Top Entrepreneur-Producing Schools Are Tops At Everything Else, Too

Harvard Businesss School is once again atop the Pitchbook ranking of programs that produce the most venture capital-backed entrepreneurs. Among the success stories to emerge from HBS: Zynga, the online gaming company

So it turns out that the top schools for producing venture capital-backed entrepreneurs are also the top schools in just about every other measure. Who knew? (Hint: We knew.)

Little has changed in Pitchbook’s annual ranking of MBA programs that produce the most — and the most successful — entrepreneurs: the mergers & acquisitions, private equity, and venture capital database notes that no new schools have entered the top 25 ranking this year, and the top three remains unchanged: in order, Harvard Business School, Stanford Graduate School of Business, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. But that doesn’t mean the company’s report, released Friday (September 1), is without a few interesting wrinkles.

On the contrary, Pitchbook’s ranking of MBA programs — part of a larger report, The Top 50 Universities Producing VC-Backed Entrepreneurs, which focuses equally on undergraduate programs — includes loads of data from 2006 to 2016 on which schools have produced the most female founders, which have produced the most unicorns, and which have done best in what sectors, among other breakdowns and deep dives.


Of course, HBS, GSB, Wharton and the other schools that make up the top end of the Pitchbook ranking are also the ones you’ll find atop most of the national and international rankings, including INSEAD, Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, Columbia Business School, and MIT’s Sloan School of Management. In other words, the best of the best using most metrics. Moreover, looking at Poets&Quants’ 2017 analysis of entrepreneurial hotbeds, there are few areas of divergence between P&Q and Pitchbook, except perhaps the omission by P&Q of INSEAD in its top 10. Still, the similarities are the most striking element, down to the one-two punch of Harvard-Stanford atop the rankings.

Pitchbook’s report does, however, contain several interesting kernels of data, and even a few surprises — among them:

  • HBS has produced the most female company founders, 202, well more than second-place Stanford (119) or third-place Columbia Business School (77). Harvard’s female founders — responsible for launching or co-founding such companies as Grab, Gilt, Nextdoor, Cloud, and Rent the Runway — have raised far more than their counterparts at other top B-schools: $4.5 million, compared to $1.79 million at the next-closest school, Stanford.
  • In overall VC-backed entrepreneurs, Harvard has produced 1,203 who have launched 1,086 companies — the only school to surpass the 1,000 mark. The other schools’ totals in the top five: Stanford 802 and 716 companies, Wharton 666 and 585 companies, INSEAD 455 and 406 companies, and Northwestern Kellogg 445 and 417 companies.
  • In top schools for unicorns, once again it’s Harvard (Grab, Zynga, Oscar, Jet, GO-JEK), Stanford (SoFi, Sea, Funding Circle, Fab, Sunrun), and Wharton Flipkart,, Jet, Deliveroo, HelloFresh), though at the bottom of the list of 12 schools are three newcomers to the ranking: Pepperdine University’s Graziadio School of Business and Management, UCLA’s Anderson School of Management, and Washington University’s Olin Business School all moved up three places to tie for eighth with two unicorn entrepreneurs each.
  • Pitchbook ranks the top 15 MBA programs for “serial” entrepreneurs, defined as an entrepreneur who has founded two or more separate companies that garnered a first round of venture financing, and the top three are — drumroll — HBS, GSB, and Wharton. MIT Sloan then supplants INSEAD at fourth, INSEAD lands at fifth, and the rest of the top 10 is CBS, Kellogg, University of Chicago Booth School of Business, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, and UCLA Anderson.

The top 12 MBA programs producing unicorns. Source: Pitchbook


Only four schools in Pitchbook’s MBA top 25 are non-United States schools: INSEAD, ranked fourth; London Business School, 12th; Tel Aviv University, 13th; and the University of Oxford, 22nd. INSEAD is also the highest non-U.S. school in the ranking of female founders (seventh), with 40, and unicorns (fourth), with eight.

Pitchbook’s ranking also provides a sector breakdown. What industry are most of these Harvard entrepreneurs’ companies emerging in? Unsurprisingly, the answer is software (41.7%) — and that’s the top industry for the companies coming out of each of the other top six schools, too, with each seeing between 40% and 44% of their entrepreneurs head into the field (presumably mostly in a certain valley on the West Coast). The next-biggest destination, after “Other,” is Commercial Services (9.39% and 9.5% at Harvard and Stanford, respectively); only one school bucks this trend: Wharton, where Healthcare Services/Supplies/Systems takes third place with 9.3%.

In case you’re wondering where the top MBA schools land in the Pitchbook undergraduate ranking, the answer is: somewhat differently. Stanford takes the top spot, followed by UC-Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, and Wharton. Cornell University’s Johnson College of Business is sixth, followed by the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, the University of Texas’s McCombs School of Business, Tel Aviv University, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign to round out the top 10.

See the following pages for charts and rankings from the Pitchbook report.

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