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Newly Updated: The Top 100 MBA Startups Of 2015

startup

CORRECTION: This story has been substantially updated since its original publication to reflect the fact that several business schools have come back to Poets&Quants to inform us of other MBA startups that met our criteria for inclusion.

These days you can’t walk the hallways or classrooms of a business school campus and not overhear excited conversations among MBA students about their business plans and startup ideas. Talk of using the MBA experience as a place to fine-tune an idea, recruit partners, gain access to seed capital and finally launch a startup is becoming as ubiquitous as discussions about those forthcoming job interviews with McKinsey & Co. and Goldman Sachs.

MBA students today have greater interest in entrepreneurship than ever before, says Bill Aulet, an MIT Sloan senior lecturer who also serves as the managing director at the Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship. “What I see today with young people is a desire to take control of their destinies,” he says. “We expect our MBAs to come out with the spirit of a pirate and the discipline of a Navy SEAL. And I think we are only seeing the beginning.”

And what a beginning it is. MBA founders are routinely raising billions of dollars for their new ventures. What kinds of ideas are getting funded? Which schools have been most successful at graduating entrepreneurs with the best ideas?

THE TOP 11 MBA STARTUPS EACH HAD AT LEAST $100 MILLION IN FUNDING

"Young people want to take control of their destinies," says MIT's Bill Aulet

“Young people want to take control of their destinies,” says MIT’s Bill Aulet

For the second time, Poets&Quants has tracked the most successful MBA founders to come up with a newly updated list of the Top 100 MBA startups. Our list is based solely on funding—the most accessible apples-to-apples comparison for these still private enterprises. If a startup rocketed to success and was acquired by another company, we used the amount it was sold for in lieu of funding raised.

This year competition among the top 100 intensified. Last year, when WildFire topped the list after its acquisition by Google, a nine-figure funding amount would have secured a top two place. This year the top 11 companies all had at least $100 million in funding each. That’s a massive vote of confidence in MBA startups from the investment community.

But the competition wasn’t exclusive to the top of the list. From the time we put out our first casting call for startups in December to our publishing date the cutoff jumped from $1.6 million to the $6.1 million it is now. What’s more, more than half of the top 100 MBA startups have raised more than $18 million each.

GOOGLE PAID $500 MILLION FOR NO. 1 STARTUP SKYBOX IMAGING LAST YEAR

Akin to our inaugural rankings, the top spot went to a company that was sold to search engine giant Google. Last year’s third place finisher, satellite imaging company Skybox Imaging reached agreement with Google last August to be acquired for a whopping $500 million. SoFi, the student loan financing outfit, zoomed from sixth place last year with $77.2 million in investor money to $399 million of funding today. Rounding out the top three was last year’s 13th placed startup, RelateIQ, which was sold for $390 million to Salesforce.

While all of the top three have founders from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, the GSB boasts a total of 31 startups on this year’s rankings—down from 32 last year. Meantime, Harvard Business School held strong with 40 startups out of the top 100, including 10 out of the 20 with the most funding. It all goes to show that prestige credentials count when you’re making a pitch for money. MIT’s Sloan MBAs are behind 10 startups that made the cut, down from 10 last year. Wharton followed with six startups on the list.

But there was also a diversity of schools making the list. From Rice University in Texas to IMD Business School in Switzerland and seemingly everywhere in between, there was big time moola to be had. All told, investors poured more than $2 billion into startups with a Stanford MBA attached to it. Startups by Harvard MBAs raised more than $1.9 billion. All in all, the top 100 startups convinced investors to put in more than $4.9 billion.

MOST IDEAS LEVERAGE THE INTERNET, BUT THERE’S A WIDE RANGE OF FIRMS

Most of the startups leverage the Internet, outsourcing many functions from software development to server hosting, to get to market fast and cheap. The businesses run the gamut from highly sophisticated enterprises in financial services and high tech to e-commerce outfits, mobile payment firms and even an online physicians’ network. A couple of Yale School of Management MBAs are behind Privateer Holdings, the private equity firm that is shaping the future of the legal cannabis industry.

To find the best MBA startups, we reached out to the top 50 business schools around the world. We spoke with directors of entrepreneurship centers, and we consulted professors who often mentor these MBA entrepreneurs. The companies that made our list were founded between 2009 and 2014 and had to have at least one founder graduating with an MBA during those years.

The earliest startup on the list, No. 1 Skybox Imaging, was launched Jan. 5, 2009. The latest new business, No. 76 Glossier, got its start in September, 2014, and was one of four startups in the top 100 to be launched last year.

  • Junior

    Still silly even now!!

  • speakizzy

    Actually, Fernando D’Alessio at Linio is from NYU Stern.

  • Nathan Allen

    Thanks, Randy. Actually, we didn’t include General Assembly because they didn’t have a founding member with an MBA graduating after 2009 (a criteria to be included). You are correct the company was founded in 2011, but from our research, the only founding member with an MBA is Jake Schwartz (Wharton, 2008).

  • Randy S.

    John, General Assembly wasn’t founded in 2009, it was founded in 2011. Responding to your comment about General Assembly further below.

  • niti

    You missed framebench.com. Second Indian Startup to lend hands to the Republican Party campaign.

  • JohnAByrne

    You should read the footnote to the table. CommonBond is not off. The actual equity funding raised by CommonBond is exactly what is correct. The rest of the funding is for loans and is NOT equity. That’s why in the case of both SoFi and CommonBond the funding levels represent equity only, as they do for every other startup on the list.

  • Nathan Allen

    Appreciate the correction, Gabriel. The founders have been updated to reflect your request.

