Reasons to skip college and start a business overseas

Written by Andrew Henderson

For years, I’ve been saying college is, for many people, a waste. Conveniently, I too dropped out of school and never looked back.

And it seems the movement to skip college is gaining steam in the west.

A recent Wall Street Journal article discussed the pitfalls of a business degree, even from the best of schools. It outlined how a two-year program at Harvard could cost close to $175,000 once you add in living expenses. Then it asked the question: what could a savvy businesssperson-in-training do with that kind of cash?

The reality is, prospects for business school graduates aren’t good. Sure, Harvard graduates are getting jobs for the most part, albeit it lower price tags than you might think, but graduates from lesser schools aren’t doing as well. Even well-recognized schools like NYU and USC are seeing close to one quarter of recent grads unemployed three months after graduating.

While the author of the Wall Street Journal article suggested skipping grad school and packing your bags for the hub of whatever business you want to be in (San Francisco for tech, Los Angeles for entertainment, etc.), I’d suggest taking advantage of the warmer business climate outside of the US.

Yes, the six-figure tuition you saved will go a long way toward starting your own tech company in California, but it will go even further in Chile or eastern Europe.

While determined entrepreneurs will be successful in any climate, the economic outlook for the west isn’t good, and more regulation and higher taxation can only bring one down. The grass can really be greener on the other side of the fence. For adventure-seeking and open-minded young entrepreneurs, programs overseas could stretch their resources even further while providing for greater upside.

For US and many European students, Panama offers immediate permanent residency with a $5,000 bank deposit and an “economic tie” like ownership of a corporation. There is a growing entrepreneurial spirit there and business is more accepted than in the US.

For those who don’t want to start their own business, Panama’s growing economy has placed a greater and greater demand on English-speaking foreigners for management positions, and a fancy degree or business school may not be needed.

In Chile, the government is so intent on building an entrepreneurial climate that they give away $40,000 grants to qualifying new businesses. The Start-up Chile program has a built-in networking component where you spend time mingling with the other entrepreneurs.

While I would argue the best aspect of business school, especially at top-tier schools, is the networking, why shell out tons of cash when Chile’s program will pay you to do it?

For those who prefer Europe, Ireland provides a program for those who have, or can raise, around US$100,000 to start a business. While economic conditions aren’t any better there, real estate is available at fire sale prices in parts of the country and it’s a beautiful, and familiar looking, place.

Further east, a laundry list of rising nations from Latvia to Bulgaria to Georgia want business talent to help them grow.

Estonia, for example, lets you keep business income in the company without forcing a taxable distribution. The benefits available overseas are as varied as your goals.

As youth unemployment levels are at their highest levels in six decades in the west, my steadfastness against pouring endless valuable resources into higher education remains.

For the young management candidate or startup guru, the options outside of the US are vast and will allow you even more reasons to save your tuition money and use that cash elsewhere.

Andrew Henderson
Last updated: Dec 30, 2019 at 12:18PM

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