Newly Updated: The Top 100 MBA Startups Of 2015

CommonBond Co-Founders Michael Taormina (left), Jessup Shean and David Klein

CommonBond Co-Founders Michael Taormina (left), Jessup Shean and David Klein


One theme remained central among the winners: Despite the naysayers who contend that if you want to start a business you should just take the money you would pay in tuition and use it to launch your company, business school has become an ideal setting to incubate and accelerate a business. And given the huge sums of money being plowed into these startups, investors seem to agree.

“It was a great way for us to build out the business plan in a safe environment,” says Dan Macklin, co-founder of No. 2 SoFi, which was hatched at Stanford’s business school. “It gave us an excuse to do a lot of research with professors, with fellow students, with alumni. We really tapped into our professors and our fellow classmates to build out the business. You have access to so much experience and so much expertise in so many different areas.”

For David Klein, who stepped on Wharton’s campus for an MBA in 2011, admission to the Wharton Venture Initiation Program was key. “After being rejected in September (of 2011), I asked what could be improved, re-applied during the second admissions cycle with my co-founders, and got into the program,” says Klein. “Being accepted felt validating.”


Once in the program, students have access to a working space, community of entrepreneurs and monthly mentoring sessions and progress reports from professors. Klein founded CommonBond, which provides loans for students in higher education and was founded with two other Wharton students, Jessup Shean and Michael Taormina. CommonBond raised $2.5 million in its first year at in Wharton’s Venture Initiative Program and now has more than $250 million in funding.

Stewart Thornhill of Michigan's Ross School of Business

Stewart Thornhill of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

“There is such a robust entrepreneurial community and a real energy around starting companies at Wharton,” Klein says, who comes from a family of entrepreneurs dating back to his grandfather who started a shoe company when he arrived in America after World War II. “There are a lot of opportunities that you can lean on or leverage to maximize the success of your startup.”

At the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, Stewart Thornhill, who also serves as the executive director of the Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, says that while an MBA is by no means necessary to startup success, it can be helpful.


“Yes, the MBA really helps with the practical side of running a business, like understanding how a business works from marketing issues to people issues to financial issues,” Thornhill says. “But you can learn all of that if you are a voracious reader with an internet connection. The other part is the network and pedigree. Walking into an investor pitch with an MBA attached to your name gives you credentials from the beginning. And having a global network of connections and being able to contact them with a phone call is beneficial.”

Clearly, funders are taking notice.

CORRECTION: We missed one startup, Harry’s, a shaving products company founded by a Wharton and Stanford MBA duo. We included the company in our updated list.

(See the next page for our ranking of the Top 100 MBA Startups)

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.