Meet 10 dropouts who became billionaire ballers

Meet 10 dropouts who became billionaire ballers

CultureSeptember 11, 2013

You’re probably going to college for some degree, or piece of paper, that may, but most likely won’t, help you in the future. How many of you are willing to put it all on the line by dropping out? Not many. These 10 guys did, and the amount of money they earned by saying “Fuck school, tests and homework; I’m gonna make it doing what I want” will make you seriously reconsider that class in advanced organic chemistry you’re already failing anyhow.

Bill Gates

Some minds are too smart for college; this man was definitely one of them. Even though he easily got into Harvard scoring a 1590 on his SAT, he never even chose a major because he was obsessed with one thing: computers. A specific set of knowledge in anything can definitely be more important than all of that liberal arts and diversified curriculum crap they throw into college degrees nowadays. They say, well Malcolm Gladwell says, it takes 10,000 hours to be an expert at anything, and Gates sure realized that. At 13, he was hacking his school’s computers with his Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen to get more computer time. At 17, he and Allen started a company to make traffic counters while he was a page for the U.S. House of Representatives. He knew exactly what he was doing when he dropped out of Harvard as a sophomore to found Microsoft with Paul Allen. And now he’s worth a cool $72.7 billion. The richest man in the free world dropped out of college. Go figure.

Steve Jobs

Icon, celebrity, innovator, genius, even savior to some. Jobs is the man who created products that changed the way you do everything. Do you even know someone anymore that doesn’t own/has never owned an iPod? With the way iPhones are flying off the shelves nowadays, it’s hard to think of a time when Apple didn’t exist. But there was one, when Jobs was harbored at Reed College, indefinitely feeling the chains of a rigid academic environment. That’s not to say he didn’t gain an education in school; it’s famously noted that he solicited plenty of classes including one calligraphy class that eventually was responsible for the wide variety of fonts first available on Mac computers. Jobs claimed he “wanted to save his parents money,” by dropping out, and frankly some of us here at the Rooster wish we would’ve done the same thing instead of wasting away five years of college and money only to end up writing for a collegiate magazine. And another thing, the man made Pixar. He’s credited as an executive producer in “Toy Story.” His net worth when he died: $8.2 billion, and that was after years of only accepting $1 a year for his position of CEO at Apple. Let’s see Bill Gates try that one out for size.

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg, aka Jesse Eisenberg, remains the man who forever changed the way people all across the world connect with each other. He’s the man who infiltrated your everyday life and got people to voluntarily disclose way too much information about their personal lives. Like Gates, this man also went to Harvard, and like Gates this man also was obsessed with computers from any early age; but unlike Wild Bill, his company was valued at a more than a billion dollars within a year, before it even considered going public. When it did, well, it kind of did really shitty. Besides the recent stock market short fallings of Facebook, you have to admire Zuckerberg’s sly ability to realize an audience — college kids — and realize that it’s really not so different from the rest of the world. As of now, this 29-year-old man is worth $16.9 billion. Not bad for leaving college in his sophomore year. Let’s face it though, he had to. The idea was brilliant and the public can’t go hours, let alone minutes, anymore without checking Facebook statuses. If it wasn’t for Mark Zuckerberg, what kind of world would we live in? Probably one with face-to-face interactions in which we don’t spy on everyone we’ve ever known. Still, his life and willingness to drop out of the best university stateside, prove this man deserves everybillion he’s earned (so far).

Sean Parker

By now you probably realize a trend. The first three guys on the list all dealt with technology, and it’d be great if there were plenty of other ways to make a billion dollars, but inventing, investing in and developing technology are proven ways to make it to your first cool billion fast. Most of you probably know this name because of the slick portrayal by Justin Timberlake in “The Social Network.” Even before he was helping Zuckerberg and other burgeoning tech companies out, he created one of the first (and best) ever music sharing networks. Oh, and by the way, he was only 17. That’s right, Sean Parker didn’t even consider going to college. He claimed developing and maintaining Napster was his college experience, aptly titling it “Napster University.” Which, of course, he was forced to drop out of by the countless lawsuits yielded against him by the record companies and the government … the same government that tried to recruit him into the CIA when he was a senior in high school and earning approximately $80,000 a year. Right now, he’s worth $2.1 billion and continues to conquer the tech world, with one of his most recent investments being — you guessed it — another “legal” music sharing company, Spotify. 

