For centuries now we have seen and experienced the tug-of-war between formal education and hands-on experience, especially in business and entrepreneurship. The question is -  should you skip college to launch your startup? Read expert advice on whether you should continue college or drop out to start a business.

Learning by doing - Gilad Shamri, CEO of Growth Artists

It does seem like many successful business owners these days have dropped out of school. In fact, out of the top 400 wealthiest people in 2017, forty-four of them were college dropouts— a whopping 11 percent of the richest people on the planet. Technically, having a college degree does not prepare you for entrepreneurship, according to a Growth Marketing Consultant and serial entrepreneur Gilad Shamri. He is the founder and CEO of Growth Artists, the go-to growth marketing agency for startups and well-established businesses in the United States. Since 2018, he has helped hundreds of companies achieve rapid and sustainable growth. Among his clients are Powtoon (a world-leading video and presentation creation platform with over 25 million users) and Quando (acquired by Wix).

Gilad had begun his entrepreneurial journey with his first startup at eighteen and since then he has never looked back. “Experience is worth more than theoretical knowledge. But many millennials are afraid to try starting their own company because they have always been told that entrepreneurship is only for the rich” he said. Today, Shamri is considered one of the best “growth hackers” in the world, and his agency, Growth Artists, is fully booked out till 2022. Since 2018, he successfully “growth hacked” thousands of American and Israeli companies, including several Y Combinator-backed startups. Using his many years of experience in growth marketing, he created a new, data-driven lean startup methodology for building a successful business by experimenting, testing, and iterating. He encourages millennials to apply this method to find out what to do next in their life.

“The lean startup is not just a method, but a way of life.”

Gilad, who founded his first start-up from the hospital believes that not every person is made to be an entrepreneur and to run a company.  Entrepreneurship is a risky ordeal and the success stories we hear on the news or social media about young college dropouts becoming billionaires are not very common. So, if Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg are the reason you want to drop out - then stop right there! In fact, 9 out of 10 startups fail in the very first year of establishment. This means that the initial risk of starting your own business is very high.

Dropping out of school is a big decision, one that needs to be thought through. Having a college degree can act as a safety net in case your startup fails, and you need to re-enter the job market. This is why, according to Gilad, before taking any decision it is better to try the lean startup method. He said that if you wanted to find out what to do next in your life, you just had to start an experiment – whatever it may be. If you plan to be a doctor, then just try to spend a couple of months volunteering as an EMT. See if you are ready to make sacrifices, work long hours, deal with traumatic events – and change paths or keep going. According to Gilad, the same method can be also applied by novice entrepreneurs.

Validate your assumptions before dropping out

Gilad emphasizes the benefits of using lean startup with everyday decisions. “Define a direction – a field you enjoy, a product, or a dream – and then just get started. Define your essentials, get initial traction, test it out, and keep iterating. You do not need to drop out of school to do this. You can easily stay in school and test your assumptions and ideas while you are studying”. According to Gilad, the methodology helps to reduce a future entrepreneur’s exposure to risk.

As explained by the CEO of Growth Artists, lean startup methodology favors experimentation over business planning, immediate feedback over the entrepreneur’s intuition, and gradual cyclical product development in collaboration with the market. This method, together with concepts such as “pivot” and “minimum viable product”, are increasingly in use, amongst new startups as well as in study programmes at the best global business schools and big companies, namely everywhere where a new product needs to be developed in highly uncertain circumstances.

Gilad feels that taking this approach may help young people to find out what is the right direction in their career. Experimentation and iteration are often necessary for realizing what we want to do in life. There are several questions you need to ask yourself before choosing entrepreneurship over college – you should evaluate your skills, passion, experience and support system.

Follow the passion when it is time

At the same time, he encourages millennials to pursue their passion for entrepreneurship. According to Gilad, it is also important to identify at what point your business needs your full attention. Sometimes, great ideas cannot wait, and spending four years in college will result in missed opportunities.

Gilad feels that if you have a business idea you want to work on and develop, there is no harm in taking a break from school to develop it. Staying in school for many years is a long time, especially for those who are getting a degree for the heck of it.

“Wasting four years of your time doing something you are not even passionate about, is a lot of time to waste. In four years, you can test more than a dozen ideas for products and launch a successful startup.”

Bill Gates may have dropped out, but he had his business idea and plan ready for a long time before he left his school. The sad truth is that 90% of startups fail to ever make it past year one. If a young entrepreneur decides to drop out of school and goes all-in on an idea that fails, it often spells the end of the business. For those millennials who want to follow their entrepreneurial goals, it might not be such a bad idea to first try lean startup methodology to mitigate this risk.