After leaving Duke in his junior year to help build a multi-million dollar company and work at Google NYC, Jeremy Welch did what few startup junkies would: he returned to college. Now back at Duke and as a member of the class of 2014, Welch, who entered Duke as a member of the Class of 2009, is continuing his study of philosophy.
Welch left Duke in 2008 to work for a young social media marketing company. A B.N. Duke scholar, Welch had studied philosophy and become involved in entrepreneurial groups on campus.
He had worked for an internet service provider in high school and became interested in coding while at Duke. That work left him with an itch to enter the business world and ultimately to launch his own business.
"I didn't want to have to wait on anyone else. I could just start companies," Welch said. "Once I had this realization, it was hard to stay in school."
In March 2009, Welch joined Invite Media, a buying platform for online display media (DSP). At Invite Media, Welch worked on coding and technical operations and built a third-party platform product.
In 2010, Google bought the company for nearly $70 million. Although Welch thought of returning to school, he then received an offer from Google and spent a year working with them, performing similar duties as he had at Invite Media. In 2011, he co-founded WHAM Labs, a software engineering consultant group, and is currently the president.
In 2012, Welch decided he could continue his consulting work and also have time to complete the Duke degree he had left unfinished in 2008. He returned this past fall semester.
"I had this incredible experience and worked crazy hard. But through the process, what I learned more than anything was how complex the overall process of business is," Welch said, explaining the value of returning to get a degree with a major in philosophy.
In addition to returning to the classroom, Welch is back among student entrepreneurs, mentoring younger students. He is a member of the Innovation Co-Lab, a network of undergraduate students interested in start-ups. The student entrepreneurial community, he said, "has grown significantly" since he left Duke in 2008.
Welch advises students interested in starting their own business to stay at Duke and finish their degree first, encouraging them to start a business on the side but determine whether their businesses are growing at a significant pace before they wholeheartedly commit to working full-time.
But for his own part, Welch says he has no regrets leaving Duke early.
"You have to work your tail off to be in a position for luck to help. I feel lucky that things worked out, but I’m also not under the guise that it was just luck," Welch said.