Starting a Business (degree vs. no degree)

How does the level of studies which one has affects their way of approaching the idea of starting a business and executing it?

Having a degree:Β  Β 

Having a degree (non-liberal ones) offers the advantage that you have a clearer view of some technical aspects of business (legal, financials, marketing, etc. depending on your background) but the disadvantage is that you know that if you stick to your degree you have a secure career path which guarantees you a comfortable life (not rich, but comfortable) so your attention and dedication isn't 100% put into the business because you know you have alternatives (but from another side, those alternatives may allow you to risk even more because you know you have a parachute if things do not work out).

Not having a degree:

For those which do not have a degree they realize that their only way to get rich is to have a business so they will grind the hell out of them to get it work as they know they do not have a Plan B. Those would be willingly even to get into situations which someone with a degree would not get into because of business etiquete, reputation or whatever. On the contrary, some disadvantages of those without a degree (the majority) is that they weren't exposed as those in the university to different ideas about which business succeed, what options are there, etc. (but from another side, those could be solved by simply reading some books of what interest them).

What is your take on this subject? Which one would you say has more chances of succeeding? Could one be more successful in an industry than the other one? Would you add something new or do you disagree with some of those observations?

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Comments (11)

Mar 19, 2022 - 9:30am
eloquence, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Depends on the business, but generally think college is a good idea - no 18 year old knows everything. If you're looking to start something small/local and a degree would be a huge financial burden, that's a lot different than starting something you want to scale and will want funding on. It's going to be very difficult to get funding without a degree, people just take you less seriously. For every Zuckerberg out there dropping out with a successful business, there's 100 people who dropped out, business failed, and they have very little to fall back on.

I also think saying you can learn what you pick up in university from reading a few books is very incorrect


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Mar 19, 2022 - 9:53am
rickle, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Started and operated multiple businesses. Current business has been operating for 22 years. Have a non-business degree. I'll approach your topic from two perspectives. The degree itself and what's needed to run a successful business.

Degree: As I stated, mine is a non business degree (communications - was planning on being a broadcaster). I do think it's a good idea to go to college (unless you want to work in a trade - which is great). I don't think your degree matters all that much in terms of what you study. Completing a degree, however, matters a lot. It shows that you can follow through, finish what you start, persevere, etc. Going to college is about a lot more than classes and studying. It's about learning about yourself. Gaining confidence. Making decisions. Gaining independence. Developing discipline. Meeting and learning to get along with all different types of people. I distinctly remember gaining confidence through experience. Having several projects and papers and finals due concurrently, thinking how am I going to get this all done, and then acing all of them. Next time around, when similar feelings would creep in, I would just tell myself, "no sweat, you did it before, you'll do it again." College is about learning to prioritize and live a full life.

Success in owning a business: More about personality, mental toughness, desire, and resiliency than knowledge. You have an idea that creates value. You think there's a market for it. You run 100 mph showing it to anyone that will listen (at first). You gain some traction. You win you lose. You figure out what works. You refine your process. You add resources including headcount to deliver your value. You get a CPA and attorney. You learn how deals work, seek guidance, etc. At one point was considering raising capital. Spoke to some small PE shops. Had one willing to finance us a few mil to grow. Would have lost control of the company. Decided against the deal. Just didn't feel right. Will never know if that was a good or bad decision.

Being successful in business is also about ability to deal with change. Things change all the time (markets, competition, suppliers, clients, need of your service, employee turnover, cost of benefits, office space, tech, you name it). If you're an excuse guy, you'll get crushed. If you make decisions and move on, you can do really well. Being really smart and well educated helps (I'm sure), but I don't think it's necessary. Desire and drive is key!

Mar 19, 2022 - 5:37pm
Isaiah_53_5 πŸ’ŽπŸ™ŒπŸ’ŽπŸ™ŒπŸ’Ž, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Most people need a degree to get out there and work to get capital to start a business. If you have a groundbreaking idea and no need for capital, then you might not need a degree.Β 

I think the first 2-4 years out of college in finance is very useful to develop the skills of running financial operations and modeling.Β 

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Mar 19, 2022 - 6:43pm
famejranc, what's your opinion? Comment below:

think about how much money you spend in order to go to college. let's say it's $100k. if you had $100k liquid you could get an SBA loan and buy a business worth $500k-$1 MM and spend four years operating the small business instead of four years in college. obviously it's not a perfect comparison, but what do you think would be the better experience. I would say operating the small business.

