The Investors Behind The Top MBA Startups

VC money idea

BoxGroup loves giving money to MBA founded ventures. Don’t believe it? Ask Adam Rothenberg, managing director for BoxGroup, a New York City-based early stage investment fund.

“We love investing in smart MBAs,” Rothenberg announces to Poets&Quants. “We think they are often analytical and really good at building a team and a strong foundation for a company. They are less product-driven and more execution-driven.”

Rothenberg would be an exceptional ally to have in your corner. He and fellow managing partner David Tisch, the grandson of famous entrepreneur Laurence Tisch, regularly identify and assess ventures at the seed stage, dishing out  $50,000 to $250,000 chunks of investment.

“While you’re in an MBA program, it’s an amazing time to start a company,” believes Rothenberg, who has an undergraduate degree in finance from Wharton. “You have free time. You’re in a great environment with really smart other people that could potentially be co-founders or early teammates.”

Adam Rothenberg of BoxGroup

Adam Rothenberg of BoxGroup


He and partner Tisch walk the talk.  BoxGroup has invested in nine of this year’s Top 100 MBA Startups, almost as much as legendary investor Ron Conway’s SV Angel in San Francisco which has put cash into 10 of this year’s top MBA startups. Both firms each backed 13 MBA startups on our list last year. And the number balloons if you tote up the investments among BoxGroup, Tisch’s individual investments and TechStars, where Tisch and Rothenberg have both worked. All together, the duo can claim investments in 17 of the top startups. They’ve backed the likes of Harry’s, Oscar Insurance, PillPack and Rig Up, among others.

What does he look for in a new business idea? A compelling story, a vision and a developed market-tested product, where you have an elite MBA on your resume or not. “I think a lot of fundraising, especially in the early stages, is about storytelling,” he believes. “I think it’s a good founders job to weave together a narrative about who they are and where the company’s going.”

Woe to those who venture into his office with a concrete plan and vision. “There are no excuses,” insists Rothenberg. “If you come to us without anything and all you have is an idea, that’s not great. If you’ve used your time to network and find other great people and you’ve built a product and you’re in market and testing it, then that’s awesome. And that really holds true with anyone, not just an MBA.”


The last five years have been a great time to raise money, and VCs have poured plenty of cash into the business plans of MBAs. But in the past six months, as valuations on early stage companies began to deflate, the hurdles are getting higher. Still, there’s a fairly stable field of angel investors and VCs who consistently gravitate to the MBA startup market.

Behind SV Angel and BoxGroup is Menlo Park, California-based VC firm, Sequoia Capital, which invested in seven top MBA startups. Sequoia Capital, founded in 1972, has a robust portfolio of companies they’ve invested in including such social media and tech heavy hitters as Google, Facebook, Instagram, DropBox,  and AirBnB. They’ve also backed such top MBA startups as DoorDash, Nubank and Grofers, among others. Next up on our list of the most generous MBA funders is San Francisco-based 500 Startups. Founded by Dave McClure and Christine Tsai, 500 Startups backed GrabTaxi, Havenly and Hinge.

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