While writing about self-taught programmers, we realised that many — including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg — have dropped out of formal education.

Instead, they opt for non-traditional learning methods and prefer to take on educational routes less travelled.

We take a look at the several programmers and tech entrepreneurs who’ve dropped out of college to pursue their dreams in the tech industry:

Bill Gates


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Bill was initially accepted into Harvard, Princeton and Yale. He eventually chose to go to Harvard but dropped out to pursue computer programming using BASIC. Together with his friend, Paul Allen, Bill started Microsoft in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In 2007, Bill was given an honorary doctorate by Harvard for his contributions to the technology sector.

Larry Ellison

Before becoming the founder of Oracle, Larry was so poor, he had to drop out of college twice and work odd jobs to support himself. However, this all changed when Larry got a job in programming at Ampex and taught himself to programme. One of Larry’s responsibilities was building a database for the CIA. He eventually left Ampex and was so inspired by his time there that he decided to start his own database management company, which later became Oracle.

Jack Dorsey









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Banana phone!


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Besides teaching himself to code, Jack also dropped out of college and took on several odd jobs before starting Twitter.

While studying at New York University, Jack developed the idea for Twitter and dropped out just one semester before graduating to pursue it. Needless to say, his risky endeavour paid off as Jack is now the CEO of several companies.

Mark Zuckerberg


Perhaps one of the most famous programmers who dropped out of college, Mark left Harvard University to focus on running Facebook.

To honour his contributions to the tech industry, Harvard did eventually give this entrepreneur an honorary degree.

Evan Williams

Just like his friend, Jack, Evan Williams — formerly of Twitter – was also a college dropout.

Evan attended the University of Nebraska for a year before leaving to take on a freelance job in information systems.

Jan Koum

According to sources, the former Whatsapp founder was a total tyrant in school but was highly interested in programming.

By the time he was 18, he had taught himself how to code and programme through manuals he found in a used book store.

Despite his difficult childhood, Jan managed to get enrolled in San Jose State University. To pursue his tech dream, Jan decided to get a job at Yahoo and after two weeks of working there, he decided to quit school and commit to the job.