To study or to startup- that's the question


I am a 22 year old web developer. In the last three years I have been developing for the mobile and web platform. I've been hired with no degree, based on my skills solely. I am now faced with a very difficult decision of 2 very compelling options.

Now, I am now in a cross path in my life. Should I go and study for my first degree in computer science, in a well known university, or should I join a team of 3 very good friends who are also extremely talented (a doctor in electrical engineering and another two excellent developers) and start a start-up?

I am currently convinced that I have a wonderful idea. I want to give it a try, but don't want to postpone my studies anymore. I decided I'll give this idea a chance.

To my understanding building a start-up and pursuing this dream can take forever, that's why unless I give it a final deadline I believe that I won't study at all. That why I decided that if by one year I raise an investment of a million dollars, and in two years I can can make 10 million dollars, I will forget about studying. How unreal am I? Am I daydreaming?

What would you do?

thank you!


asked Jun 20 '11 at 05:06
584 points
  • "I can can make 10 million dollars" - you definitely need to go stady. Startups are not for you. – Ross 13 years ago
  • you mean study, right? So this is not a real cause, this is day dreaming you think? – Vondip 13 years ago
  • You haven't explained why you want to study and what you think you will get out of it. It would be helpful to know this to answer your question. – Susan Jones 13 years ago
  • I mean study. – Ross 13 years ago
  • There are other forms of startup than "Get VC millions and burn it as fast as possible" you know ;) – Ryan 13 years ago

11 Answers


If you can, get accepted at a good university, then use their flexible schedule to work on your projects on the side. It's usually ok to take a semester off to work on something, then come back, sign up for fewer classes any given semester... Enjoy the freedom that a university gives you, while pursuing whatever latest ideas you may have.

answered Jun 20 '11 at 06:22
Alain Raynaud
10,927 points


How unreal am I? Am I daydreaming?

You're probably daydreaming. Only a very small percentage of startups succeed, even when the key people on the team have done successful startups before and have piles of venture money. The chances of you and your three techie friends raising VC money and pulling a Zuckerberg with no serious business experience is miniscule.

And let's say the 99% probability occurs: you do the startup, you live on next to nothing and put in 90 hour weeks while trying to get some VC money, and the startup fails anyway. Are you really going to go get your degree when you're heartsick and depressed, and all you want to do is drink beer and sleep for six months?

If I were you, I'd go to university and get my degree - chances are if I didn't do it when I was young, I certainly wouldn't want to do it when I was older. I'd also hang around in my spare time at local tech incubators, startups, etc. in my spare time and try to see what works for them and what doesn't. Then, after I had my degree and had learned a lot about what mistakes not to make, I'd think about doing a startup. There are always tons of great ideas for startups; the difference between winners and losers is how you execute the ideas.

answered Jun 20 '11 at 07:04
Bob Murphy
2,614 points


I just graduated college, the same age you are and also have been developing my own start up company. I would have to agree with what everyone else is saying. There are points during the semester especially towards the beginning and right after midterms, where there is no work to do for classes. You go to class everyday for maybe 3-4 hours and have the rest of the day free. You might even get lucky and have Fridays off, if you can set your schedule right. You really should be able to do both at the same time. Also, I don't think there are many people that regret their decision to go to college and get a degree.

answered Jun 20 '11 at 07:30
71 points


This is a clear example of a both/and.

Go study. And do your start-up.

Choose the right college or university that embraces and nurtures the type of entrepreneurship that you crave. You will find yourself challenge and supported with access to connections and resources you will find rare later in life.

Yes, college/university is about learning -- it is also about connecting. Take advantage of the opportunity to really connect with the people in your field(s) and college network.

Many of the great stories of start-ups from Google to Jarvis Hearts, the market is fulled with great companies that got their started in the laboratories and study rooms of colleges and universities. (Check out this list from Inc. magazine of the "coolest" college start-ups in 2011 for inspiration.

Make yours the next one.

answered Jun 20 '11 at 13:04
Joseph Barisonzi
12,141 points


I'd go for studies first.

