What to do about it
The danger doesn’t lie in having credentials; many of the most successful founders at EF have attended some of the world’s top universities and worked for the most competitive organisations. The danger for an aspiring founder is investing incremental time to gain incremental credentials. As I’ve said, though, credentialism is insidious, so how do you throw off the shackles?
The most important thing is to recast your credentials as a reason to seek risk, rather than as an end in themselves.
About seven years ago, when Barack Obama was running for president, I saw an interview with him in which he explained why he had chosen to become a community organiser in Chicago when he graduated from Harvard Law School. His credentials — he was president of the Harvard Law Review — could have given him access to more or less any top corporate law firm or Supreme Court clerkship he wanted. I remember his answer very clearly: he said it was precisely because he had such great credentials that he was able to take the risk of becoming a community organiser. His credentials set a lower bound on his future outcomes; he might be forsaking the opportunity to maximise his income by not joining a corporate law firm straightaway, but he was never going to be unemployed.
I think that’s a great mindset for an aspiring founder. The fact that you’ve got a degree in computer science from Imperial is exactly why you can afford to try to start something now, not a reason why you have to take the most prestigious job you can get.
One of the attractive things about credentials is that they represent a structured way to achieve success. Whether it’s a degree or a job, a credential usually involves a well-defined way to win. Starting a startup isn’t like that. By default, there’s no one but you — and there’s no playbook, curriculum, hierarchy or instructions.
What makes it harder is that our educational institutions and prestigious jobs largely reward mastery of these things: we’re trained to figure out the rules, play by them and win.
Credentialism is deeply embedded in our whole culture of ambition, but the more ambitious you are — and the more you think you want to be a founder — the less you can afford to be sucked into it. The longer you wait to jump in, the harder it gets and the harder the transition.
Don’t wait — another badge just isn’t worth it.
 I doubt it’s true, in an absolute sense, but it’s how they feel.
 I’m using this term loosely; I just mean to seek and gain validation from the wrong kind of rewards.
 The much discussed idea of “vanity metrics” gets at exactly this problem)
 Alex, one of EF’s programme directors, read a draft of this and added: “One of the things I’ve learned from working with super early stage companies is that if you’re used to praise you start to believe that third-party validation can actually compensate for real user feedback. It’s not just that you learn to enjoy praise, it’s that you think it’s important.”
 It’s interesting the extent to which somewhere like Google — now a 50,000 person company — today represents something similar.