Poets&Quants’ Top MBA Startups Of 2021

When it comes to supporting and guiding entrepreneurial MBAs who launch startups, Stanford Graduate School of Business kills it.

The business school in the center of Silicon Valley’s ecosystem outdid itself in this year’s roundup of the Top MBA Startups by Poets&Quants. Of the 100 startups that attracted the most funding from angel investors and venture capitalists over the past five years, Stanford GSB stakes claim to 39. Included in those 39: top-placed Divvy Homes, which has raised nearly $300 million since its launch in 2017.

Divvy’s rise to the top was buoyed by a $110 million Series C funding round announced in February. The rent-to-own homebuying platform purchases homes for the homebuyer and then rents the home to that homebuyer, which can put down as little as 2% of the home’s cost. The individual homebuyer can then rent the home from Divvy while they build equity to purchase the home outright from Divvy.

Divvy was founded by Adena Hefets, who graduated from Stanford in 2016, and a team of engineers. Its fundraising total of $299.04 million is the highest amount for the top startup on our yearly list since 2017, when Wharton-founded food delivery platform Deliveroo had raised $474.59 million at the time of publication.

Adena Hefets of Divvy Homes graduated with an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 2016. Courtesy photo


Each year since 2014, Poets&Quants has huddled together with the world’s best MBA programs to compile a list based on one data point: how much funding a startup has raised. The result recognizes the hottest startups coming out of the top MBA programs on the planet. To qualify this year, a startup had to be founded between January 1, 2016, and December 31, 2020, and must have at least one MBA founder during that same timeframe. Some startups, like Divvy, have just one MBA founder. Others have only MBA founders — such as financial services startup Ethos, which was founded by, you guessed it, Stanford grads.

2021 produced another list of incredibly diverse startups across a wide array of industries. Divvy is trying to make homebuying more accessible to Americans and people around the globe. Second-place Tomorrow.io (formerly ClimaCell), calling itself the world’s only “Weather Intelligence Platform,” is aimed at helping businesses become more climate-resilient; founded by a team from Harvard Business School, it has raised $183.9 million, including a $77 million Series D round announced less than a month ago. Viz, which uses artificial intelligence to streamline healthcare, came in third-place this year, raising $149.19 million; another Stanford GSB-founded startup, about a month ago it raised $71 million in Series C funding.

Divvy joins an exclusive list of previous winners, including last year’s winner Guild Education, another Stanford-founded venture focused on making education more accessible and equitable. Other recent winners have included Stanford-founded Branch Metrics, HBS-founded Farmers Business Network, Wharton-founded Deliveroo, and Stanford-founded SoFi.


This year’s list continues two unmistakable trends: women-founded and co-founded companies are strongly represented among the top startups, and Stanford GSB continues to widen the entrepreneurial gap with other elite MBA programs.

Women were founders or co-founders of 28 startups on this year’s list, a slight drop from last year’s 29 but still higher than any year prior to 2020. It’s the third year in a row that a Stanford GSB startup with at least one woman on the founding team, has topped our list, following Guild Education last year and Branch Metrics in 2019.

Stanford’s also ties its highest number of startups on our annual list; the GSB had 39 startups make the list two years ago, in 2019. The 39 is up from 34 on last year’s list. Following Stanford with the second-most startups on the list is Harvard Business School, with 19 startups, down from 23 last year. That 19 is the lowest number Harvard has had in the eight-year history of the list. In 2016, HBS had 42 startups on the list; since then, Harvard’s numbers have ranged from 21 startups to 26. This was the first year that number dropped below 20. The upshot: The gap between Stanford and Harvard for successful MBA startups has never been greater.

Following Stanford and Harvard, Columbia Business School had seven startups make the 2021 list, up from five last year. The University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and France’s INSEAD all had five startups make this year’s list. Wharton had nine startups on last year’s list, while UC-Berkeley Haas had seven. INSEAD’s five startups are not only the most-ever for the school but also the most for any school not based in the U.S.

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