  • additional info

    CommonBond appears to be off by ~$240MM. This is an awfully shoddy list.

  • Gabriel Migowski

    Hi Nathan, congrats on the extensive list and thanks for mentioning VivaColombia! Just an important clarification: Viva’s co-founders are Juan Emilio Posada, Frederik Jacobsen, William Shaw (Stanford Sloan ’08) and Gabriel Migowski (myself, Stanford MBA ’09). The other folks you listed were members of a Stanford class project that investigated the feasibility of what today became Viva.

  • marcus

    On a per student basis (Stanford’s class is half the size of most others).. Stanford’s prowess in start ups is unmatched.

  • Nathan Allen

    Great question. This didn’t come up on last year’s rankings and Jumei was the only company on the list this year to go the IPO route. But in the next year or two, I imagine this will happen more and more as the startups develop. It is kind of murky as to when a startup is no longer startup and as this is a transitional process for a company. To us, it blurred the apples to apples comparison we were striving for a little.

    However, we are hoping to have a feature next week with some thoughts on this topic from a few entrepreneurship directors.

  • Nathan Allen

    Thanks, Peter. We reached out to FabFurnish for an exact funding number but couldn’t get one. Without an exact number, we can’t rank them.

  • JustChecking

    Nathan, Why is #32 Jumei listed at $30million? Didn’t it raised over $400million in IPO?

  • Ben

    Would it be possible to re-write the title to top “funded” startups? Just my 2 cents, but ranking a company as “best” based on funding raised seems kind of silly because funding does not equate to “best.”

  • John

    How is Babson consistently ranked #1 in entrepreneurship (ahead of the Stanford’s, Harvard’s, and MIT’s of the world) yet only have two startups on here?

  • Luís Serzedelo

    Harvad has more than double the students MIT has, this can be a reason for their strenght, right? Why isn’t INSEAD on the list? they dind’t have any? Thanks

  • Peter

    I think another missing is also FabFurnish (Vikram Chopra – Wharton), Indian e-commerce

  • Nathan Allen

    Andres,

    Thanks much for the nominations. Luxe Valet and Madison Reed both were founded during our timeframe (2009 through 2014) but neither have founders with MBAs during that same timeframe. They received their MBAs before 2008.

    Velano Vascular received $5 million in the February seed round. We missed them as the list was already finalized and prior to that seed round they had less than $1 million raised. But, we have them on our list to look at next year!

    I do appreciate the feedback as this list gets stronger the more eyes we have on it and nominations we receive.

    Nathan

  • Andres

    Also missing Velano Vascular (Wharton) – $5M

  • Andres

    You missed Luxe Valet (Wharton) – $26M raised

  • Quick question

    Nathan: Question about company that I own stock in. Jumei (#26) is a public company (JMEI) valued at like $2billion. You list acquisitions at sale price. Is there a reason not to list public companies at IPO/current price to be comparable.

  • Nathan Allen

    Good point. Thanks! We are changing that now.

  • Facts

    Why is Stanford listed than for Doximity when Jeff received MBA in 1999?

  • I actually think that the focus on lean startups–meaning you don’t borrow much money–may have an impact here. Again, we are ranking the MBA startups by the external funding they have received. That’s the only generally available measure you can find. These are all private companies and they don’t share profit, revenue, or other standard financial measures of performance. But funding is a vote of confidence by smart investors and tells you a lot about the quality of the business idea, the founders, and the plan to execute. It took investment of $2.4 million to make it on the list this year. That’s quite a big number for a new startup.

  • Yes. We had to follow some guidelines to make the project feasible. This is our second time at it. Last time, we started with 2008. This year we started with 2009, meaning the company had to be founded in 2009 or later and the MBA had to have graduated in 2009 or later.

  • 2cents

    Ahhh my apologies that makes sense. So doesn’t matter if it’s regular/exec MBA like SOFI, just as long as the gruduated and founded 2009 or later.

  • Alex

    And what about Berkeley Haas? Don’t see them in the list. And there was only one mention in the previous one. Are they completely losing the battle?

  • JohnAByrne

    You’re correct, but the founder got his MBA from Columbia in 2003 so it’s not what we would call an MBA Startup that was created as a result of his business school experience. The other criteria applied–as disclosed clearly in the article–is that the founding MBA had to have gotten his degree no earlier than 2009.

  • 2cents

    Urban compass was founded in 2011 according to the public sources I can find …

  • JohnAByrne

    Urban Compass was founded before 2009 which is why it was not included. Our list tracks startups from 2009 to the present. The reason the list is Harvard, Stanford and MIT centric is because those schools are way ahead of every other school in getting startups funded.

  • JohnAByrne

    That’s exactly what we did. We reached out to every top school in the world and that was the first step we used to compile the list. The truth is, Harvard just kills it.

  • JohnAByrne

    Harry’s was a big miss. We’ve fixed the story and the table to include. General Assembly is not a miss because it was founded before 2009, the starting date we used to track startups.

  • Concrete

    Did Dee Leopold write this article? Perhaps P&Q should reach out to each top school to ask for their buy-in on successful startups founded by their alumni.

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  • 2cents

    it’s not just Wharton missing here – seems oddly GSB, HBS and MIT centric given the number of founders out there post MBA. Not sure where they gather this list but it’s somewhat faulty. First one that comes to mind not here is Urban Compass which I think is near $50M for example.

    All around poor reporting.

  • facts

    Harry’s is a big miss! And what about General Assembly? Wharton’s should be a lot higher just from those two.

  • Oblivious123

    Were is Harry’s?!