  • As older you get, as less patient you'll be with your colleagues
  • Your university can't 'fail' (actually it can, but...)
  • University experience is welcome and teaches you a lot. Not only gives you an opportunity to improve your tech skills (I did Computer Science too) but it also gives you two other things: life experience and networking. And Tech skills + Life experience + networking might improve your Startup succeed chances a lot, IMO.

But at the end... it's all on you.

answered Jul 6 '11 at 03:15
Tiago Cardoso
202 points


University is one of the best places to work on a startup. Flexible schedules, contacts, resources, and you'll get your degree.

answered Jun 20 '11 at 06:52
509 points


Go to university AND do a start-up. University is NOT a full-time job, especially since you'll be majoring in the area that you already know much about - should be a breeze. Instead of partying hard & doing kag-stands you could work on your wonderful idea. Also, in university it might be easier/cheaper to recruit for your start-up. There are tons of other talented people with tons of free time on their hands. Good luck either way!!!)

answered Jun 20 '11 at 22:03
66 points


all answers here suggest the safer choice, and i'm not an exception, although.. I'll say go to college until your start-up is too big to handle along with school. Now since you guys haven't got a solid idea for the start-up then school will be a great pool of ideas and suggestions. Then when your start-up is growing it's not too late to get out of schools or make adjustments

answered Jun 20 '11 at 22:43
Huyen Nguyen
1 point


In case you cannot do a startup and University at the same time (few people could as both require long hours of investment) please consider this:

Do the startup with the condition that if that effort dissolves or becomes a clear failure, you drop everything and go get your degree. I wouldn't want to see you start school with a bitter feeling you never tried. Go try - if you make it - great. if not, time to go to school and get a degree. You wouldn't believe how many fruitful business relationships start at school - especially computer science, between likeminded people who have real world experience a already. It's a startup petri-dish.

Go try your startup. but don't give it 5 years. Give it a year or so. If it's still on ground level then, consider switching tracks in your life and go after a degree

answered Jun 20 '11 at 23:56
Ron M.
4,224 points


So I did the dual route:

  1. 60+ hours a week at work
  2. full time student for 2 Masters

How? Don't party. Give up your social life for a few years. But, guarantee that if the startup fails you still have your degree. Having said that, if I had chosen programming as my area of expertise - I probably would have skipped school.

answered Jun 21 '11 at 06:28
Chris Kluis
1,225 points
  • how do masters stands in compression to first degree is the field of computer science? Are they as demanding? – Vondip 13 years ago
  • Hard for me to say since I didn't study CS, but I would guess equally hard (if not intellectually definitely in volume). As someone blessed by good fortune and a good education - I would never dissuade someone from college, but are you sure studying Computer Science in college makes sense for you? Should you study something else (math, engineering, physics, etc) that is related, but still different? Or should you focus on improving your coding skills via 100s of blogs, books, and hardwork/grit? – Chris Kluis 13 years ago


It's a false choice.

Start by asking yourself a hard question about University. You say that you "don't want to postpone [your] studies anymore," which suggests to me that this is a path you wanted to take before but it didn't work out.

Student life may be the daydream you need to wake up from. The moment has passed, and you've taken another path. You've shown you're talented, you're developing your skills, and now you have an opportunity to be one of four co-founders working on an idea you're excited about at a stage in your lives where you can give it your best shot.

Think about that for a while. Forget fame and wealth: those may come, but probably won't, through your startup. Just focus on what it's like to ditch the dream of a college degree.

If that feels wrong, then you know what you have to do. Take the chance to study while it's still there and you're still of an age where you can fit right in with the younger student intake.

In that case, you haven't lost the chance to work with your friends, though it definitely changes the relationship. And it certainly doesn't stop you taking paid work or pursuing startup opportunities around your studies.

If you do take that fork in the road, your primary commitment is getting that degree. You'll need to remember that, because it's hard keeping focus on a course where you're asked to study theory when you're already accomplished in the practice.

answered Jun 21 '11 at 23:16
Jeremy Parsons
5,197 points

Your Answer

  • Bold
  • Italic
  • • Bullets
  • 1. Numbers
  • Quote
Not the answer you're looking for? Ask your own question or browse other questions in these topics: