Let’s be real: college isn’t for everybody. And not being able to get through college isn’t always a sign of sub par intelligence. Some people just aren’t cut out for it whether it be that they can’t afford it, can’t learn that way, or, in a few very rare instances, have ideas that are bigger than even their professors can fathom.
If you’re going to be a college drop out or bypass it all together and expect to do exceptionally well in the world, you may wanna follow in these guys footsteps and be ready to bring something invaluable to the people.
Flip through and check out ten of the top business men who didn’t graduate college and the brands they built.
10. Alfred Taubman
Position: Founder, Taubman Centers
Market Cap: $3.3 billion
Instead of finishing college and receiving a degree, Taubman saw opportunity in the real estate business. According to his book, “Threshold Resistance,” Taubman recognized the immense expansion of the middle class after the war and decided to cash in by starting Taubman Centers, a realty company.
Over a period of about 50 years, Taubman continued to expand his company and took the company public in 1992.
Today, the company’s CEO is Robert Taubman, Alfred oldest son and, yes, he did graduate college.
9. Richard Schultz
Position: Founder/Former CEO, Best Buy
Market Cap: $10.1 billion
Richard Schultz, the former CEO and founder of Best Buy , started working as a paperboy at age 11 and had a series of jobs throughout high school. He had planned to go to the University of St. Thomas, but military service in the Minnesota Air National Guard stopped him from fulfilling his college-bound dream.
8. Ralph Lauren
Position: CEO, Polo Ralph Lauren
Market Cap: $11.9 billion
According to the Ralph Lauren website, Lauren said, “I never went to fashion school—I was a young guy who had some style. I never imagined Polo would become what it is. I just followed my instincts.”
With only a high school diploma in hand, Lauren followed his instincts. His decision to ditch college and focus on running his business lead to a series of breakthroughs in the fashion world, including the first shop-within-a-shop designer boutique for men in Bloomingdale’s department store in 1969. Lauren continued to build his empire, expanding it to include women and children’s fashion, fragrances, and home furnishings.
Today, Polo Ralph Lauren is one of the most successful fashion companies in the world.
7. Richard Branson
Position: CEO, Virgin Group
Company Worth: $18 billion
Virgin Media Market Cap: $8.1 billion
Forget graduating from college, this chief executive didn’t even finish high school. Richard Branson, the current CEO of Virgin Group , dropped out of high school at age 16 to start Student Magazine . Four years later, Branson founded Virgin Group as a mail-order retailer. He opened his first record shop in London and two years later built Virgin’s first recording studio. In 1977, Branson signed his first big name group, the Sex Pistols, and continued to sign popular artists such as the Rolling Stones and Culture Club.
6. Micky Arison
Position: CEO, Carnival
Market Cap: $19.6 billion
Instead of spending four years in college, this chief executive spent time working his way up the chain of command at Carnival .
Micky Arison, the CEO of Carnival, started in the sales department and was promoted to reservations manager in 1974. He was later promoted to vice president of passenger traffic and just three years later he was named president of the company.
Arison helped acquire Holland America Line, Windstar Cruises and Westours, allowing Carnival to become one of the leading cruise lines in the industry.
5. Michael Dell
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.
Today, the company provides information-technology services for global corporations, governments, health care providers, small and medium businesses, education institutions, and home computing users.
4. Mark Zuckerberg
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…
Wait. You’ve seen The Social Network,” right?
3. Paul Allen
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.
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.
2. Bill Gates
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.
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.
1. Steve Jobs
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 multibillion-dollar, worldwide corporation, and it all started with two college dropouts tinkering in a garage.
Read more about these companies and their CEOs here