Starting up vs Formal Degree

Recently, I had this discussion with a friend that brought to light the old age dilemma: the choice between pursuing a college degree, and the path of entrepreneurship or joining an early-stage startup. Traditionally, society, including my own family, has leaned heavily towards academic glory, valuing the potential for increased earnings and the prestige it brings. In contrast, the entrepreneurial route, while riskier and with uncertain success rates, offers great learning opportunities and a chance to go deep into the real-world challenges.

The odds of success increase when an entrepreneur targets a niche or a large growing industry. In my experience, I would always prefer collaborating with someone who has hands-on experience in creating a product that resonates with customers within an industry, over someone who possesses theoretical knowledge gained through academic courses or degrees. Gaining deep industry insights is challenging, often not achievable without direct customer interaction and understanding their pain. An entrepreneur invests years in this process, unlike a university student whose focus is often on achieving a high GPA and creating a shiny CV (nothing bad about it).

In the past decade, the mindset in India has shifted remarkably. Entrepreneurship is now celebrated, partly thanks to popular shows like Shark Tank India. My own beliefs have undergone significant change through my experience working in different startups. I doubt such a drastic change in perspective would have been possible had I been enrolled in a Master’s program. I am not debating the fact that someone’s entrepreneurial journey can also start post-college degree. What I am trying to evaluate are two different options at a given time with industry understanding, learning as the core metrics.

Despite this evolving mindset, there’s still a long journey ahead . In my case, if the opportunity arises again to work on a challenging problem with a good team in the future, I would seize it without any hesitation.


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