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Magna Cum Later, Bros!

The trickle of college dropouts in Silicon Valley is becoming a flood. Here's six of the latest arrivals.

Ashutosh Desai, 20

Dropped out of: UCLA

In order to start up: MakeGamesWithUs, a tutorial site and publishing platform for DIY iPhone games.

Proof of precociousness: Desai has already mastered startup speak. Desai: “What’s really lacking in traditional education is the ability to build a product and bring it out.”

Backing: $17,000 from Y Combinator, undisclosed others.

Photo credit: Andrew Slaughter

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Kevin Petrovic, 19

In order to start up: FlightCar, a car-rental agency with a twist: Rides are dropped off at the airport by fliers and rented while the owners are out of town.

Proof of precociousness: Since Petrovic and his cofounders (Shri Ganeshram, 19, and Rujul Zaparde, 18) aren’t old enough to rent from Hertz or Avis (gotta be 25!), FlightCar will rent to 18-year-olds with two years’ driving experience.

Backing: $6 million from General Catalyst, Y Combinator, others.

Photo credit: Courtesy of Kevin Petrovic

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Xinyi Chen, 20

Will drop out of: Princeton (after the fall semester)

In order to start up: An as-yetunnamed consumer robotics company.

Proof of precociousness: This isn’t Chen’s first foray into robotics or entrepreneurship: While a freshman at Princeton, she helped invent Helios, a $120 home gadget that allowed users to turn their iPhones into remotecontrolled robotic webcams.

Backing: Thiel Fellowship ($100,000 grant).

Photo Credit: Erin Ashford

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Mark Daniel, 19

Dropped out of: Babson College

In order to start up: StatusHawk, a tool to manage corporate status reports.

Proof of precociousness: Daniel on Daniel: “I don’t want to be the next Steve Jobs or Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Dell— I want to be the first Mark Daniel.”

Backing: Thiel Fellowship ($100,000 grant).

Photo Credit: Erin Ashford

(4 of 6)

Merrill Lutsky, 20

Dropped out of: Harvard

In order to start up: Posmetrics, an iPad app that collects customer data at the point of sale.

Proof of precociousness: Lutsky on why he and cofounder Erik Schluntz left the Ivy League: “We couldn’t continue to develop the company fast enough while taking a full course load.”

Backing: About $500,000 from Y Combinator, others.

Photo Credit: Jean Xin

(5 of 6) 

Sahil Jain, 23

Dropped out of: UC Berkeley

In order to start up: AdStage, which helps clients advertise on multiple networks.

Proof of precociousness: Jain earlier dropped out of San Jose’s Bellarmine College Preparatory high school to work for Yahoo.

Backing: $1.53 million from Freestyle Capital, Quest VP, others.

Photo Credit: Marla Alfmuth

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The financial case for college has never been lousier—at least by the calculations of these ex-undergrads who ditched six-figure tuitions in favor of venture capital bucks and $100,000 Thiel Fellowships. Their logic? You don’t become the next Mark Zuckerberg or David Karp by scribbling in blue books.

Originally published in the September issue of San Francisco

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