The Best B-Schools for StartUps?

Which business schools have produced the most entrepreneurs?

A new LinkedIn study, published today (Sept. 1), studied the backgrounds of members who identify themselves as startup founders and came up with the leading schools for entrepreneurs.

The results dramatically differ from the two most-cited yet deeply flawed rankings—Princeton Review and U.S. News & World Report–of leading entrepreneurial programs. In effect, by sifting through its more than 120 million member profiles, LinkedIn has produced the ideal “put up or shut up” analysis. It’s the kind of data that calls out schools that have made entrepreneurship a marketing or promotional vehicle vs. those that have produced actual startup entrepreneurs.

LinkedIn membership data shows that Stanford, Harvard, MIT Sloan, Berkeley’s Haas School, and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School are the five schools that have produced the most startup founders. The next five are Wharton, Columbia, Babson, Virginia Darden, and the Johnson School at Cornell University.

How surprising are these results? Babson, which has long been number one in both rankings, does no better than eighth place. Tuck, which fails to make the U.S. News list of 27 schools or the Princeton Review list of 25 schools, is firmly in the top five. Columbia Business School, which doesn’t make the Princeton Review list and comes in at 19th on U.S. News, has the seventh largest number of startup founders in LinkedIn’s database. Chicago Booth, which is ranked second by Princeton Review, doesn’t make the LinkedIn list at all. Neither does Michigan, Brigham Young, or the University of Arizona, all schools in Princeton Review’s top five.

A side-by-side comparison (below) of the LinkedIn list with the two other rankings tells the story well. Seven of LinkedIn’s top ten schools don’t even warrant a mention in the Princeton Review ranking. LinkedIn’s number one school, Stanford, ranks a mere eighth on the Princeton Review list. Two of LinkedIn’s top ten schools don’t make the U.S. News list even though it rates 27 schools.

LinkedIn Rank & SchoolU.S. News RankPrinceton Review
1. Stanford28
2. Harvard Business School4NR
3. MIT Sloan3NR
4. California-Berkeley (Haas)6NR
5. Dartmouth (Tuck)NRNR
6. Pennsylvania (Wharton)5NR
7. Columbia Business School19NR
8. Babson11
9. Virginia (Darden)147
10. Cornell (Johnson)NRNR

Source: LinkedIn study, U.S. News, and Princeton Review

Of course, not every entrepreneur may have a LinkedIn profile and even those that do may not fall within the parameters of the professional network site’s methodology. LinkedIn counted members who identified themselves as founders or co-founders of U.S. companies created after 2000, with a LinkedIn company profile, and that currently has between two and 200 employees. LinkedIn excluded small law, consulting and real estate firms, as well as LLCs. Using these guidelines, LinkedIn came up with a pool of more than 13,000 entrepreneurs for its survey.

The LinkedIn ranking is not based on raw numbers, but rather on “how ‘over-represented’ those schools are among entrepreneurs,” according to Monica Rogati, a senior data scientist at LinkedIn who did the analysis. “This levels the playing field for small schools, as you have noticed but it makes it less surprising, which is why I wanted to mention it.”

This compares with U.S. News, which simply asks b-school deans and MBA directors, to rank schools on the basis of their entrepreneurship programs—even though they have no direct knowledge of those programs. Princeton Review, meantime, may as well pull its results out of a hat. Its methodology is so unclear and unspecific that it is hard to say exactly how the ranking is put together. It supposedly attempts to measure “academics and requirements,” “students and faculty,” and “outside the classroom.” (Our critique of the ranking was published last year.)

That’s why the new LinkedIn list has more gravitas–because it is based on real results—not what a few deans think about programs for which they no knowledge or some voodoo methodology by an organization that refuses to properly disclose how it comes up with a ranking.


  • twicker

    Tony: you’re probably right re: best for startups – *if the startups already exist.* If someone is already running a startup, they shouldn’t go to b-school, IMHO. It’s the other people who maybe have an idea but want to learn more about the finance/accounting/operations/etc. parts of things before they run with them – those are the entrepreneurial folks who should go, along with people who are already successful entrepreneurs and feel that they want to learn more about the other parts of the b-world (and/or expand their networks dramatically).

