More than a dozen students at Stanford University have put their degrees on hold to join a new startup, in one of the largest-ever departures from the university’s computer science program, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Their destination is a new mobile payments company called Clinkle, which has yet to launch. Clinkle's website is currently little more than a waiting-list prompt, but according to reports, the company is developing a new way for people to ditch their wallets and pay for goods and services directly from their smartphones.
It's still unclear if the idea is tech bubble hype or something real. Small and large tech companies, like Google, have promised to deliver a decent e-wallet for consumers in recent years, but cash and cards still rule.
What is new is the volume -- and young age -- of the entrepreneurs who are are leaving behind dorm-room life to start all kinds of dot-com companies. Last month, Nick D’Aloisio, an 18-year-old computer programming whiz, sold his news aggregating tool Summly to Yahoo for $30 million, making him one of the youngest software millionaires to date.
And investors are tempting college kids to actively pursue startups with the promise of money. First Round Capital, one of the biggest venture capital groups, last fall established the Dorm Room Fund explicitly to give money to collegiate entrepreneurs. Reality TV is also looking to get in on the college-engineers-gone-wild trend: A reality-show casting company called Dorm Biz is looking for people to star in a new series.
Not everyone thinks the blurry line between an academic career and the tech gold rush mentality is such a great idea. In a New Yorker profile last year, Stanford president John Hennessy appeared to worry that too many students were preoccupied with getting rich and less interested in actually getting a decent education.
But it seems even that concern has taken something of backseat to the allure of a potential payday -- or perhaps a donation to the university. According to the Journal's story, Hennessy is also an adviser to (though not an investor in) Clinkle.
CORRECTION: The Dorm Room Fund was initially cited as an example of investors luring students away from classes. The fund is restricted to full-time students.