The Top 20 Investors Behind MBA Startups


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.

Have a startup idea you know is sure to takeoff? Need some fast cash to get going? We have some suggestions on where to look. Below is the list of the top funders for Poets&Quants’ Top 100 MBA Startups.

This year the two top investors come from opposite sides of the country. BoxGroup, a boutique angel fund out of New York City, put money into 13 startups on our list, and tied last year’s top investor, San Francisco-based SV Angel, which also funded 13 MBA startups. Just under BoxGroup and SV Angel is the Founder Collective of Cambridge, Massachusetts, which has put money into 10 of the top 100 startups.

BoxGroup, which typically provides $50,000 to $250,000 in seed money for startups, is headed up by Adam Rothenberg and David Tisch, the grandson of successful entrepreneur Laurence A. Tisch. In fact, regardless of which school you have graduated from, Tisch might be the first person you should arrange a pitch with. Between BoxGroup and his individual investments, Tisch played a role in the funding of 20 of the top 100 ranked MBA startups.

David Tisch is a big angel investor in MBA startups

David Tisch is a big angel investor in MBA startups

Tisch, who graduated from New York University with a law degree, began investing in startups when he was just 16 years old, taking his bar mitzvah money and plowing it into eBay’s IPO for a 15x return. Besides his angel investing at BoxGroup, he also heads up the Startup Studio at Cornell Tech, Cornell University’s new New York City-based graduate campus focused on digital technologies and the information economy. Startup Studio is the capstone of the experiential learning curriculum at Cornell Tech, where students complement their classroom experience through deep, hands-on engagements with entrepreneurs, companies, nonprofit organizations, early stage investors, and ultimately their own startup projects.


BoxGroup, where Tisch is managing partner, says it backs the best entrepreneurs regardless of location or stage who are building “disruptive technology companies and with visions to create the next generation of category defining businesses.” Among its many investments are Wharton’s eyewear maker Warby Parker, Stanford and Michigan’s social mobile commerce company Karma Science, and Harvard’s meal delivery service provider Blue Apron.

Interestingly, Sand Hill Road in Silicon Valley up to San Francisco did not produce as many top investors this year. After being home to 19 of the 26 top investors last year, the Bay Area can only claim 10 of the 20 top investors this year. The shift has gone to the Northeast with 9 of the top investors coming from New York City or the Boston area. The outlier was Techstars of Boulder, Colorado, funding six top startups.

The other top individual funder is Wall Street Journal columnist and managing partner of Slow Ventures, Kevin Colleran. He funded six of the top 100 MBA startups.

There were some celebrity-status investors again this year. LinkedIn Founder Reid Hoffman invested in VigLink. Additionally, veteran tech analyst Esther Dyson invested in PayPerks.

The Top 20 Investors In Leading MBA Startups

Investor Location Number of Startups Select Investments
BoxGroup New York City 13 Warby Parker, Karma Science, Blue Apron
SV Angel San Francisco 13 Okta, RelateIQ, Warby Parker
Founder Collective Cambridge, Massachusetts 10 ThredUP, CustomMade, Infinio
New Enterprise Associates Menlo Park, California 9 CloudFlare, Branch Metrics, 42Floors
Bessemer Venture Partners Menlo Park, California 9 Skybox Imaging, Blue Apron, Insight Squared
Sequoia Capital Menlo Park, California 9 Okta, Karma Science, OsComp Systems
Khosla Ventures Menlo Park, California 8, Peek, Okta
David Tisch New York City 7, Pillpack, Vengo Labs
Red Swan Ventures New York City 7 Warby Parker, Birchbox, Cabify

Lerer Hippeau Ventures

New York City 7 Cotopaxi, Warby Parker, Birchbox
First Round San Francisco 7 Warby Parker, Birchbox, Blue Apron
Techstars Boulder, Colorado 6, ThinkNear, Plated
Accel Partners Palo Alto, California 6 RelateIQ, PeerTransfer, Baublebar
Google Ventures Mountain View, California 6 RelayRides, VigLink, CustomMade
Kevin Colleran Boston, Massachusetts 6 Birchbox, Stitchfix, Plated

Kleiner, Perkins, Vaufield & Byers

Menlo Park, California 5 Rent the Runway, Ambiq Micro, Zumper
Felicis Ventures Palo Alto, California 5 RelateIQ, Karma Science, Piazza
Great Oaks Venture Capital New York City 5 Plated, EAT Club, Peek
Atlas Venture Cambridge, Massachusetts 5 PillPack, ScienceInbox, InsightSquared
Nextview Ventures Boston 5 ThredUP, InsightSquared, CustomMade

Source: Poets&Quants 

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