2021’s Best MBA Programs For Venture-Backed Startups

It’s officially a trend.

For four straight years in a row, the business school with the most startups on Poets&Quantsranking of the Top 100 MBA Startups is the one situated smack in the middle of the epicenter of entrepreneurship: Stanford Graduate School of Business. And this year, the GSB’s lead over second-placed Harvard Business School is larger than ever.

Our new list of the most funded MBA startups considers new ventures founded between 2016 and 2020 with at least one MBA as a founder or co-founder who graduated between 2016 and 2020. Once qualified, startups are ranked based on the money they have raised from angel investors and venture capitalists. That smart money tells us that savvy investors believe in the company’s prospects and its founders and is the ultimate stamp of approval.

Among this year’s 100 startups, just about four out of every ten was founded by an MBA graduate of Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. The 39 ventures that came off the Stanford campus ties the 2019 record for the most included from Stanford. Harvard Business School, no slouch when it comes to entrepreneurship, had its lowest number ever on our yearly list, with 19 startups. It’s the largest gap between the top two schools in the eight-year history of the ranking.

Following Stanford and Harvard with the third-most startups this year is Columbia Business School, which placed seven startups. The University of California-Berkeley Haas School of Business, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and INSEAD, with campuses in France and Singapore, each placed five startups on this year’s list. For Wharton, it’s a dip from nine startups a year ago. Berkeley had seven on last year’s list. INSEAD’s five startups are the most for the school and the most for any school based outside the United States.

When we first launched this list in 2013, Stanford and Harvard were evenly matched, with 34 Harvard-founded startups and 32 GSB startups making the list. But the next two years saw Harvard growing its gap to 19 in 2016 when HBS grads claimed 42 of the Top 100 Startups and the GSB had 23. After that year, however, the GSB totally erased the gap and then surged past HBS to its gap of 20 startups this year.

Stanford has now had more startups than any other school make our list over the past eight years. All told, 249 different startups landed on our top 100 from Stanford over the past eight editions — 20 more than HBS, which has had 229. Wharton has claimed the next most with 58 startups making the list over the past eight years. Next is Columbia Business School with 51, while MIT’s Sloan School of Management rounds out the top five with 42 startups.

Things could start to tilt back towards Harvard’s favor, however. HBS had 105 graduates elect to launch businesses within three months of graduation in 2020 — much more than any other recent year. Stanford also saw the number of MBAs launching companies immediately after graduation also increase, but just from 62 in 2019 to 71 in 2020.


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