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Where Funded Female Founders Went To School

Illustration of Black and Brown Women. [Dom Guzman]

Every year or so at Crunchbase News, we take a look at which American universities graduated the highest number of recently funded startup founders. And each time, the same handful of schools top the list.

This time around, we decided to look specifically at female founders. Our intent was to see whether female founders differ significantly from their male counterparts in their choices of schools.

Spoiler alert: They do not. Overall, the female founder university list is not too different from the one for all founders, which used a similar but not identical methodology1. Stanford University is still on top, followed by Harvard University and MIT. Prestigious business schools are also heavily represented.

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In the chart below, we look at the schools that graduated the highest number of female founders whose organizations last raised funding in the past two years.

Female founders still account for a disproportionately small proportion of startup entrepreneurs, so our sample set was limited. In the Crunchbase database, there were 3,374 female founders in total on our list. Of those, many did not list a university affiliation.

Nonetheless, based on the data we do have, we can tease out a few conclusions and observations. They include the following:

Still Stanford, Harvard and MIT: If you are planning to both pursue a degree and found a funded startup, attending Stanford seems like a very good idea. The university leads pretty much every one of our school-focused founder data crunches. In addition, Silicon Valley’s premier learning institution benefits from being super close to the nation’s biggest cluster of venture investors and tech companies.

If not Stanford, then Harvard and MIT are pretty good bets. They’re perennially the second and third schools for founded funders across the board, and it looks their status holds for female founders as well. 

Of course, none of these schools are easy to get into, with acceptance rates commonly under 5 percent. But no one said this would be an easy path.

Public universities do well too, led by Berkeley: Top public research universities churn out a lot of funded founders as well. The University of California, Berkeley is by far the leader for both all founders and female founders specifically. Next up are UCLA, the University of Michigan, University of Washington, and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Business schools also graduate lots of female founders, led by Harvard: It’s pretty common for funded founders to have attended a prestigious business school, according to Crunchbase data. This holds true for female founders as well, with Harvard maintaining its wide lead on the top spot. 

We chart out the numbers for the top business schools below:

Women’s colleges aren’t standouts for funded founders, but they have some: We also wanted to see what kind of track record women’s colleges have for graduating funded founders. Using an outside ranking of leading U.S. women’s colleges, we checked how many graduates of the top 10 were funded founders. Altogether, we found a total of 13 funded founder graduates, which is not bad considering these tend to be smaller schools, with no more than 3,000 enrolled. 

The two leading schools on our list were Wellesley and Barnard College, with four and three funded founders, respectively.

Naming some names: Our data crunch also provided university affiliations for some of the well-known female founders who have raised funding in the past couple of years. Here are a few names, followed by their companies and universities:

Illustration: Dom Guzman

  1. The dataset focused on female founders whose organizations last raised funding sometime in the past two years. We focused on American universities but included funded startups based in any country. We included all types of funding for this query, not just venture funding, and did not put a minimum funding amount.

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