Mar 19, 2022 - 6:54pm
MD Step Dad, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I may be wrong, but having 100.000 in cash at 18 years old doesn't sound realistic. Although, I agree 4 years of experience is 1000% better than 4 years of courses.

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Mar 19, 2022 - 9:37pm
K-Peezy, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I wouldn't call it unrealistic, just uncommon enough that it's the exception and not the norm for sure.Β Inheritance, high school graduation gift, trust payouts, decideding on not going to college and cashing in on your 529, or even something sardonic like "this is what I'm willing to pay you to just go away so you no longer have to be my child and it's a coincidence we have the same last name", another trust fund friend who doesn't care about $100k and will happily invest in a friend just to be a "good guy(tm)".

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Mar 19, 2022 - 6:54pm
Sumooooo, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This article from HBR says that that average age of a successful founder is around 45 (e.g. the age they were at during the beginning of the process to peaking). If you think about it, using Bezos and Musk as examples their careers/ companies didn't peak until they were close to that age, even though Tesla and Amazon were already in existence. Gates was an exception in that he truly revolutionized computers early on in his 20s but he also had an older mentor who helped him greatly and Microsoft didn't fully peak until much later after it beat out IBM and Sun Microsystems.

Also, I feel like from personal experience it's somewhat easy to "start" a business because things like MLM, dropshipping, or just any small business counts as "starting a business". However, for the business to be wildly successful and being able to grow is a lot harder to do. Specifically, I see some friends from elementary school without degrees/ without a "good or useful" degree from a well known university start businesses in one of the aforementioned categories, but will probably go nowhere with their business in the long term because it's not possible to scale their ideas or get traction. Based on looking at more "successful" companies that we all know today as well as promising startups (e.g. from YC or unicorns in the news), the co-founders are usually those with degrees from a solid university instead of being dropouts/ people with no degrees.Β 

To second what's said above, having a degree is not just grades and academic knowledge. I think one of the most underrated things about a degree is the network of people/ friends/ professors/ industry leaders who you can be exposed to and who may be able to help or guide the business in your early days and even become one of your co-founders/ sponsors. This "networking" plays a significant role in mitigating some early challenges to help you navigate away from unnecessary risks while take advantage of information that is usually not accessible to those who do not have a degree. That's why if I were the VC and I look at someone asking for money, unless you're super self-sufficient and just very formidable with a lot of experience/ proficiency in a specific skillset, I would not fund your idea if you don't have a degree - it's just too risky for most people.

Paul Graham also talks about a lot of these things in his essays on his website and I would recommend a read through them.Β Happy to hear what others think.Β 

Mar 19, 2022 - 7:07pm
2rigged2fail, what's your opinion? Comment below:

for me, school taught me how to research dry topics, how to memorise 1000s of facts, how to communicate verbally and through writing, communicate persuasively, present information to crowds, work in groups. could I have done this without a degree? absolutely, but school kind of forces your hand to work towards something by specific dates (how to prioritise). I wouldnt have the motivation to do any of this without a degree. not to mention it gives you some credibility to customers, banks and colleagues.Β 

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Mar 19, 2022 - 8:23pm
Mumbles, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I think your "why" for starting a business has to be strong and focused less on yourself and more on your market. Secondly, as long as you possess a curious mind and willingness to learn along with some of the traits mentioned above, you can succeed without a degree. A degree is a social construct. You do not need to attend university to become educated. And believe me, if your product/service is exciting, you'll still get funded regardless of the degree.

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Mar 19, 2022 - 8:34pm
Isaiah_53_5 πŸ’ŽπŸ™ŒπŸ’ŽπŸ™ŒπŸ’Ž, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Also though if you have a degree and experience, you can switch companies relatively easy.Β 

If you start your own business out of HS and fail (most often do), you have hardly anything to fall back on if your company goes broke.

"If you always put limits on everything you do, physical or anything else, it will spread into your work and into your life. There are no limits. There are only plateaus, and you must not stay there, you must go beyond them." - Bruce Lee

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Mar 20, 2022 - 4:38pm
GoldenCinderblock, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Look at all these wannabe richies hating on an expensive salad.
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