest billionaire in 2015
  • After the app became popular, Evan Spiegel dropped out of university shortly before graduation
  • His net worth is about $6 billion

Facts about Reggie Brown:

  • Brown was expelled from "Picaboo" in August 2011
  • In September 2014, he received $157.5 million to end the lawsuit he filed against other Snapchat co-founders saying they had taken his idea and didn't compensate him

Main picture: Mark Zuckerberg's official Facebook Page

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