Anything can happen once. And most anything can happen twice. But when something happens three times, that’s a trend.
For three years, Poets&Quants has ranked the best MBA programs in the world for entrepreneurship. And for each of those years — 2020, 2021, and now 2022 — the Olin Business School at Washington University in St. Louis has topped the list.
“I am beyond gratified — but not surprised — to learn that WashU Olin’s MBA entrepreneurship program has again topped the Poets&Quants ranking,” Olin Dean Mark Taylor said in response to learning Olin took the top spot again this year. “Our decisive claim on that ranking this year is a testament to the priority we place on sparking the entrepreneurial spirit in our students.
“Indeed, we count entrepreneurship among Olin’s four pillars of excellence, and we take care to imbue that spirit throughout our course offerings and programs. I’m proud of and thankful for the leadership Doug Villhard, II Luscri, and the entire Olin team provide in this area.”
It’s hard for any one school to stay on top for three consecutive years, particularly in a field that has seen many schools double down on their commitments to entrepreneurship. But Olin pulled off a three-peat with little difficulty. Also for the second year in a row, Washington University was followed in P&Q‘s ranking by Babson College, long known for its pioneering differentiation in entrepreneurship. Surging from 15th place into third this year was Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business. Climbing three spots from seventh to fourth was Barcelona-based ESADE. And also climbing three spots — from eighth to fifth — is Madrid-based IE Business School.
Interestingly, the top five schools were either based in the U.S. or Spain. The first school to be based outside of those two countries is the ninth-place City University of London. In all, 38 schools were ranked this year — down from 50 last year, but up from 27th the first year of the ranking.
At all of these highly ranked schools, teaching entrepreneurship is as much about launching a new enterprise as it is about learning a new way of thinking. For schools, developing an entrepreneurial mindset in students is as crucial a part of the MBA tool kit as any core discipline whether it is finance or marketing. .
ENTREPRENEURSHIP CONTINUES TO BE A POPULAR PICK AMONG MBAs
Entrepreneurship continues to be a popular path among MBAs, many of which have grown up in a booming tech and startup culture. Tech and startup founders like Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Jack Dorsey, and others continue to be idolized among business-minded people. That combined with a generation still feeling burnt by the Great Recession and general distrust in major institutions has continued to foster MBAs hellbent on forging their own path. MBAs are behind some of the largest and most impactful startups around the world like Warby Parker, which went public last month with a valuation of $6.8 billion by the end of its first day of trading, Singapore-based Grab, and Brazil-based NuBank. They’re also behind some of the brands we’ve learned to love and adopt into our lifestyles since the pandemic like DoorDash, Peloton, Blue Apron, Hulu, and Zoom.
The startup bug is alive and well on B-school campuses. Many schools are reporting higher percentages of MBAs launching startups immediately after graduation in 2020 compared to other recent graduating classes. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management saw 6.5% of its Class of 2020 MBAs launch startups immediately after commencement—the highest over the past four years. Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management also posted a four-year high with 5.8%. Brigham Young University’s Marriott School of Business has seen student founders surge to 1o.5% of its 2020 class. The University of Oregon’s Lundquist School is up to 11.0%, IE Business School is at 16.0%, Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is also on a four-year high at 18.2%, as is Harvard Business School at 11.0%.
Likewise, enticed by the chance to have a more immediate impact on a business, MBAs are joining startups at high rates. Some 32.0% of ESADE’s Class of 2020 accepted jobs with startups or early state companies immediately after graduation. The rate was 20.2% at IE Business School, down slightly from 22.0% for its Class of 2019. Boston University saw 15.0% of its 2020 class join a startup. Some 13.4% of BYU’s MBA grads —a sizable leap from 5.20% in 2019–signed up with new companies. And Georgetown, WashU, and Rice all had 11% of their Class of 2020 join startups, which represented a four-year high for both Georgetown and WashU.
SOME METHODOLOGICAL CHANGES TO THIS YEAR’S RANKING
The Olin Business School maintained its status as the No. 1 school despite changes in our methodology made as a result of feedback from business school deans and their entrepreneurship directors. While we’ve tinkered with our approach to ranking the best schools to improve the methodology, this year saw the most significant changes. (see a full explanation of our methodology here). Like previous years, we included schools that willingly submitted data and schools that declined to provide information. For the schools that did not cooperate, we gathered the necessary metrics from publicly available sources and school marketing materials. If a data point could not be found, a school was given the average of the data from other schools.
The most significant change in this year’s methodology was the addition of several new metric categories. This year, the new ranking is the result of 16 different metrics, up from 10 last year. The changes are the result of invited comments, suggestions, and questions raised by B-school deans and directors.
WHY WE ADDED DATA POINTS
Adding data points to the ranking does two things. First, it diminishes the weight of any one metric, providing a broader and deeper view of a school’s commitment to the teaching of entrepreneurship. Last year, the average percentage of students launching startups immediately after graduation was given a 20% weight. The percentage of MBA electives focused solely on entrepreneurship and innovation also was given a 20% weight. This year, both of those categories — which are again the two heaviest-weighted categories — are each given just 15%. This makes it tougher for a school to do really well in the ranking by excelling in just a few aspects of entrepreneurship.
This brings us to the second benefit of our ranking changes. They make the ranking a better measure of the overall entrepreneurial prowess of an MBA program.
This year, for instance, we added the percentage of students accepting positions at startups immediately after graduation between 2017 and 2020. In previous years, we’ve tracked the percentage of students who launch startups or go into venture capital and private equity. But student interest in startups and early stage companies is often a direct result of a school’s emphasis on entrepreneurship, another way to measure how schools are preparing MBAs to be entrepreneurial. We also added categories like the number of entrepreneurial-focused mentors available to MBAs, the number of hours of school-facilitated mentorship meetings between MBAs and entrepreneurial mentors, the percentage of faculty members involved with startups outside of school, and the percentage of MBAs involved in startups in some capacity.
DATA ONLY AVAILABLE AT POETS&QUANTS
The result is a uniquely MBA-focused dataset unavailable anywhere else on the internet. (see all of our data used to calculate this year’s ranking). We’ve gathered both commonly reported metrics from most employment reports such as the percentage of MBA students who launch startups at or after graduation. Washington University kills this category, with nearly one in five MBAs creating their own companies within three months of commencement for the Classes of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. The University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business follows with 18.5%, while Stanford’s Graduate School of Business is next with 16.4% of grads going the startup route. Babson has 14.4% and IE Business School has 10.4%–all well above the roughly 5% average for most business schools.
But we also collect hard-to-find, often unique data on a school’s commitment to entrepreneurship. One example: During the 2020-2021 academic year, Harvard Business School boasted the highest percentage of entrepreneurship- or innovation-focused MBA electives at 49.7%. MIT’s Sloan School of Management had the highest percentage of MBA students involved in its student-run entrepreneurship club at 69.6%. For the Classes of 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020, ESADE had the most MBAs — 21.5% — join startups in their first positions after business school. ESADE also had the most MBAs take at least one entrepreneurship-focused elective during the 2020-2021 academic year at an amazing 97.0%.
No one school has been able to dominate across all the metrics year after year. In this 2021 edition of our ranking, only three of the 38 schools ranked this year led in multiple data categories