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10 college dropouts who built business empires

Last updated on: August 23, 2012 12:55 IST

10 college dropouts who built business empires

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They never went to college...yet they own some of the world's biggest businesses. Meet some of the world's most successful people in business and self-made billionaires.

Bill Gates
Co-Founder/Chairman, Microsoft
Net worth:  $61 bn (March 2012)

The world's best known billionaire, co-founded one of the world's largest software companies -- Microsoft.

He eas interested in computer programming since the age of 13. In 1973, Gates joined Harvard University. While at Harvard, Gates developed a version of the programming language BASIC for the first microcomputer - the MITS Altair.

In his junior year, Gates left Harvard to spend more time in Microsoft, a company he started in 1975 with his childhood friend Paul Allen.

Hailed as one of the chief architects of the personal computing revolution, he is also a great philanthropist donating billions of dollars to charity across the globe.

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Image: Bill Gates.
Photographs: Reuters.

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Michael Dell
Founder/CEO, Dell
Net worth:  $15.9 billion (March 2012)

Michael Dell became an entrepreneur at a young age of 12, made his first $1,000 by selling stamps, and later sold newspaper subscriptions for Houston Post, making enough money to buy a BMW at 16.

Michael Dell later founded Dell Inc, one of the world's most successful IT companies.

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Image: Michael Dell.
Photographs: Reuters.

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Paul Allen
Co-Founder, Microsoft
Net worth: $14.2 billion (March 2012)

Paul Allen is an American investor and philanthropist best known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporation along with Bill Gates, a leading developer of personal-computer software systems and applications.

He is also the founder and chairman of Vulcan Inc., which manages his business and philanthropic efforts.

Allen co-founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, and began marketing a BASIC programming language interpreter.

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Image: Paul Allen.
Photographs: Robert Sorbo/Reuters.

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Mark Zuckerberg
Founder and CEO, Facebook
Net worth: $12.1 billion (July 2012)

Mark Zuckerberg is best known as one of four co-founders of the social networking site Facebook.

While still in middle school, he took up writing software programs as a hobby, beginning with BASIC, with help from his father.His father then hired a tutor to help his son develop his programming skills further.

He later joined Harvard, majoring in computer science and sociology. He wrote a program called Facemash as a 'fun' project, letting students on the college's network vote on other students' attractiveness.

Though it was shut down within days, it became the template for his writing Facebook, a program he launched from his dormitory room in 2004.

With the help of friends, he took Facebook to other campuses nationwide and soon after moved to Palo Alto, California.
By 2010, the site had an estimated 500 million users worldwide

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Image: Mark Zuckerberg fist bumps a student at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Photographs: Brian Snyder/Reuters.

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Ralph Lauren
CEO, Polo Ralph Lauren
Net worth of $7.5 bn (March 2012)

Ralph Lauren dreamt of becoming a millionaire at a very young age.

He went to Baruch College to study business but dropped out after two years. From 1962 to 1964, he served in the United States Army.

He then worked as a salesman for Brooks Brothers. In 1967, with the financial backing of Manhattan clothing manufacturer Norman Hilton, Lauren opened a necktie store where he also sold ties of his own design, under the label 'Polo'.

He later received the rights to use the trademark Polo from Brooks Brothers. By 2007, Ralph Lauren had over 35 boutiques in the United States.

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Image: Ralph Lauren.
Photographs: Reuters.

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Steve Jobs
Founder, Apple
Net worth: $7 billion (Sept 2011) 

Steve Jobs is no more but his story will continue to inspire people for years to come.

Steve Jobs dropped out of Reed College after one semester and went to work on designing games. Later, he teamed up with Steve Wozniak, an engineer to start a business.

In 1975, at the age of 20, Jobs and Wozniak started working on the Apple I prototype.

Apple Inc today designs and markets consumer electronics, computer software, and personal computers.

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Image: Steve Jobs is shown in this combination photo of file photographs.
Photographs: Reuters.

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Micky Arison
CEO, Carnival
Net Worth: $4.7 bn (As of March 2012)

Micky Arison started his career in the sales department of Carnival. He worked his way to become the to reservations manager in 1974.

Later, he became the vice president of passenger traffic. After three years, he was promoted as president of the company.

Arison played a crucial role in helping the company acquire Holland America Line, Windstar Cruises and Westours, making Carnival to become one of leaders in the cruise lines industry.

In 1987, he was appointed chairman of the board and in 2003 he reached the highest position in the company as CEO.

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Image: Micky Arison.
Photographs: Reuters.

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Richard Branson
Founder and CEO, Virgin Group
Net worth: $ 4.2 billion (2012)

Richard Branson could not even complete high school as he suffered from dyslexia. But that did not deter him from pursuing his ambitions.

His first business venture was a magazine called Student at the age of 16. In 1970, he set up an audio-record mail-order business.

In 1972, he opened a chain of record stores, Virgin Records, later known as Virgin Megastores.

Branson's Virgin brand grew rapidly during the 1980s, as he set up Virgin Atlantic Airways and expanded the Virgin Records music label.

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Image: Richard Branson waves a model of the LauncherOne cargo spacecraft from a window of an actual size model of SpaceShipTwo on display.
Photographs: Luke MacGregor/Reuters.

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Alfred Taubman
Founder, Taubman Centers
Net Worth: $2.5 bn (March 2012)

Alfred Taubman's rags-to-riches story is inspiring. Taubman's parents lost everything in the Depression of the 1930s. At the age of 9, he to find work to support the family. He has said of that time in his life: "I really wanted to make some money."

Though Taubman wanted to study architecture at the University of Michigan, he dropped out.

The modern shopping mall concept was the stepping stone to his success. Taubman pioneered the modern shopping mall concept. He has been hailed as a 'legend in retailing' by CBS News.

His idea to develop upscale shopping malls paid off and turned Taubman Centers into a retailing powerhouse.

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Image: Alfred Taubman.


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Richard Schultz
Founder/Former CEO, Best Buy
Net worth: $2 bn (March 2012)

Richard Schultz started working as a paperboy at age 11. After serving in the military, Schultz helped his father in his electronic components business.

Later, he founded his own company, The Sound of Music, selling audio components, tapes, and instruments. Later, in the 1980s, he added more products and named his company Best Buy.

Best Buy Co, Inc is today a specialty retailer of consumer electronics in the United States, accounting for 19 percent of the market.


Image: Richard Schultz.
Photographs: Courtesy, Best Buy.

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