Harvard, Wharton Startups Beat Stanford In VC Funding

Startup Garage

Startups by Harvard Business School and Wharton MBA graduates raised more venture capital in the past five years than those by Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business, according to a newly published survey of VC-funding. But the biggest gap in startup funding between HBS and Stanford largely occurred in the money raised by Harvard women.

In the past five years, $1.2 billion of venture capital funding backed companies started by female MBAs from Harvard, nearly seven times the $234 million raised by women with MBAs from Stanford. The amount of money going to companies founded by women with Wharton MBAs also put Wharton ahead of Stanford in overall funding. Female entrepreneurs with Wharton MBAs received $437 million in VC funding, almost double the Stanford amount. Women played a crucial role in allowing Northwestern’s Kellogg School to beat Chicago Booth as well. Female MBAs from Kellogg raised more than eight times the VC funding as their Booth counterparts, $134 million vs. a mere $16 million, respectively.

The data comes from a new study of VC funding by Pitchbook, a venture capital and private equity research firm. The firm tracked numbers from the start of 2010 through the end of July 2015, drawing from its venture capital database of more than 25,000 valuations and over 78,000 VC-backed companies. This is the third year in a row that Pitchbook has produced these lists, for both MBA programs and undergraduate universities. The firm lists the top 25 schools in rank order by the number of MBA founding entrepreneurs from each school receiving venture capital money.


Aside from bragging rights, the list shows which schools’ MBAs are succeeding in raising capital for their ideas and companies from venture capitalists. Business schools have substantially increased their investment in entrepreneurship in recent years as student demand for these courses has exploded. The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, for example, has doubled down on its investment in entrepreneurship in the past five years, while Chicago rival Kellogg has set a goal of being in the top three of all business schools in entrepreneurship. Booth now says that entrepreneurship is its most popular MBA concentration, nudging aside finance in the past year.

So far, it seems like the Big Three are winning the race–at least when it comes to venture capital money. Overall, Harvard Business School topped the funding list, with 497 startups that raised a total of $6.746 billion in venture capital money. Wharton MBAs slightly edged out Stanford, raising $4.084 billion versus $4.077 billion. Wharton’s VC funding total, moreover, was spread over fewer companies, 285, compared to 341 at Stanford.

Of course, Harvard and Wharton both graduate substantially more MBAs every year than Stanford. Harvard typically sends out more than 900 MBAs annually, while Wharton produces more than 850. Stanford, on the other hand, graduates less than half that number, just over 400 MBAs a year. If not for the fact that a significantly higher percentage of Stanford MBAs start companies (17%), compared to Harvard (8%) or Wharton (7%), those class size differences could very well account for the reasons why HBS and Wharton outdo the geographic advantages of Stanford being in the middle of Silicon Valley and the VC firms on Sand Hill Rd. But once you apply those percentages to the graduating classes, HBS typically produces about 74 entrepreneurs a year while Stanford puts out 70–not much of a difference.

Only 11 business schools on Pitchbook’s top 25 list boasted MBA graduates who had raised more than $1 billion, and just two of those schools were outside the U.S.: INSEAD and Tel Aviv University. After Harvard, Wharton and Stanford, MIT Sloan and Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management rounded out the top five, with MIT grads attracting nearly $3.4 billion in VC money while Kellogg MBAs raised $2.3 billion (see table below).

  • marcus

    the John Byrne Spin machine at work… lols! it’s a gigantic difference.. btw… Stanford is the birth place of Silicon valley… as in was instrumental in its development starting with the first university industrial park that currently employs 17k tech workers. and yes it’s great John figured out that Sand Hill Road is actually part of the Stanford campus… he’s catching on.

  • marcus

    Stanford Biz has raised more money, more startups on a per student basis..
    in the same pitchbook analysis Stanford undergrad came out as the top school.. soundly trumping Harvard undergrad (the undergrads have similar class sizes unlike the Biz schools)

  • C. Taylor

    Yes, albeit this is a five year window. Aggregate funding is useful to see who’s filling VCs’ eyes with stars. But median funding per entrepreneur would be more insightful than the mean. Aggregates aren’t quite as useful due to the lopsided nature of funding.

  • Hailey

    Um because basically any time you rank business schools by any hard financial metric, it is demonstrated yet again that SOM barely deserves its place in its rankings peer group (Ross, Darden, Johnson, Stern, etc.) much less has any hope of challenging the schools entrenched above it.

  • Brand ho

    how can Yale SOM be not even in the top 20? with the “Yale name”, and the fact that it is an “ivy league” business school, and it admits so many people who went to ivy league undergrads, how can it rank below places like usc and carnegie mellon? no doubt it will be “top 5 in 5 years”.

