Some kids are skipping college entirely and heading straight into business, pointing to the success of dropouts like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, and Mark Zuckerberg. But unschooled entrepreneurship is unlikely to end happily for most.
The Thiel Foundation president points out that "the safe career track is totally broken." Lawyers can be laid off; janitors have PhDs. This is true. But encouraging kids to blow off schoolwork to write apps, or skip college to become entrepreneurs, is like advising them to take their college money and invest it in PowerBall. A few may win big; many or most will end up living with their moms.
Facebook had 2,400 employees in 2011; 3,500 in 2012; 4,900 in 2013; and 6,300 today. With about 1,400 net hires per year, getting a job at Facebook is only slightly more likely than getting drafted into the NFL. Twitter has 2,700 employees; Dropbox has 550; Snapchat has 21. The combined global workforces of Groupon, Facebook, LinkedIn, Zynga, Yelp, Pandora, and Zillow is smaller than the number that Circuit City fired in January 2009 when it was liquidated.
The message for aspiring entrepreneurs? Stay in school, and resist the lure of quick success. In introductory economics courses in college, kids learn about "opportunity costs" and the "time value of money." Though ,000 seems like a lot to a high school senior, it's hardly a great choice for entrepreneurs or anyone else if it comes at the expense of an education that yields a far higher lifetime income, a more agile mind, and a more rewarding life.
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