Britain’s entrepreneurs swap further education for life experience

Over half of the UK’s entrepreneurs ended their education journey by the age of 18 and a quarter left school at 16

Britain’s entrepreneurs swap further education for life experience

The world’s richest man, Bill Gates, proved that he didn’t need further education to create his wealth. After dropping out of the Ivy League university Harvard in his junior year, Gates went on to form Microsoft and we all know the rest. Similarly, dropping out of his degree never stopped Steve Jobs from monumental success with Apple and Pixar. Nor did an incomplete school education hinder our very own Richard Branson; he dropped out of school at just 16 to embark on his entrepreneurial adventure. We’re not encouraging youngsters to drop out of school here but we are noticing a trend.

And evidently we’re not the only ones: new research from Sage, the enterprise software company, shows that 51% of the UK’s entrepreneurs had quit the education system at 18 and only 26% had finished school at 16. A third of entrepreneurs started their entrepreneurial journey at a young age and had launched their own venture by the age of 30.

But whilst many agree forging their own path was the way to go way, there was no arguing amongst respondents that the skills they learnt during education were very important.

Of those surveyed, 64% felt that English was a vital skill and 63% felt that all their times tables and algebra headaches paid off in their entrepreneurial ventures. Unsurprisingly, tech skills are perceived to be important: 26% of entrepreneurs stated that, in retrospect, a heavier focus on IT and computer sciences would have been beneficial.

However, it is clear that these entrepreneurs have learned just as much from the University of Life as they have from academic education. Sage stated that the research highlights how the businesses community is led by entrepreneurs who value life experience over higher education.

“Although education is undoubtedly an integral factor in creating business success, this research confirms that it is still possible to follow in the footsteps of the Alan Sugar’s and Richard Branson’s of this world to pursue your own path at a young age,” said Lee Perkins, managing director of the start-up and small business division at Sage. “Small businesses will continue to be the bedrock of our growing economy, so we should celebrate that as a success of our enduring enterprising spirit as a nation.”

It’s fairly clear most entrepreneurs cannot satisfy their desires with education alone. We’ve seen from our very own pages that many entrepreneurs only flourish when they get out of the education system and start acting on the entrepreneurial itch. Evidently then you don’t necessarily need a degree if you want to be the next Alan Sugar: after all, who needs crippling university debts when you could be out there making millions? 

Jade Saunders
Jade Saunders

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