B-Schools With The Most VC-Backed MBA Startups

Stanford Graduate School of Business MBAs at graduation have plenty to be happy about

There’s a new top dog when it comes to schools producing venture capital-backed companies. After five years of trailing or tying Harvard Business School, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business broke away in a record-setting way on our 2019 list of Top MBA Startups.

The annual list is based purely on investment raised by companies founded within the past five years. The ventures also must have at least one founder who graduated with their MBA in the past five years. In 2018, for the first time since we began compiling the list, Stanford’s GSB edged out HBS for the top spot with 27 of the top 100 startups to Harvard’s 26. This year, however, Stanford zoomed ahead with 39 startups to HBS’s 21.

“If you are thinking only about the 16% of students starting a business right out of their MBA program, one might imagine that the strong job market and rising salaries might encourage students to wait and start a new venture a little later in their careers,” says Deb Whitman, director of Stanford’s Center for Entrepreneurial Studies. “But I think those forces may be balanced by a reasonably strong funding market, keeping the entrepreneurial interest strong and steady.”

To be sure, the GSB is doing its part to keep entrepreneurship top of mind for its MBAs. The Palo Alto, California school boasts more than 60 MBA courses focused on entrepreneurship and innovation. This past year, Whitman says, 100% of MBA graduates took at least one entrepreneurship and innovation class. Over the past three years, that number has ranged from 98% to 100% — up from 92% to 95% in the five to 10 years prior to that. What’s more, Whitman says, last year’s graduating class saw 21% join an existing startup. That number has also ranged between 19% to 24% over the past few years, Whitman says.

“The level of interest in entrepreneurship is staying quite steady at Stanford GSB over the past five years, but certainly has increased relative to 10 years ago,” she explains.


Across the country at Harvard Business School, Shikhar Ghosh, the faculty co-chair at the Rock Center for Entrepreneurship, says entrepreneurship is also increasing in interest among Harvard MBAs. This year, 8% of the class elected to start its own business immediately after graduation — a slight uptick from 7% in 2017. Another 9% joined existing startups. Ghosh says about a quarter of full-time MBA electives are focused on entrepreneurship, and all core courses within the MBA program now include at least one entrepreneurship or innovation focus. One core course is completely dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation.

“We are one of the few schools that has a core curriculum. And out of the core curriculum, we have one entire course dedicated to entrepreneurship,” Ghosh says.

Besides boosting entrepreneurship in the curriculum, Ghosh says the school’s Startup Bootcamp has also gained in popularity among students recently.

“What has struck me recently is (interest in) our entrepreneurship bootcamp, because it’s completely voluntary,” Ghosh says of the weeklong program, which took place January 18-25. “It’s during their (students’) vacation, so they have to choose to spend one week in Boston in January taking classes instead of sitting on a beach somewhere.”

On P&Q‘s 2019 Top Startups list, Columbia Business School and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania followed the GSB and HBS, each with nine startups. For Columbia, it’s a tick up from last year’s seven startups, but still a slight drop from 11 in 2017, which was a record for the school. Wharton’s nine startups is the same number as last year but also a drop from 2017, when it had 12 on the list. That dozen was the highest any other school not named Harvard or Stanford has had on the list since we first launched it in 2013.

This year, Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management followed with six startups after having seven in 2018 and eight in 2017. Chicago’s Booth School of Business and the University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business followed, each with five startups on this year’s list. For Haas, it’s the most ever they’ve had on the list.

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