Aitthipat Kulapongvanich, Tob

Only One Good Reason to Drop Out of College

Dropping Out of College

In recent years countless parents have to face this challenging question from their children – about dropping out of college. These are the children who were lucky enough to matriculate and admitted to universities and colleges. Children in Gen Y, the Millennials, often cited the success of their cult heroes Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. Their heroes had famously dropped out of college and succeeded exponentially too! And so did Jack Dorsey and Sean Parker and the list gets longer. Each of them had one compelling reason to drop out of college, and it is simply that their project cannot wait, or face the loss of first mover's advantage. Here are their inspirational stories:

The Billionaires

** Bill Gates enrolled at prestigious Harvard in the autumn of 1973. In early 1975 the microcomputer MITS Altair 8800 using the Intel 8080 CPU, was launched. Gates and Paul Allen saw the opportunity to start their own computer software company. Gates dropped out of Harvard at that time to focus on starting a company to do just that. Microsoft was born. Some years later, Forbes had stated that Gates's net worth stood at $67b.

** Steve Jobs graduated from high school in 1972 and enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. Too expensive a college for his adopted parents, Jobs dropped out of college after just six months. He spent the next 18 months dropping in on creative classes, including a course on calligraphy. In 1976, Jobs and Wozniak formed their own business, which they named "Apple Computer Company." We remember him for the iPod, iPhone and iPad.

** Mark Zuckerberg enrolled, like Gates, at Harvard in September 2002. He dropped out of Harvard in his sophomore year to focus on his Facebook project. On February 4, 2004, Zuckerberg launched "Thefacebook", originally located at Facebook went public in May 2012. From Forbes, his net worth is $13.3 billion.

** Jack Dorsey dropout from New York University to focus on completing his Twitter project where he made a name for himself as the creator of  the 140-character microblogging company Twitter. He is also the founder of Square, a mobile payment company. His net worth is $1.1 billion.

** Sean Parker convinced his parents to allow him to skip college since he was already earning more than $80,000 a year from his computer projects. So at 19, he skipped college and co-founded the music swapping site Napster. He was Facebook's first president. His net worth is $2 billion.

Tao Kae Noi Story

** Aitthipat Kulapongvanich, or Tob, from Thailand struggled to complete high school and was not impressed by his education in college. Unlike the 5 star dropouts, Tob's story is worth re-telling and shared with all my younger readers as well as the baby boomers. As a member of Gen Y, I believe they have challenges, issues and dilemmas made more acute by a rapidly changing world of the internet and social media, vacillating states of the economy and job instabilities. His youthful energetic perseverence to turn "problems into opportunities" in pursuing his dreams to become the prince of seaweed snacks under the Tao Kae Noi brand deserve to be a business school case study. 

Tob In A Movie

There is a movie, based on Tob's story, that has been on its popular rounds in Thailand. The synopsis of the movie goes like this: What are you doing at his age? At 16, Tob 'earned' 400,000 Bahts (US$12,300) monthly from playing on-line computer games. At 17, he was willing to accept failing in school in order to earn money from selling chestnuts for 2,000 baht. Then at 18, his family went bankrupt and was 40 million Baht (US$ 1.2M) in debt. Finally at 19, he released ‘Tao Kae Noi’ seaweed to more than 3,000 branches of the 7-Eleven convenience store chain. Presently, Tob is a 26-year-old businessman and the owner of the best -selling seaweed in Thailand and commanding a 70% share.

One More Time – Stay In School, Unless…

This is a very popular post, read by both the kids in Gen Y and the parents. It is in fact amongst my Top 10 posts since I started my Retire – Do What? site on 26 September 2012. Upon reviewing the issue, I discovered that the just-premiered TV sitcom Silicon Valley by HBO may be over-glamourising "dropping out of college". Stay tune for my next post. 

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