In the aftermath of the Vice Presidential debate, it feels as though the conflict in this election isn’t between an ideal of self-reliance and an ideal of social programming, but between two different ideas of how the government can do it for us. Since the best things in life are done ourselves, here’s a look at some of the coolest companies started by college kids.
Most people think of FedEx in terms of its current status: as a massive company with tens of thousands of employees, doing billions of dollars a year in business. But FedEx started out much more humbly, as a concept expressed in a term paper by a Yale student named Fredrick W. Smith. The difference between Smith and the thousands of other college students with big ideas? He built his.
For Millennials, Time Magazine is a feature of the universe; it doesn’t seem exciting or groundbreaking. But when a couple of other Yale students, Henry Luce and Briton Hadden, first came up with Time, a weekly newsmagazine was revolutionary. Given the massive impact the magazine has had in shaping politics and culture since it was founded, Time is certainly one of the most significant companies to have been born on a college campus.
This is such a dramatic startup story that it has been turned into a Hollywood movie. (A Hollywood movie that was released and won Oscars just before the company’s IPO. Hmmm.) The story is now the stuff of legend: Mark Zuckerberg imagined and founded Facebook when he was still an undergraduate at Harvard, and now it extends around the world like a social octopus.
The Microsoft story is also the stuff of legend now, partly because of what the founders have done with their success. Bill Gates and Paul Allen may have started the company as Harvard undergrads, but as graduates of the school of life they’ve helped to shape the world through investment and philanthropy. In addition, the entrepreneurialism that followed in Microsoft’s wake has spawned companies from vps hosting provider AccuWeb Hosting to independent open source code developer Microsoft Open Technologies.
Larry Page and Sergey Brin were grad students at Stanford when they built the search engine destined to rule the world. Since then, Google has grown to be one of technology’s most lucrative and ubiquitous companies. And Google’s billionaires have famously invested in groundbreaking technology, from an electric supercar to the nation’s largest installer of solar panels.
It may not be good politics to use the success of billionaires as a model for those who are unemployed during a sluggish economic recovery. But there is something everybody can learn from these successes. That is that under any circumstances it takes determination and audacity to win, and under any circumstances it is possible to win – and win big.