The Best MBA Programs For Venture-Backed Startups

Stanford Graduate School of Business at dusk

Stanford Graduate School of Business at dusk

Silicon Valley strikes again. For the third straight year, the business school with the most startups on Poets&Quants‘ ranking of the Top 100 MBA Startups is the one situated in the United States’ entrepreneurship epicenter: Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.

This year’s list, based on startups that received the most venture capital-backed funding, includes only companies launched in the past five years by MBAs graduating between 2015 and 2019. Because of ties, 103 startups made the list, of which 34 were founded by MBAs from Stanford GSB. The Palo Alto, California-based school outpaced second-place Harvard Business School, which had 23 startups on this year’s list.

The two titans have gone back and forth in the startup wars for the better part of a decade. In the seven years Poets&Quants has tracked this data, Stanford and Harvard combined for less than half of the startups on the list only once — 2017, when GSB- and HBS-founded MBA startups still combined for 48 ventures. The first three years the list was published,

Harvard outpaced Stanford, with the largest gap being in 2016 when HBS founders had 42 startups on the list compared to Stanford’s 23. Since then, though, the list has tilted in the other direction: In 2017, the schools tied at 24 each on the Top MBA Startups ranking, and in 2018 Stanford squeaked by with 27 startups on the list to Harvard’s 26. Last year, the role reversal was complete as Stanford had the most startups it’s ever had on the list, placing 39 compared to HBS’s 21. This year, HBS closed the gap, but Stanford still outpaced Harvard by 11.

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School had nine startups on the 2020 list, the same it had in 2018 and 2019. Next is the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, which had eight, tied for the highest number of startups it has ever had on the list and an increase from the five it had last year. Rounding out the top five is the University of California-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, which had seven startups this year — it’s highest ever since we’ve created this list.

Editor’s note: The original version of this article did not include two startups founded by UC-Berkeley Haas MBAs. The chart below has been updated to reflect that addition. We regret the error.


In terms of just how much startups are raising in venture capital-backed funding, Stanford’s proximity to VC-rich Sand Hill Road has proven advantageous. The 34 Stanford MBA-founded ventures accounted for more than $1.4 billion on this year’s Top MBA Startups list. Between all 103 startups in the ranking, the total funding amount raised was just over $3 billion. Stanford’s $1.4 billion was much higher than Harvard’s $470 million. It was also higher than Stanford’s total from last year, which was just over $1.3 billion. Last year, Harvard’s 21 ventures to make the list combined for just over $729 million.

Following Stanford and Harvard in total funds raised is Columbia Business School, which had five startups make this year’s list combining for $236.40 million. Northwestern Kellogg’s six ventures on the list combined for $218.74 million. The eight startups founded by Chicago Booth MBAs combined for $201.36 million. And Wharton’s nine upstarts combined for $162.10 million.

Over the seven-year history of this list, both Harvard and Stanford have had MBA startups represented 210 times. Both schools distance the rest of the schools by a lot. The Wharton School has had the third-most startups represented over the years at 53. Perhaps most notably is the first time since we’ve been putting together this list, MIT’s Sloan School of Management didn’t have a startup represented. With 11 startups on the list in 2013 and 10 in 2015, Sloan has been on a general downward trend in terms of startups on the list. Sloan’s numbers have fallen consistently from seven startups on the list in 2017 to four in 2018, one in 2019 and zero this year.

Over the past six graduating classes between 2014 and 2019, Harvard Business School has had 421 MBAs elect to start a company immediately after graduating, according to school employment reports. That number is more than any other major U.S. business school. Next is Stanford’s Graduate School of Business, which has had 384 founders immediately after graduation during the same amount of time. Wharton follows with 251, while Columbia Business School and MIT Sloan round out the top five with 146 and 137, respectively. This past year (2019 graduates), both Columbia Business School (34) and Wharton (35) had almost as many graduates elect to launch businesses as Stanford (36).


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