  • fidel305

    Unicorn sightings by their nature can’t be counted on to occur on your timetable. And I have great difficulty with VC funding as a measure of entrepreneurship. (the NE has a far greater number of well funded failures than silicon valley)

    But if you want to play that game, here’s one that didnt make your list

    Four years ago Mike Cagney left Stanford Graduate School of Business and launched SoFi, the San-Francisco based student loans provider. Flash forward to the present day and the entrepreneur presides over a business that has just raised $1 billion in venture capital

  • C. Taylor

    At first blush this may appear intuitive. But I’d go with Mr. Byrne’s earlier comment that “class size is not as relevant as the number of people who become
    entrepreneurs because that is the subset of the class we’re talking

    Thus my below ranking.

    Successful entrepreneurs per class size is useful as well, to gauge the relative entrepreneurialism of the class. But class sizes aren’t what they appear–given part time, EMBA and other avenues for obtaining the same MBAs. We need the total MBA output from each school per year to appropriately account for that. I’d hazard this would drop Babson relative to Harvard.

  • fidel305

    hmmmmm? another masterpiece of sophistry. or worse…

    “If not for the fact that a significantly higher percentage of Stanford MBAs start companies (17%), compared to Harvard (8%) or Wharton (7%), those class size differences could very well account for the reasons why HBS and Wharton outdo [WTF??? out do? lmao] the geographic advantages of Stanford being in the middle of Silicon Valley and the VC firms on Sand Hill Rd. [more like Stanford being an integral part of that]. But once you apply those percentages to the graduating classes, HBS typically produces about 74 entrepreneurs a year [out of 1,000]while Stanford puts out 70 [out of 400]–not much of a difference [ a HUGE difference]. ”

    GSB has a class size of 400 and according to your table produced $ 4B

    Sloan has a class size of 400 and produced $3.3B

    Both are far better than the 2 programs you choose to highlight [for whatever reason]

    HBS has a class size of 1000 yet only produced $6.7B

    Wharton has a class size of 1000 and only produced $4B
    get someone to do the per capita math for you

  • StatCheck

    yes, ranking by class size I think makes the most sense – ie amount of funding / class size. Then it’s:
    1) GSB
    2) MIT
    3) HBS

  • StatCheck2

    Yes, ranking universities by class size can make sense. However, students at GSB are much more likely to want to start a startup. So if we wanted to have a real comparison, we should compare students who are interested in starting a company.

    Besides, total output matters, for instance for the alumni network if you want to start working for a well-funded, early stage startup. Class size is one of the biggest advantages HBS has over GSB

  • C. Taylor

    And here’s entrepreneurs per class size. This present list is highly arbitrary though, because many schools offer part time programs, EMBA programs, etc.–all of which produce graduates holding an MBA from the respective school (Babson, for instance). Using total MBA graduates per year would be better.

    Cluster rank:

    1 Tel Aviv

    2 Stanford

    3 Harvard

    4 Berkeley
    4 MIT

    5 Babson

    6 Stern
    6 Wharton
    6 Anderson
    6 Washington (Foster)

    7 McCombs
    7 Kellogg

    8 Booth

    9 Marshall
    9 LBS
    9 Carnegie Mellon

  • C. Taylor

    I like this article. In keeping with the comments of kjax and StatCheck . . .

    Using VC funding per entrepreneur, the playing field is leveled significantly.
    Cluster ranking:

    1 Carnegie Mellon
    1 MIT

    2 Tel Aviv
    2 Stern

    3 Wharton
    3 Harvard

    4 Dartmouth

    5 Kellogg
    5 Insead
    5 Stanford

    6 Booth
    6 Marshall
    6 Berkeley

    7 Anderson
    7 IE

  • StatCheck

    Adjusted for class size wouldn’t the top three be:
    1) Stanford
    2) MIT Sloan
    3) Harvard

  • kjax

    Ah, very true! So then we’d want the mean amount raised at each school. Then again, to cut to the chase: we’d just want a list of companies, founders, and VC totals from Top 25 MBA schools over the last 5 years. Then we could answer whatever questions we wanted! Ha.

    But this is still very good and interesting data. I love that P&Q now has a CSV with the numbers just one click away.

  • 2cents

    Even this wouldn’t really capture a healthy picture – a single unicorn raising in the +100M (say, CloudFlare) can skew the average raise numbers as well drastically in one direction (this obviously isn’t a normal distribution). I do enjoy the article though and the conversation! clearly their is an advantage at the top, and i’m curious if the relative lack of competition off of Sandhilll might actually be a boon to some of these alums. either way, exciting to see!