  • Entrepreneur

    Wharton’s currently entering MBA Class has 67 entrepreneurs. I went there a few years ago (as an entrepreneur) and there were many students who has worked previously as an entrepreneur. In my graduating class, 61 students were starting a business at graduation (and several more in the months to follow).

    Regarding the $150k that they could “start like 10 companies” with, that’s a flawed argument. Almost none of the entering MBA students have $150k to their name, they are getting student loans, so they aren’t choosing between starting a business or going to school. Also, having started a number of businesses myself, I think you’d be hard pressed to start a business for $15k (maybe you were just exaggerating about the 10 businesses?).

  • Anthonymb53

     Ellen…my daughter just graduated Loyola Univ MD and is currently employed by RedCarpetRunway as a graphic designer. She works in NYC and lives on Long island,NY..She is just starting out and one of the partners is leaving …how can she gain entrepreneurship skills so she can one day run the company?

  • Seems to me the Princeton Review criteria are flawed if they left out so many top schools. Part of what you get out of school experience is your network. Drexel is a great school, but you can’t convince me going there would have been as good for me as going to Wharton (were I went 21 years and 4 startups ago). Not to mention, I’m sure it would have been more expensive (I was financially disadvantaged, and schools like Penn generally have more financial resources to offer).

    That said, I agree with Tony. I’m a Mentor for the DreamIt accelerator program in Philadelphia (which is similar to Y-Combinator) and though I ended up having a successful entrepreneurial career, I think I would have gotten off the ground faster if I could have participated in a program like that.

  • Spearhead

    This is an oxymoron: An Entrepreneurial business-school. Entrepreneurs generally don’t go to business school. The best entrepreneurs didn’t even make it through undergrad… There are WAY better ways to make it as an entrepreneur than to sink $150K+ into b-school tuition—You can start like 10 companies with that kind of capital!

    Full disclosure: I am an MBA and I have a secret aspiration to some day be an entrepreneur – but that’s not why I came to b-school! 🙂

  • Michael

    Hi John,
    I posted a couple months ago. I´m the 42 year old American/L.A. born executive from Mexico City that was looking at the emba programs at UT, Michigan, UNC, Kellogg (miami program,) and UCLA-UAI (americas program.) Anyways, I never applied to UT and was admitted to UNC, UCLA, and Kellogg. My application to Michigan isn’t yet complet. For me, it´s down to Kellogg-Miami and UCLA-UAI. I’m really drawn to the prestige of Kellogg, while the UCLA program, all costs in, should cost me about 55K less. As far as format, they couldn’t be more different. The Kellogg program is 24 mos long, with trips to miami once a month with two long summer breaks. The UCLA-UAI progam is modular with 6, 12 day modules, once a quarter, and I’m done in 15 mos with no work between modules except for two. As far as the UCLA-UAI modular format, I worry a bit about being sequestered for 12 days non-stop and not haveing any real study time alone. Most people whom I ask, contemporaries, counsel me to go the the program (UCLA-UAI) which I can most quicly put in my rear view mirror considering my age and experience. I’d appreciate your perspective. I’m leaning UCLA because the schedule works the best with work and the wife btw. Am I crazy to turn down Kellogg though? Thanks, Michael!

  • David,

    Interesting question. Generally, Stanford is the only school HBS loses candidates to. From my own research, it’s pretty much 50-50. In some years, HBS might win 55/45. In other years, Stanford might win 55/45, especially when tech is hot.

  • David

    Hey John,
    I have a general question I didn’t know where else to ask. (Feel free to move if necessary.) Do you have any idea what the yield split is for cross-admits between HBS and Stanford GSB? If it’s super skewed, how, in your opinion, does the GSB ensure its admitted candidates don’t choose HBS?

  • Satish,

    Not at all! Take a look at this story which goes into some detail on the entrepreneurial efforts at HBS and Stanford:

  • satish

    Surprised by Stanford and Harvard.. thought they were top wall street feeders.

  • Alex

    I am surprised Kellogg is not top 10.

  • Tony

    The best business school for startups is likely to be something like Y-Combinator, not any of these institutions. Business schools churn out a lot of rank and file employees for startups and lots of venture capitalists.

    List look spretty spot on although surprised Tuck places that high.