The Most Successful Entrepreneurs Come From These Schools

Maybe the entrepreneurial mindset can’t be taught, but it can certainly be nurtured, and some MBA programs are better at cultivating and bringing along young entrepreneurs than others. According to PitchBook, a financial data and software company headquartered in Seattle, Washington, those schools are much the same year in and year out — a conclusion you might have reached from our own reporting.

A mergers & acquisitions, private equity, and venture capital database, PitchBook yearly releases a compendium of data on university programs that have produced the most founders in the venture landscape. They’ve been at it since 2006. As part of that larger Universities report, which focuses equally on undergraduate programs, PitchBook ranks the 25 MBA programs that have produced the most entrepreneurs, the most companies, the most female founders, and more — including, of course, the most VC backing.

This year, for the second d time in as many years, no new schools entered the list. The top five schools, meanwhile, remain unchanged from 2017: Harvard Business School is still No. 1, now with more than 1,300 entrepreneurs and nearly 1,200 companies that combined have raised in excess of $39 billion; among the familiar names to emerge from HBS incubation are Grab, GO-JEK, and Zynga. Stanford Graduate School of Business is second with 861 founders, 775 companies, and about $23 billion, paced by DoorDash and Compass, followed by the Wharton School (720, 638, $24.23B), INSEAD (489, 439, $9.8B), and Northwestern Kellogg (481, 449, $6.62B). In the entire list of 25 MBA programs, six schools have moved up, none more than one spot, and five have moved down, all but one by only one spot. All but four of the schools are in the United States. (See page 2 for the complete ranking.)


PitchBook also ranks schools for the number of female founders they produce, a list that unsurprisingly starts with the top three schools from the main ranking: Harvard (220), Stanford (132), and Wharton (84). The familiar names here include Nextdoor, whose co-founder Sarah Leary earned her MBA from HBS in 1998, and Sunrun, the residential solar, storage, and energy services provider co-founded by CEO Lynn Jurich, a Stanford MBA.

In fact PitchBook’s report, authored by Garrett James Black, custom research and publishing senior manager, and data analyst Henry Apfel, offers a lot of interesting wrinkles, for instance this comparison of companies founded and capital raised at Ivy League versus non-Ivy League schools:

Harvard (24), Stanford (19), and Wharton (13) also take the top three spots in Pitchbook’s ranking of “unicorn”-producing schools, or schools from which billion-dollar company founders have emerged, with the only other school in double digits being INSEAD (10). They are the top three schools in the last two MBA rankings in the Universities report, as well: for serial entrepreneurs — those who founded two or more separate companies that garnered a first round of venture financing between January 1, 2006 and July 31, 2018 — and for exits, or successful sale of a startup to a larger company.


PitchBook’s Garrett Black writes:

“Whether nostalgia or indifference cloaks memories of schooling, formal education is undeniably one of the most formative periods in any person’s life. It is perhaps even more so for those that work in industries that are as human capital-intensive as venture capital. Accurate information is hard to come by in private markets in general, and even more so, arguably, in the realm of startups and their backers. Amid that scarcity, relationships are even more critical. Tapping networks remains perhaps the most trusted recourse to finding not only the right people with whom to launch a new venture, but also the right providers of needed capital. And thanks to demographics, biases, and more, the people you went to university or graduate programs with remain a key component in your network.

“The evidence of the power of such networks is clear in the following pages, as we rank multiple university programs by their production of entrepreneurs that have gone on to raise a round of venture funding.

“Of course, it is important to note that the types and reputation of certain programs will also draw in the types of people that go on to launch startups, thus skewing trends to a certain degree. However, that is why we also provide a handy tally of shifts in rankings, as thereby it is easier to see just how much certain schools have crept up over the years.”

(See pages 2, 3, and 4 for the complete PitchBook ranking of top entrepreneurial MBA programs and more.)

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