  • Guest

    A headline of “H, W Startups beat S in Funding” with mention of class size in paragraph six of seven cannot be described as prominent.

    According to the Pitchbook report you used for this article, over the last five years Harvard had 557 entrepreneurs while Stanford had 394 and Wharton 327. Which is wrong, Pitchbook’s data or your statement?

    Why does Babson have such a strong reputation in entrepreneurship? It produces few entrepreneurs and they raise very little compared to others.

  • JohnAByrne

    One other thing worth mentioning: While VC money is an interesting data point, the fact is that many MBAs bootstrap their companies without any VC funding at all. That’s an equally interesting data point because many business schools teach lean startup principles that essentially encourage bootstrapping.

  • JohnAByrne

    Agree. That’s why the story prominently makes this point. But class size is not as relevant as the number of people who become entrepreneurs because that is the subset of the class we’re talking about. Because 17% of Stanford’s graduating class do startups compared to 8% at Harvard, the actual number of entrepreneurs produced by each school is just about the same. That’s especially true if you look at the last five years because HBS’ 8% is a high water mark. At Stanford, the percentages over the past five years would have given it an edge in the number of grads who launch companies out of school.

  • JohnAByrne

    That’s a really interesting way to look at the data. Thanks for bringing that valuable perspective to the table.

  • kjax

    When we calculate the avg $ raised per company, the story is very different. Here we divide total VC funding by the number of companies started:

    School $/Company
    4. MIT (Sloan) $17,715,789
    13. Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) $17,357,143
    2. UPenn (Wharton) $14,329,825
    11. Tel Aviv University $13,900,000
    1. Harvard $13,573,441
    7. NYU (Stern) $13,376,068
    14. Dartmouth (Tuck) $12,145,833
    3. Stanford GSB $11,956,012
    6. INSEAD $11,733,333
    5. Northwestern (Kellogg) $11,716,495

    It seems to me that if a prospective student wants to answer the question: “Which B-School alums raise the most VC funding for their companies?”, this provides a straightforward answer.

    There are many other factors to consider, as Jon has pointed out.

  • kenyamzalendo

    Totally concur. HBS class size is more than twice that of Stanford GSB. By simple law of large numbers, the Boston based business will produce more VC funded start ups.

  • kenyamzalendo

    With less than 500 student admitted per year, it is unfair to compare Stanford GSB to Harvard or Wharton who admit nearly 3 times as many students. Stanford University GSB in terms of numbers, is comparable to Tuck.

  • JohnAByrne

    I’m assuming that it’s because PitchBook puts a time limit on funding but not on when a startup was founded. We first see if a company was founded in the past five years and then calculate its funding. So the results differ based on that change.

  • Facts23

    Curious why this looks a bit different from the Poets and Quants VC list? Wharton does a lot better here.

  • I read the Pitchbook report

    Mr. Bryne,
    Interesting that you take the data straight from Pitchbook but don’t follow its ranking, which is based on number of companies rather than amount. I would consider Pitchbook better informed on this than Poets&Quants, but you change around their data. You don’t even mention the number of unicorns. Nor do you even mention the number of women-founded companies. You only focus on amount, which can be misleading, and which the company that produced the survey didn’t do.

    Your article says Stanford raised $4.077 but your table shows $3.366 for Stanford (same as for MIT). I think you entered the wrong data.

    Also, by my math $1.2billion is not even 7x $234million. Saying it’s 10x is a bit sensational, isn’t it? (Though that fits with your obvious Harvard bias.)

    Bigger schools raise more money. Compare Harvard to Wharton and compare Stanford to MIT, and then you’ll get a sense of where there’s a premium among similarly sized institutions!

    When you talk about women fundraising, do you mean a company with ANY woman involved or a company with ONLY women involved? If the latter, I’m not sure why that’s good for Harvard. I would rather attend a program where women and men co-found companies rather than where women only launch companies with each other.

  • bwanamia

    There’s always a d-word angle at the top.

  • Question

    Agreed. It would seem that class/school size could easily distort the outcomes here right? I mean Harvard is a much larger business school than Stanford and so wouldn’t they be naturally advantaged?

  • John Boy

    Apologies – last sentence should have read “That would give a better sense of how deep the entrepreneurship culture runs at each school”

  • John Boy

    Interesting data. It might be helpful to consider the average class size and the size of the alumni body for each of these school, too. That would give a better sense of how deep entrepreneurship at each school