Academia Or The University Of Life For The Internet Entrepreneur?

Academia Or The University Of Life For The Internet Entrepreneur?


You are eighteen something, you want to be an entrepreneur, and you weigh the pros and cons of The University of Life and Academia.

You are enchanted by the success stories of the billionaire college drop-outs, Bill Gates, Steve Case, Marc Zuckerberg… What to do? What course of action will enhance your chances of success most?

I have just finished a two-year stint as Chief Learning Officer of Naspers (market cap USD70billion). During the past two years, my position gave me a unique vantage point on global entrepreneurship.

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I had the privilege to meet and see at close quarters how some of the best entrepreneurs that Naspers invested in across Latin America, Eastern Europe, the Near East, the Indian sub-continent and Malaysia (those who built multi-million US Dollar enterprises) achieved and maintained success.

Keep in mind

Before I reveal the detail of the results, keep in mind that we look at a special kind of entrepreneur; these are Internet entrepreneurs and, within this select group, e-commerce entrepreneurs.

They are into online classified advertising, online money transfer, market places, price comparison sites, online media and entertainment.

This is certainly a highly selective group in a selective industry. There will be many other paths to success for the aspiring entrepreneur. 

So what’s surprising?

We looked at the top 30 entrepreneurs Naspers invested in and here is the most surprising observation: Not even one of them conformed to the college drop-out template!

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One path to entrepreneurial success?

So what should the young entrepreneur do? What advice should the parent of an aspiring entrepreneur give?

There are many paths to entrepreneurial success, but looking at our sample of entrepreneurs, I can definitely recommend the follow path as well:

  1. Without a doubt, you must go to university.
  2. Secondly there is really no doubt about which course you should take. The answer is unequivocal: Software engineering (coding).
  3. Finish it off with an MBA, preferably from a globally ranked institution.

In our select group, there were couple of Harvard MBAs, Sinead MBAs and technical degrees from some of the top Indian, European and American universities.

Of course, let us not forget the iconic entrepreneur that made Naspers what it is today: Koos Bekker with a BA from Stellenbosch, LLB from Wits and MBA from Columbia.

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There are many other paths to entrepreneurial success, but this surely is one of them! 

Bertie du Plessis
Bertie du Plessis founded his successful consultancy firm, MindPilot, 17 years ago. He names several of South Africa’s blue chip corporations among his client list and has taught as a lecturer and guest lecturer in six different disciplines at tertiary institutions. His blog is the most read business blog on the domain. Visit Bertie Du Plessis's website for more information.