Think it's too hard to start a business in college? Think again. Here are some entrepreneurs getting started before the diploma.
College tuition costs are skyrocketing all over the country. Regardless of what students choose to major in, and what campus they’re attending, college has proven to be quite the entrepreneurial breeding ground.
Take a look at some of the coolest businesses to ever come out of the dorm room.
George Otte – Geeks on Site
Miami entrepreneur George Otte’s story is an interesting one. He started his first business at 21-years old, to help pay his tuition bills. What began as a job at a local bank, transformed into TSS, where he provided technical support services. By the end of 2005, the company had well over 100 clients, the majority of which were local to the South Florida area.
The following year, he acquired Geeks on Site, a Dallas-based computer repair, and technical support provider. With that, he set out to make the company a nationwide name, opening locations in various competitive markets, including Miami.
By the 2010s, his company had grown to more than 100 employees, and he now serves as the founder and president of the Miami-based Otte Polo Group. The portfolio has grown beyond technical support and computer repair to include call center and answering services, real estate and property management, and fulfillment and direct mail services.
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Mark Zuckerberg – Facebook
Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook are household names at this point, thanks to the popularity of the social network. His story of creating Facebook even spawned the movie, The Social Network. What began in 2004 as a way for college students to connect with one another has since pivoted to a social network for everyone, and grown into an $350-billion-dollar business with acquisitions like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Oculus VR. The platform is so successful, Zuckerberg dropped out of college.
Christopher Gray – Scholly
Scholly is an app designed to help college students find scholarships to pay for college. Christopher Gray is the co-founder who appeared on Shark Tank. He walked away with a $40,000 deal and two sharks Daymond John and Lori Greiner. His app, which sells for 99 cents, sold 92,000 downloads before the show aired in 2015. Inc. Magazine selected Scholly as one of the top college startups, and BET chose him as one of their 30 under 30.
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Ben Lewis – Give Water
Ben Lewis started Give Water the summer before he enrolled at the University of Pennsylvania. The business was founded on donating a portion of the sales of each bottled water to charity, but there’s a twist. The bottles are available in four colors: green, blue, pink, and orange. Green bottles donate to environmental causes; pink donates to breast cancer research. Though the business closed in 2013, Lewis has gone on to various other entrepreneurial projects, and now serves as the co-founder of Little Spoon Organic, a fresh baby food company.
Michael Dell – Dell
Another household name, Michael Dell started the company out of his garage at age 19, in 1984. He was a pre-med student at the University of Texas at Austin. He revolutionized the personal computer market by providing custom PCs. The market responded well, and Dell dropped out of college to pursue his entrepreneurial dreams. With a net worth of $22.7 billion, It paid off, don’t you think?
Evan Spiegel & Robert Murphy – SnapChat
How many times have you sent a picture or video, only to regret it seconds later? Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy developed the app in 2011, then known as Picaboo, to alleviate that issue. People can set pictures and video to disappear within one to 10 seconds after they are sent and if someone takes a screenshot, you’re notified. As of May 2015, there were 100 million daily active users, and as of January 2016, there’s an average of 9,000 snaps per second.
Justin Cannon & Chris Varenhorst – Lingt Language
MIT students who were preparing to study abroad, Cannon and Varenhorst struggled with learning a new language. There were plenty of solutions to help people learn on their own, but what came out of their personal struggle was a completely different approach.
Lingt Editor is an app that allows teachers create customized assignments featuring text, images, audio, and video. Students can record themselves speaking and submit their audio through a web browser. There’s a deal in the works to pilot the application in high schools across Kansas City. As the platform grows, we may see it in schools nationwide.
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Jean-Pierre Adechi, Steve Delor, & Alexandre Ayache – Wheeli
Wheeli is a ride-share app, similar to Uber, except is for college students, by college students. The three founders are taking their piece of the NYC ride-share pie. The key difference between Wheeli and other ride-share services in the area is that drivers are fellow students who are traveling similar routes, either to events, or their home. To sign up, students are required to have a valid .edu mailing address. There’s also the ability to filter based on gender, smoking status, music preferences, and more, to make sure your journey is as comfortable as possible.
The American entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and the proof is in college students who are working to change the world as we know it. Did you start a business in college? I launched my web design and content creation business in 2008 before finishing my Interactive Media Design degree. Though I haven’t given the world anything as awesome as Facebook, Dell, or Snapchat, running my business has been a life-altering experience.