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The Best B-Schools For MBA Startups

The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School – Ethan Baron photo

Both Ponzo and Clare Leinweber, the managing director of Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship at the Wharton School say their schools have recently bolstered resources in entrepreneurship, alumni engagement and tracking of ventures. Leinweber says her program has also gone as far as changing its name to let the rest of the university know they’re ready for cross-campus collaboration. “We became Penn Wharton Entrepreneurship instead of Wharton Entrepreneurship. We are open across Penn,” Leinweber says.

Also, Leinweber explains, the school’s entrepreneurship program is trying to “bust open” Wharton’s stereotypical finance-centric curriculum and focus. “We’re very proud of the fact that we are known for finance and it’s such a strong area. That’s always going to be a draw for students and we certainly don’t want to diminish that,” Leinweber begins. “It’s so linked in the public’s mind, though. Sometimes we’ll have students who talk to the media and say they’re from Wharton and they (the media) will drop it out of the story because it doesn’t seem relevant. But to us, it’s very relevant and we want to capture the imagination of prospective students and the rest of the world as well.”

However, while schools like Stanford, Columbia, and Harvard can boast rich entrepreneurial communities within their metro areas, Wharton cannot. As reflected on our list of top MBA startups, the San Francisco Bay Area, New York City, and Boston continue to be hotbeds for entrepreneurship. Of the 100 ventures to make this year’s list, 66 reside in those three areas. Only two are in Philadelphia.

“I think Philadelphia is coming into its own in the tech and life science ecosystem,” Leinweber says, noting Wharton students often come from outside of the Philadelphia metro area and therefore, leave. But for Leinweber and her office, it’s more about getting students where they have the most opportunities to thrive. “We want them to be wherever they need to be depending on where there businesses will succeed,” she says.

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According to Ponzo, who began his role at Columbia Business School in 2014, Columbia’s strengths lie in the Columbia University and New York City ecosystems. “You’re not just in a class of business school students anymore,” Ponzo says of the traditional entrepreneurship courses at Columbia Business School. “You’re in a class with engineering students or undergrads and international affairs students.”

As for Columbia’s New York City location? “You’ve got 8 million consumers here,” Ponzo points out. “If you’re looking for a specific demographic, you’re only a subway ride away from most any kind of demographic.”

Ponzo says New York City’s rise in tech has made it a more attractive place and likely taken some talent from Silicon Valley. Some 15 years ago, Ponzo points out, the only place for a coder to go was Silicon valley. “If you were part of a startup and it failed, there were plenty of companies in area you could go and reset,” Ponzo says. “I think you were seeing a lot more of the talent being pulled out to New York City because of that safety net in Silicon Valley.”

Still, the entrepreneurial climate within New York is different, Ponzo explains, and will likely never overtake the tech innovation in California. “I don’t think New York City will ever overtake Silicon Valley,” Ponzo concedes. “I think what you will see are more diffused startup hubs across the country. People can work remotely now. You don’t have to be tethered to a specific area. I think what you’re seeing in a lot of different markets like Atlanta, Miami, Pittsburgh, St. Louis, or Los Angeles, other cities where they have a university, they have an industry expertise, rent is cheaper, cost of living is cheaper. It’s going to be less about Silicon Valley and New York and it’s going to be more about local startup ecosystems across the country. Each one with its different flavor and nuances.”

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  • maas91

    86% acceptance rate, less than half employed at graduation, #69 rank in the US News…
    Babson is a joke.

  • rahulbajpai.mba@gmail.com

    Where’s Babson – the epitome of entrepreneurship?

  • Hahaha

    Booth alums have launched unicorns! Brain Tree. Grub Hub. Mu Sigma. The Polsky Center at Booth is the top school-associated accelerator in the USA, period.

  • I assume you’re trolling Booth, but to be clear, this is a very specific and relatively small sample size. Just because Darden, UCLA, or others on this list have more startups than Booth (on this list), it does not mean they “have more startups than Booth” in the total universe. A better reference for that would be on Pitchbook or something. It simply shoes which schools have produced the highest VC-backed startups in the past five years.

  • Hi Mike,

    As John said below, all three are good choices. Not knowing anything about you, I’ll provide some general answers (although my highest recommendation is to find a student or recent grad at each school to ask).

    From my reporting, I get the sense all three schools are ramping up their entrepreneurial focus. Vince Ponzo and Columbia and Clare Leinweber at Wharton are both new in their roles and making some changes. And as John mentioned, Kellogg has poured a lot of resources into entrepreneurship lately and have definitely been in our ears a lot about what they have been doing.

    The main pro for Columbia is its location. There is a healthy VC market, a growing tech/startup scene, and of course, the millions of people right there for easy product research. Wharton has a ton of resources, a fantastic cross-campus ecosystem and the Semester in SF that has produced some interesting ventures lately. And Kellogg has the new building coming in and the Chicago startup ecosystem seems to be growing.

    Of course, if you’re planning on starting a venture during school or right after graduation, you might also consider where the most scholarship money is coming from (if any), since you would be unemployed (again, if you plan on going all-in).

    If you talk to students or alums at the schools, I’d ask how interconnected the B-school is with other colleges and departments on campus. Many of the startups on this list have teams diverse in professional backgrounds and don’t come solely out of the B-school. Teams are incredibly important and I’ve often heard VCs are more likely to invest in the team over the idea or product.

    Hope this helps! We do have a Q&A with Karl Ulrich, Wharton’s Vice Dean of Entrepreneurship and Innovation in the next few days that will shed a lot of light on what’s happening there.

    Nathan

  • mike

    It seems like HBS/GSB are solidly out front. Any thoughts on Wharton vs. Columbia vs. Kellogg (entrepreneurship or more broadly)? – recent admit currently deciding

  • startups

    Perfect Analysis – shows why Booth is overrated like crazy … even darden and ucla have more startups than Booth ( and booth has Part time/exec/weekend MBA’s ) LOL