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Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg dropped out of Harvard to start their respective companies, relying on their enormous intellect and technology experience to change the world. But Sergey Brin and Jerry Yang both received advanced degrees at Stanford, and things turned out pretty well for them. So, what’s an entrepreneur to do? Bypass the educational system? Or spend hours poring over academic texts?

That’s one of the questions raised in a new infographic produced by Gist, the Seattle contact organizer that was acquired earlier this year by RIM. The team at Gist analyzed the education backgrounds of entrepreneurs and took a deep dive into the success of those entrepreneurs participating in the Y Combinator and TechStars incubation programs.

The research shows that 45 percent of founders have a masters degree, while just seven percent start their companies without a college degree.

They also compared the first-year failure rates of startups in the technology industry, showing that those who go through Y Combinator and TechStars have a much better chance of survival. Twenty two percent of Y Combinator companies shut down during the first year, while only 6.5 percent of entrepreneurs who go through TechStars call it quits.

Now, you can argue whether that’s a good thing or bad thing as entrepreneurs (such as Urbanspoon co-founder Adam Doppelt) will tell you that it takes some discipline to pull the plug on a startup project.

What do you think? Is it better to get that college degree or pursue your entrepreneurial dreams without formal schooling?

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