There are exceptions to almost every rule and whether you go to college before creating a startup is heatedly contested and there are startup giants standing of both sides of the debate. The answer for most prepared individuals is clear; and it is that they should begin the startup right away because innovation does not wait for anything or anyone. Please note I said prepared individuals for not everyone is prepared straight out of high school to create a startup and with super rare exceptions it takes more than one person to do it right. The main reason I say it is clear that the person should start right away is that entrepreneurship and innovations are in and of themselves a profession like any other. The debate over college would be a non-debate if we have a shift in paradigm and see entrepreneurship as a profession. The course of study is in the streets after some kind of crash course to fine tune certain critically needed skills, but only the hard knocks of real life experiences can make an entrepreneur a successful and exceptional professional—college takes too long to teach, wastes too much time, and is the wrong teaching format for this profession.
Entrepreneurship is a highly unusual profession for sure, but it is a profession, and one that requires great passion, discipline, perseverance, and usually multiple failures to receive a PhD-level education in it. This profession should not be seen as a waste of time or just as a risk taken by anxious individuals, it should be valued as any other profession is valued. It may be a profession that does not make much money for a long time and that requires great sacrifice but so are other honorable professions such as teaching, cooking, and acting. Entrepreneurship may not have a standard course curriculum or even much structure but it is a profession that develops, like with athletes, over time and with a great deal of effort and practice that no traditional college can provide!
The key feature of this profession like that of most sports is that practice makes perfect and the only thing that can teach an entrepreneur the ropes is real life experiences. Entrepreneurs are like pro athletes in a team sport (rarely an individual star athlete). Like in sport teams the only way to play well is to have a well-rounded team that includes technical people, innovators, and business people because entrepreneurship is a team profession. After having the right mix in your team you must have a crash course in the mechanics of innovation and entrepreneurship that will let you create a good business out of the innovation rather than just throwing it out there hit or miss. The 12 week incubators or accelerators are perfect for this focused education but this education can also be achieved with key mentors, advisors, and in some rare cases the right active investors. The knowledge of how to guide it along is absolutely needed but can be taught in a very short period of time. The experience to reach enterprise levels may take much more experience than the original team has but if they get it to a certain point the business can hire the right executives to give it wings much like Google and Yahoo did when they were very young—and later as the founders matured and got their Entrepreneur PhDs they were able to take control once again.
Do not see entrepreneurship as a risk, but as a profession and see the time spent on it as its special form of “college”. Fail or succeed do not matter to this profession because like in science, measured failure teaches and does not usually create a black mark. If a young person truly has the restless entrepreneurial spirit, what better time to test it then right away while they are very energetic and have a very open mind? Would you advise a writer or a painter or a musician to wait to write or paint or play music until after college? Most likely not, then why would you ask an entrepreneur with the same passion as those passionate professions to do so?
It is best to have tried and discovered that you do not have what it takes right away so you can delay formal education by just a little bit then to get frustrated by delaying the inevitable. The sad alternative is to withhold the screaming drive for 4 years or more, get sidetracked by life, and turn that restless adventurous spirit into a bitter regret. Instead of seeing the attempts as risking too much and throwing away of time see it an alternative education, a disruption in education that returns it to a modern form of apprenticeship and see it as a valuable profession and valuable pursuit!
Rey Tamayo is Founder and CEO at ReyNovation.com, Tech Startup Strategist Consultant, and Co-Founder of EventGO. He is also a Tech and Inspirational blogger often guest blogging at various sites. His Twitter Handle is @PhatInnovator. Feel free to contact him.