MBA Grads Are Behind 38 ‘Unicorns’


MBA-founded unicorns have tapped into multiple market,s too. The majority (27%) are in the software industry category. The consumer internet category is the second most popular, claiming 24% of the MBA-founded unicorns. Next is e-commerce at 18%, while  financial services has the fourth highest amount of MBA-founded unicorns at 10%.

Of course, diversity of interests and startups among MBAs is nothing new and increasingly expected. Startups to make the Poets&Quants top MBA startups list included companies doing everything from off-grid energy solutions in east Africa to medical devices that track brain health to dating apps.

Similarly, the 38 MBA-founded unicorns represent an array of products and industries. Blue Apron, one of the world’s leading food delivery platforms, is valued at $2 billion and has a Harvard MBA on the founding team. SoFi, the Stanford GSB-founded student loan refinancing company to top the Poets&Quants top startups ranking, is the fifth highest MBA-founded unicorn, valued at $3 billion. The Honest Company, an e-commerce venture that emphasizes non-toxic household cleaning solutions, was founded by a team comprised of a UCLA Anderson MBA and actress Jessica Alba (of course the school closest to Hollywood would have a celebrity co-founder).


It should also be noted just 16 of the unicorns were founded in 2010 or later. The oldest unicorn is HBS and Wharton-founded Red Ventures in 2000. The youngest are e-commerce venture, Jet, and insurance company, Oscar, both founded by HBS MBAs. With interest in entrepreneurship high, it’s not hard to imagine the percentage of MBA-founded unicorns increasing in the years to become–especially if the funding market doesn’t fall completely apart.

Truth is, more top schools are producing entrepreneurial-focused MBAs than ever before. For the class of 2015, 84 out of 908 HBS graduates elected to start ventures. Only going into finance, consulting and tech were more popular options that launching a company for last year’s class at HBS. At Stanford’s GSB, more graduates (16%) started ventures than went to work for consulting firms (14%) last year. At INSEAD, more graduates decided to start ventures than were hired by Microsoft, Google, Apple, Deloitte and Citi combined.

Simply put, in the enormous world of entrepreneurship and startups that, at times, rewards college dropouts as much as PhDs, MBAs are holding their own. Being able to claim 24% of the current unicorns is impressive, for sure. And with the amount of venture-armed MBAs increasing, five years from now that percentage could certainly tick up.

(See the next page for a list of all MBA-founded unicorns.)

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