A 17-year-old founder raised money from VCs who didn't realize they were investing in a high school student - now the founder is debating dropping out

high school graduation hat toss


Quitting school to do a startup is all the rage these days. Billionaire VC Peter Thiel even has a special fellowship that encourages brilliant young people to do that.

However most of the time, students quit college not high school, following in the footsteps of Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg.

But teens are getting into tech at earlier and earlier ages. Writing apps, doing hackathons and such are all a standard means of getting internships at hot employers like Google and Facebook.Advertisement

Sometimes, the apps they write take off and teenagers who get VC funding are then are faced with a dilemma: Should they quit high school to work on the company, and is that what VCs would want?

That question was posed on Quora. The question came from an anonymous person who said they were a 17-year-old working on a startup with three others living in separate countries. The company raised money from investors who apparently didn't know the founder was a high school student. It's not clear how the founder was able to pull this off, although there are many ways to collect money over the internet from investors, including AngelList and Kickstarter.

Now, the Quora users says their venture capitalists want the team to be together in the same city and the student is asking for advice on relocating to a new school or quitting high school altogether.

"What should I do?" the founder asked.

Contrary to the idea that Silicon Valley wants smart, talented kids to quit school and run companies, investors told the student to stay in school."If you don't finish high school you're going to regret it for the rest of your life," answered angel investor Tim Berry, founder and chairman of Palo Alto Software, and co-founder of Borland International. Advertisement

Berry advised the founder to tell the investors that they were backing a 17-year old who intended to finish high school and perhaps college, and that this will likely impress them, not annoy them.

"You can do the coding and the schooling. I did. Lots of people do. ... Don't narrow future options now, when you're young," Berry writes.

Business Insider reached out to Berry about his advice.Advertisement

"I hate the idea that education is about career only, which leads to the sad logic of, 'if I'm an entrepreneur I don't need an education.' It's a damn shame that people pose education versus startups as an either-or question," Berry said.

It's a damn shame people pose education versus startups as an either-or question.

Berry co-founded Palo Alto Software and is an angel investor. His children are startup executives too. His son is Paul Berry, former CTO of The Huffington Post and founder of social platform Rebelmouse.

Berry pointed to research by the Kauffman Foundation from 2009 that showed, from 1995 through 2005, most successful tech entrepreneurs had college degrees and started their companies later in life. The exceptions of course are Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, who built Microsoft and Apple during that time, and dropped out of college. But they made it through high school.Advertisement