Editorial: Do you want to be the next Bill Gates? Just do it

By The Pitt News Editorial Staff

When Matt Mullenweg and Sahil Lavingia decided it was the right decision to pursue their startup dreams instead of obtaining a degree, they inspired many others to follow this path to success.

Mullenweg, the founder of Automattic, the company behind WordPress, dropped out of the University of Houston in 2004 to produce a website design platform that now powers 16 percent of the web.

Lavingia, a dropout of the University of Southern California, became the second employee and primary designer behind Pinterest. After working at Pinterest for a year, he decided to start up his own company: Gumroad. The company raised $7 million in its Series A round from Kleiner Perkins Caulfield and Byers, a seed-investment company.

Yet universities such as the University of California-Berkeley, Harvard University and Stanford University, among others, have made efforts to retain students that are striving to enter the workforce with their startup ideas.

Many students, promised funding for their projects from seed-investment firms and venture capitalists, have either dropped out or left school to pursue their ideas. This epidemic has caused nationwide worry for university administrators.

To combat this, colleges such as Harvard and Stanford have revamped their investment strategies with regard to offering students university funding for their startup ideas. Their goal, which is shared by a multitude of universities with research emphases, is to alleviate the pressure students face when deciding between entrepreneurship and school. Harvard’s The Experiment Fund and Stanford’s StartX are investment funds that essentially lessen that burden.

Congruently, Pitt’s Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence has helped to fund 800 startup companies in the past 20 years. By offering a multitude of fellowships, workshops and grants, the institute is able to foster future entrepreneurs into successful business owners. Efforts such as these need to be pursued to ensure that universities stay competitive with outside investment funds and venturists. It is important for students to receive an education and use it to help facilitate their future plans.

However, educational institutions should only offer university funding as an option, instead of as a deterrent to combat the issue of students dropping out to pursue their ideas. Valuing the aspirations of students is a characteristic every university encompasses, and it is a characteristic that should be applied to everyone, especially to the next Lavingia, Mullenweg or Zuckerberg.