3 Most Successful Dorm Room Founders

Mark Zuckerberg

Mark Zuckerberg.jpg

The name that comes to mind most often when mentioning founders who were in college when they created their big idea is Mark Zuckerberg, co–founder of Facebook.

The other four co–founders were Andrew McCollum, Chris Hughes, Dustin Moskovitz, and Eduardo Saverin. Originally, the site was called theFacebook, and it was created just for fellow Harvard classmates. It was an online place where classmates could find information on one another, and where they could connect with people who were sharing their classrooms and hallways.

It brought students together, and allowed them to learn about one another's lives at a time when the Internet was still getting a good foothold in the minds of many people and the term "social media" wasn't something everyone had heard of. While there were social media sites available before Facebook (MySpace, anyone?), Zuckerberg and his co–founders created something inimitable. It was so different that it captured the interest of a high number of Harvard students – and people outside of Harvard begin complaining that they didn't have anything like that to use.


Over time, Zuckerberg and his co–founders became aware that other schools were jealous of what he was offering to the students of Harvard. The site was expanded to allow students from other schools to connect with Harvard and with one another, and the popularity of that option grew until a number of schools had high percentages of their students logging on and linking up to see what others were doing. What started out as a small idea to keep students at one school connected had become something much greater than that.

When the popularity of “theFacebook” began to soar, Zuckerberg realized its massive potential. Rather than remain in college and focus on his studies in computer science and psychology, he dropped out and focused the majority of his time and attention on the development of the site. The site was renamed Facebook and opened up to others outside of educational circles. As of 2015, use of the site had grown to more than one billion people worldwide. It's the largest social media site in the world, and all indications are that it will remain that way indefinitely. It has changed throughout the years, but its popularity remains high.

Larry Page & Sergey Brin

While Zuckerberg may be one of the most famous dorm room founders, he's far from the only one who took what he learned in the classroom and coupled it with real life to make something amazing.

Larry Page and Sergey Brin.jpg

Other dorm room founders who created companies with household names include the duo of Larry Page and Sergey Brin, the creators of Google. They were Ph.D. students at the time they started developing the search engine, which started out as a part of Stanford's Digital Library Project. They wanted to see a more powerful search engine that was also effective.

While searching was already possible, it often did not work well, and its lack of power meant that much was missed during a large number of searches. Navigating the Internet was clunky, at best, and other search sites gave results that could often be considered questionable. A targeted, proper search engine was needed, but it had to be easy to use and it had to be comprehensive. One of the main complaints with previous search engines was that they did not return enough results – and much of what they did return was not relevant to what the searcher was actually looking for.

A better way had to be out there somewhere, and Page and Brin discovered it as they were trying to catalog the digital library and make it searchable. When they saw what they had, they knew they were on the cusp of something that could change the Internet forever.


It was then just a matter of continuing to develop what they had already started. That took time and effort. At first, one could not simply type in "Google" and reach the search engine. The original address was google.stanford.edu. That was changed as the site continued to be developed and more capability was added to it.

Today, Google is the world's most dominant search engine. From there, the company evolved into more than just a way to search the Internet. The conglomerate now provides a significant number of Internet–based services and products, including Google+, Blogger, Picasa Web Albums, and more. Most people don't say "search for that." They say "just Google it." The site has become such a common part of daily life for so many people that there is no reason to use a different search engine in most cases. The majority of people who want to find something online know Google will give them the best results, fast.  Google has branded itself synonymous with the word “search”.

Bill Gates & Paul Allen

Bill Gates and Paul Allen.jpg

Another top company that started out in a dorm room is Microsoft, founded by Bill Gates and Paul Allen during their time at Harvard.  While Microsoft took time to develop, Gates and Allen worked together to determine what worked and what did not.  

That helped them navigate through problems that the company would have and to focus on what they would do in the future. Still, they refrained from actually starting up the company for some time. They did not have the capital, and Gates didn't have the support he needed from his parents, who wanted to see him stay in college and finish his proposed path of study.

As the idea of Microsoft continued to be developed, though, both Gates and Allen discovered that they had stumbled onto something big, and that they could lose out if they didn't take the chance and act on what they had found and what they believed in. Realizing the value of what they had created, Gates made the no–longer–difficult decision to drop out to begin building the software company, following the vision and plan he and Allen had created. While Gates' parents wanted him to pursue a law career, he studied computing and gained their support before dropping out of Harvard to pursue his dreams.


