We Could Not Invest – And The Illusion of American Dropouts. Stay In School. (Tekedia)

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Today, three amazing undergraduate students spoke with me. They’re looking for funds to accelerate their startup. Typically, there are many steps required before I get to speak with startups. No one knew they were actually students. But during the call, they revealed that. And because of that, we would not invest.

At Tekedia Capital, we have a policy of not investing in startups run by undergraduates who have months to graduation. My thesis is simple: life is more than building companies and making money. Education is the liberation of the mind, and it is very important that many people experience that. I do not see the reason why any smart kid would like to skip that experience. 

Young people, read it from me: do not drop out to go and build companies in Africa, citing the experiences of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. Bill and Mark did not drop out, they merely dropped in.  In a way, they replaced mass-training professors at Harvard University with private Harvard-quality professors called venture capitalists (VCs). Magically, they have “special professors” who actually pay them! Which one is better: a Harvard professor that asks you to pay school fees or the VC that writes you $millions and still coaches you because he wants to ensure his $millions are safe?

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The funding ecosystems in Nigeria are not at that level yet. We will get there but we’re years away. So, you cannot just drop out.

I am a TED Fellow, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, etc, the kind of immersive experiences in some ecosystems is a testament that using “dropout” does not do justice to what happens to these technical “dropouts”. In TED, I met a guy who did not finish secondary school but MIT admitted him. Yes, MIT admitted someone without a secondary school certificate!

In the first semester, he took a leave from school because some investors gave him $millions to commercialize something exciting. To get him up to speed, they surrounded him with experts and coaches. Simply, he was getting more than MIT professors even though he “dropped” out, and in the process they turned him into a paper millionaire! That is not the typical outcomes of dropouts.

Do not fall into the illusion: stay in school and work hard. Startups and opportunities to create new ones will always be here. The best businesses have not been started. You will have time to do just that, post-graduation. That university education is an internship for something big – make the best out of it. #graduate

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Comment: Lucid as always. Meanwhile, if education is the liberation of the mind, who/what caged it? Thank you in advance.

My Response: ” Meanwhile, if education is the liberation of the mind, who/what caged it?” Before education or acquisition of knowledge, we came with norms and dogmas. But education liberates that. We killed twins in Africa. But knowledge explained that it was a pure biological system. Men fought wives because the colours of kids’ skins were different from theirs; education explained dominant and recessive genes.

Comment 2: Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe, I appreciate your perspective on the importance of education and the dangers of dropping out of school to start a company. It’s refreshing to see someone in the business world emphasising the value of education beyond just making money. Prof Ndubuisi Ekekwe, I support the compelling argument that education is more than gaining knowledge. It’s about developing a mindset of curiosity and learning that can lead to success in all areas of life, including entrepreneurship.

Furthermore, dropping out and “dropping in” is an insightful way to frame the idea that successful entrepreneurs like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg didn’t abandon their education to pursue their dreams but instead leveraged their educational experiences to build successful businesses. This highlights the importance of viewing education as a valuable resource for entrepreneurship rather than something to be discarded in pursuit of quick success.

Overall, I love the valuable perspective on the relationship between education and entrepreneurship, and I strongly encourage young people to prioritise their education as a foundation for future success.

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