I never thought we’d be in this position. If someone would have told us three years ago that we would actually be okay with Joshua, our teen CEO, not going to college directly from high school, we’d have told you that you were crazy. Gwen, his mom, still wants him to go someday as a backup plan. Something true entrepreneurs seldom have.
Our thinking was that a legitimate opportunity for Joshua to start his own tech company was not one he could pass up. If the business becomes a lifestyle business or fails, then Joshua can still go to college. Most of us go to college to gain knowledge in an area that hopefully starts us down a career path, typically working for someone else. If you have an opportunity to start that career path early and make some money quickly, why not take it. What convinced us was Joshua’s clear passion for technology, his insatiable appetite to learn the necessary skills and to do so on his own time, and his obvious gift to see new products and solutions clearly in his mind.
Due to the timing of his startup effort, he still applied to colleges. That, as it turned out, was almost a full time job all by itself. He focused on schools with highly ranked entrepreneurship, design or technology programs. He applied to a dozen or so schools, was accepted to Babson, Baylor, and Rensselaer Poly, and offered over $100k in scholarships. Early on, we thought Joshua was headed toward Electrical Engineering as a major but his experience in the ARK Challenge business accelerator uncovered his passion and talent for product design. At that point we realized that no matter what Joshua ended up majoring in, he is, and probably always will be, an entrepreneur. My experience is that college curriculum doesn’t teach that very well. We thought that if he was in an entrepreneurial environment, he would immerse himself in that culture and access the resources surrounding it to continue to create and build products and companies, no matter what was going on in the classroom.
So we went through the application process but never pulled the trigger. Since being selected for $150k investment in the ARK Challenge, his company has raised an additional $100k in investment and Joshua is running the company full time. For now, college is not on the radar. Until his company starts to bend the growth curve, his mom still holds out hope for college. Should he go to college, he won’t need to major in entrepreneurship, he is already earning that degree.
THE TAKEAWAY: Be open to non-traditional paths, regardless of how intimidating they may be. The rigidity of high school and college schedules, and their associated academic requirements, make it difficult. If the passion and drive are there, it can work and you are not alone.