The World’s Best MBA Programs For Entrepreneurship

A view of the Cortex building at 4320 Forest Park Avenue. James Byard/ WUSTL Photos


Back in St. Louis, Washington University basically didn’t even have an entrepreneurship program until 2008. The Olin School founded the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation and Entrepreneurship in 2002 but didn’t hire its first full-time entrepreneurship faculty member until 2008 when enlisted serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist Cliff Holekamp to develop a program. At the time, Olin had just two entrepreneurship courses — Intro to Entrepreneurship and the Hatchery, the school’s incubator class within the Skandalaris Center.

Since then, Holekamp, who also went through the full-time MBA program at Olin, has launched 15 entrepreneurship-focused elective classes in 12 years and most recently, entrepreneurship became of the school’s “four pillars” of its strategic plan. “That took entrepreneurship from being a really strong niche to something every Olin student is going to be exposed to,” Holekamp explains in his office space, T-Rex, another co-working and incubator space in downtown St. Louis that was formerly a furniture factory.

“You can’t opt-out of entrepreneurship anymore,” Holekamp continues. “Every course at Olin has to be accountable for entrepreneurship and innovation.” What’s more, he adds, now every single course evaluation includes a question asking to what degree entrepreneurship and innovation were part of the course. “That’s big,” he beams.


But the ranking — and the point of entrepreneurship in business school — is not just about launching businesses. It’s about creating an entrepreneurial mindset in students that is crucial to corporate innovation. The skills — including adaptability, perseverance, and calculated risk-taking — required to start something new translate well into other business realms, whether inside a Fortune 100 company or a family business. 

That is why the ranking takes a close look at the resources schools devote to the subject. At Stanford, nearly half (47.1%) of all the elective courses are focused on entrepreneurship. Across the Pacific in Shanghai, the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) boasts almost the same amount at 46.8%. Both schools far exceed the exposure to entrepreneurship at rival institutions: Chicago Booth (33.3%), Carnegie Mellon University’s Tepper School of Business (33.0%), and the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business (31.1%).

Cultivating a strong entrepreneurial environment is also about building a community of students keenly interested in creating and nurturing new business ideas. After all, one of the biggest draws for the full-time residential MBA program, which has been losing its appeal in the U.S., is networking with classmates. At the University of California-Los Angeles’s Anderson School of Management, 83.3% of full-time MBA students during the 2018-2019 academic year were involved in an entrepreneurship club on campus. At Washington University, the rate was 75% and at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, the number was 74.2% — slightly higher than MIT’s Sloan School of Management where 69.6% of full-time MBAs were in entrepreneurship clubs last year. 


More than ever before, universities and business schools are pouring money into their own entrepreneurial ecosystems. Gone are the days when MBAs worked on their own, never meeting or engaging with students in other schools and departments at a university. Consider the Swartz Center for Entrepreneurship in the middle of Carnegie Mellon University’s campus in Pittsburgh. When Carnegie Mellon’s Tepper School opened a new business school building last year, the entrepreneurship center for the entire university was placed in it. The goal: to bring students from all of the colleges across the university to a centralized location to incubate ideas and launch businesses.

Not to be outdone, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania — 23rd in the ranking — will be opening the doors of a massive entrepreneurship hub next fall. The seven-story, 68,000-square-foot Tangen Hall is Penn’s first dedicated space for cross-campus entrepreneurship and innovation. Besides a Venture Lab, the new digs will boast a virtual reality lab, maker spaces with 3D printers and laser cutters, as well as street-level “pop-up” retail space for student ventures.

Across the country near the shores of San Francisco Bay, the University of California-Berkeley has taken over the penthouse — and other floors — of the city’s tallest building all in the name of multi-discipline student-founded startups. Launched in 2012, Berkeley SkyDeck invests $100,000 in each startup in its program. In seven short years, SkyDeck startups have raised more than $1 billion in funding and have had 11 exits through acquisitions. SkyDeck teams are responsible for Lime scooters infiltrating your city streets and sidewalks, Chirp Microsystems, and

SkyDeck operates like a full-fledged accelerator space and has grown rapidly since 2014. At the end of 2014, SkyDeck received 50 applications for a spot in its coworking space. The most recent cycle attracted more than 800 applications. Startups using the space have grown from about 20 to more than 140, requiring an expansion to another floor of the building. Advisors for SkyDeck startups have grown to more than 200 from a mere dozen. But the most unique and special aspect to the space is the private investment fund created in early 2018. 

“We have a public-private partnership I haven’t seen anywhere else,” boasts Caroline Winnett, a former UC-Berkeley MBA and executive director of SkyDeck. “All we have to do is find the next Google or the next Apple, Genentech, Intel, or you-name-it large company. Our fund invests and follows on through the rounds so if that company is acquired or goes public, no one will ever have to pay tuition to Berkeley again.”

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