Position: Founder/CEO, Dell
Market Cap: $30 billion
Most 19 year olds would spend a thousand dollars on a spring break weekend, or a put it toward buying a new car, but Michael Dell spent his $1,000 founding Dell .
The founder and CEO of Dell expanded his company with the idea that ‘technology is about enabling human potential.’ In 1992, he became the youngest chief executive to earn a ranking on Fortune magazine’s ‘Fortune 500’ list. His staff also grew from a one-man operation to 100,000 employees in just eight years.
Dell is not the only company this CEO has had a hand in creating. Dell founded MSD Capital in 1998 and a year later launched the Michael and Susan Dell Foundation, a philanthropic organization for global issues.
Position: Founder/CEO, Facebook
Company Value: $100 billion (Recent estimate)
Although Facebook isn’t publicly traded, we can’t leave this chief executive out of a successful college-dropout list-besides you are probably on his site everyday.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder and CEO of Facebook, showed an early interest in computers. As a child, he created early communication tools and games from his bedroom. In high school, he created an MP3 program and soon received offers from AOL and Microsoft , which he ignored.
After being accepted at Harvard University, Zuckerberg built a program called Facemash, which showed pictures of students and allowed their peers to vote on who was more attractive.
Eventually, word of Zuckerberg’s talent spread and fellow Harvard students Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss asked him to work on an idea for a social networking site called Harvard Connection. Zuckerberg decided to drop out of the project soon after and began work on a different social networking site, which he originally named TheFacebook.com.
Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard before graduating to put all of his focus on the social networking site, which could be worth as much as $100 billion if Zuckerberg ever takes the company public.
Position: Co-Founder, Microsoft
Market Cap: $226.2 billion
Paul Allen, who co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates, his childhood friend, is another chief executive who never got a college degree.
According to Allen’s memoir, ‘Idea Man,’ Allen was inspired to write a coding language when he saw the Altair 8800 computer on the cover of a Popular Electronics magazine. Allen knew Gates and he both had the skills to code a programming language for the Altair and after convincing his friend to collaborate, the pair ushered in a new technological era.
Today, Allen has a multibillion-dollar investment portfolio, which includes multiple technology and media companies, along with a major real estate redevelopment in Seattle.
Allen also owns the Seattle Seahawks football team, the Portland Trail Blazers basketball team, and is part of the primary ownership group for the soccer team Seattle Sounders Football Club. Allen has given away more than $1 billion toward his philanthropic efforts and has said he plans to leave the majority of his estate to charities.
Position: Co-Founder/Chairman, Microsoft
Market Cap: $226.2 billion
College dropouts such as Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz are not the only successful business founders who attended, and then left, Harvard University. Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft , enrolled at Harvard as a freshman in 1973. Gates, who lived down the hall from Microsoft’s current chief executive, Steve Ballmer, created BASIC, a programming language for the first microcomputer, during his first year of college.
Gates dropped out of Harvard in his junior year to concentrate all his efforts on a company he called Micro-soft with his childhood friend Paul Allen. As if founding Microsoft wasn’t enough, Gates went on to found Corbis , one of the world largest resources of visual information. He also earned a seat on the board of directors for Berkshire Hathaway , an investment company engaged in diverse business activity.
Position: Founder/CEO, Apple
Market Cap: $362.4 billion
As a young boy, this college dropout showed an early interest in computers. When he was 12, Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple , called Bill Hewlett, co-founder of Hewlett Packard , after finding his number in the phonebook. When Hewlett answered, Jobs said, ‘Hi I’m Steve Jobs. I’m twelve years old and I’m a student in high school. I want to make a frequency counter. I was wondering if you had any spare parts I can have?’
Hewlett gave Jobs the spare parts and hired him that summer to work on the assembly line at his company. During this time, Jobs formed a friendship with Stephen Wozniak, a soon-to-be dropout from the University of California at Berkley.
Jobs enrolled at Reed College after high school, but he later dropped out. He connected once again with Wozniak and the pair quit their jobs to start production on a computer in Jobs’ garage.
There are different versions of how the pair came up with the name for Apple. The best-known story comes from Jobs summer spent working on an apple orchard and his love for the fruit. The bite in the side of the apple is said to be a play on the computer term ‘byte.’
In a biography, Jobs said he was worth more than $1 million when he was 23, $10 million when he was 24, and $100 million when he was 25. Apple went from a garage-based operation to a multi billion-dollar, worldwide corporation, and it all started with two college dropouts tinkering in a garage.