In 2015, Gates was said to be worth more than $82 billion. He is among the best–known people involved in the computer revolution, although some have questioned his business tactics. Those questions haven't stopped Gates from moving forward, and they haven't stopped Microsoft from developing into a multibillion–dollar company that is a household name in most developed countries. Gates has also given billions of dollars away to charity through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropic endeavors.

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Top Dorm Room Founders and Billionaires

Many impressive companies have been founded in dorm rooms. These companies have re–defined society, technology and cultural movements in America.  Here are some of the most impressive dorm room founders: Watch this video to learn more about the most impressive dorm room founders.

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Ross D. Blankenship is the expert on angel investing, venture capital and the world of startup funding. Ross has successfully raised capital for startups and been featured in TechCrunch, Mashable and US News and World Report magazine. Blankenship has made more investments in venture capital before the age of 30 than most venture capitalists have made in a lifetime. As a venture capital expert on startup funding, Ross Blankenship continues to advise media outlets on upcoming SEC rules, been a mentor for startups, and helped accredited investors make investments in the highest ranked startups.

Ross Blankenship is the Founding Partner and CEO at Angel Kings, which focuses on venture capital for early-stage startups raising capital.

The X Factor: Invest in People Who Show No Fear of Failure


Here's a reminder of the Angel Kings' four must have personality factors, otherwise known as our "PASS" formula.

  1. Passionate, but with a purpose.
  2. All-in to their endeavor.
  3. Shows no fear of failure.
  4. Surrounded by equals or those greater.

Let's discuss #3 in our PASS formula.

Shows No Fear of Failure

The most common trait that we see in startup founders is no fear of failure.  Entrepreneurs in every startup must be able to hear the word “No” over and over again.  The harsh reality is that it’s hard to hear “no” for most founders, particularly when these often Ivy–educated, top–of–their–class individuals have soared beyond their peers all of their lives. 

But a “No” is ubiquitous in the startup world, and founders must maintain composure and be able to move on to the next customer, VC firm or investor, or else they’ll wither away like a flower in the desert.  They inevitably discover that hearing the word “no” and facing multiple rejections and objections to their companies are all part of the startup process.  The best founders are the ones who learn how to embrace these rejections and turn them into stepping–stones to success. 

Can you imagine what it must have been like for Elon Musk at SpaceX to think he had a shot of competing against NASA by launching satellites and rockets into space?

Musk has encountered resistance repeatedly when launching new products – whether it be from large defense companies that fear his companies will take their government subsidies, or from utility companies that are wary to embrace green energy with Musk’s SolarCity.

Another unquestionable example of a founder without fear is Mark Zuckerberg.  Facebook has been arguably the most impactful company on society in the past 10 years.  If it weren’t for Zuckerberg’s antics at Phillips Exeter Academy and then Harvard University, where he was warned repeatedly about his programming and online activities, Facebook would have never happened. 

Rejection and failure go hand and hand with running a startup. The difference between founders like Musk and Zuckerberg and founders who aren’t as successful is the ability to recognize that rejection isn’t an obstacle or roadblock.  Rejection is fuel to keep going, to keep building great things, and to launch what they know will transform industries and make people call them “icons.”

But let's better define failure...

Having no fear of failure doesn’t mean a startup founder should continue to build a product that people don’t want.  

If a founder is blindly stubborn, and she continues to sell her vision to a market that finds no need for it, then as an investor, you should be concerned.  There’s nothing worse than a founder spending money to build something no one is either going to use repeatedly for free (Facebook) or going to buy out of necessity (Tesla). 

Having no fear of failure doesn’t mean a startup founder should continue to pitch investors when they continually refuse to write a check. Having no fear of failure can simply mean a founder who takes charge of her own path.

Musk and Zuckerberg were intent on having their ventures change the conversation within industries that have existing dominant players.  They didn’t care that those players would be upset.  Based on their example, having no fear means a founder believes that a fundamental paradigm shift is needed in an industry to make the world a better place, and she’s going to take charge to make it happen.

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Ross Blankenship is an expert on startup funding,  angel investing and venture capital.

Ross Blankenship is also the Founder and CEO of AngelKings.com.  Angel Kings is an investing platform that provides accredited angel investors the opportunity to invest in top startups and companies in sectors like cyber security, biotech, mobile, data and financial services.  Angel Kings provides both venture capital funds for startup investing as well as private equity funding for early and middle-stage investments.