David Geffen

Finally, someone on the list that isn’t in technology … well, sort of. Geffen did help found DreamWorks, the counterpart to Jobs’ Pixar. That was after he made his money in the music industry. After going to and dropping out of three colleges, he knew school wasn’t for him. He got his education working in the mailroom at the Williams Morris Agency, where, surprise, surprise he soon became a talent agent. Then, starting in 1970, he founded Asylum Records, a label that once included such behemoth musicians as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Warren Zevon and the Eagles. After getting tired (somehow) of that crowd and invention, he founded Geffen Records (finally admitting he didn’t care — he was smart and rich enough to name anything after himself). One of this “new” record label’s early releases was the famous “Double Fantasy” by John Lennon (the album that skyrocketed up the charts, released after he was shot). Besides that “bigger-than-Jesus” Beatle, Geffen Records has released works by Blink 182, Elton John, Nirvana, Guns N’ Roses and Neil Young, to name a few. His net worth: $5.6 billion, and he owns two of the biggest yachts in the world, one 453 feet and the other just a measly 377 feet. 

Eike Batista

By now you’re probably sick of hearing about all of these rich (North) Americans who dropped out and made it big, so for the next guy, let’s talk South America, or to be more specific, Brazil. Considered one of the most influential people in the world and the most influential in Brazil, Eike basically owns the mining and oil industries in Brazil. Not only that, he’s the CEO of the EBX group which controls Brazil’s logistics, energy and off-shore services. He did go to college for a year in Germany, only to drop out and begin door-to-door sales. It was through those painful hours of just getting by that he gained, as he put it, “stress” to rise to the top. The spin on this guy is what he was and what he is now. In 2008, he was worth a massive $30 billion. Now, in 2013, his fortune has plummeted to a measly $200 million. How did he lose his money? Well the precious metal mining industry and the oil industry in Brazil just happened to plummet in the same year. Nonetheless, he’s an impressive character, and we’re pretty confident he has all of the skills to turn his fortune back up to the six-zero range.

Michael Dell

Well, Apple, Microsoft, it’s only logical this man should be included on the list. Dell is one of the world’s top three leading sellers of personal computers. An interesting fact: His first computer was an Apple II, which he received at 15 and immediately disassembled to see how it worked. Even after displaying early computer prowess, he chose to pursue a medical degree at the University of Texas, only to start earning real cash with his company that sold upgrade kits for personal computers. He started the company out of a condo, was soon making around $70,000 a year, and by 27 became the youngest CEO to have his company rated in Fortune’s 500. Notbad, for only going to college for a year tops. Now, Dell is a household brand, and he is worth $15.3 billion. He’s also still the CEO of the company he started in 1984.

Guy Laliberté

Probably the most interesting story on the list (besides perhaps the next one) is this homeless street performer turned world-renowned billionaire. Guy had a true dream from the beginning: to get paid doing what he loved, performing dancing and circus acts. This French Canadian went to college for a year only to drop out and try and follow his dream. For a very short period, he worked at a factory, but the workers went on strike, and he was fired. None of this hindered his dream, in fact he took it as a “sign from God,” and began performing in the streets of Quebec. There he began gathering minions of street performers, honing their talents and creating an act that received funding from the government, spread all over Canada and eventually moved to Las Vegas. If you haven’t guessed it by now, Guy Laliberté started Cirque du Soleil. His net worth: $2.6 billion. That’s not all. The show is now on five continents and has been performed in more than 40 countries. Even that’s not all. He’s also won a World Poker Tour event and has been to space — the International Space Station to be exact. Not bad for a twice homeless former “street” performer. 

Ralph Lauren

It’s hard to walk down the street on any college campus and not see someone wearing Polo, the brand started by this man. Like a lot of the others on the list, he had ambitions from early on, starting in high school when he used to sell ties to classmates. He attended Baruch College in Manhattan for two years, studying business only to drop out and join the military for two more years. Then finally, he hit his stride in the fashion world. After a stint at Brooks Brothers, he designed his own wide European-style tie that of course, they rejected. He left the store andbegan making them (out of discarded rags) and selling them. By a year later he had established the brand Polo and never looked back. He’s worth $6.5 billion and also has a vast rare car collection. Seems like he made it off pretty well, especially when you consider he used to get made fun for his name (his original name, Lifshitz) as a kid.

Ty Warner

Of all the people on this list, this guy definitely took the longest to reach a billion, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t do it with style. After a year at Kalamazoo College, a trip to Los Angeles to try and fail at acting, a two-decade stint at the Dakin plush toy factory, and a random sabbatical to Italy, he finally hit his stride around the tender age of 44. It was then, in 1986, when he invested all of his life savings and mortgaged his home to start Ty Inc., the company that released Beanie Babies seven years later. A whole generation had them growing up, and Ty’s gotta thank ‘em for that, considering in its heyday the company was earning around $700 million a year, and it was still privately owned by, you guessed it, Ty Warner. Now Ty Inc. has expanded its toy collection, and he’s invested in hotels and golf courses. So, while it took him nearly 50 years to get there, it’s definitely worth it. His net worth: $2.6 billion.

Side Note: The average worth of billionaires who dropped out of college is almost double that of those who got their undergraduate degree, a whopping 5.6 billion to 2.9 billion (and that’s adjusted to not include Bill Gates, which moves the number up to 9.3). So if you’ve got a billiondollar idea, your best bet is to drop out.