After two years of pandemic disruptions, in-person graduations are back again. And over the next couple weeks, millions of students will be dressing up for the speeches and celebrations that come with another major milestone’s completion.
For the entrepreneurial minded, among others, it’s also time to reflect on one of higher education’s great questions: Was it all worth it? And does a prestigious degree really give you a leg up on the competition?
While Crunchbase data can’t answer these specific questions, it does offer some insights into how a degree from a particular institution correlates with one’s likelihood of becoming a funded founder. It turns out, your likelihood of raising funds for a startup has a pretty strong correlation with where you attended school.
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So what are the top schools for funded founders? Well, if you’ve read one of our previous iterations on this theme, you may be aware that the findings don’t vary much year over year. That is, Stanford, Harvard and MIT are perennially at the top of the list. Prominent, prestigious colleges and major research universities round out the ranks.
This time around, we focused specifically on seed and early-stage funding recipients. Even so, the results haven’t changed much. We look at the specific breakdown below, tabulating how many founders of our top schools raised $500,000 or more since the beginning of 2021.
We tabulate business schools separately, listed below:
While many things have stayed the same, we do see some changes. With that in mind here are a few key takeaways about new and longstanding trends:
Stanford has still got it: We’ll start with a longstanding trend. Stanford—the pre-eminent university of Silicon Valley—still churns out more funded founders than anywhere else. At least 338 alumni have raised seed or early-stage funding since last year, not including the business school.
With Harvard & MIT, Boston’s still got it too: MIT and Harvard, the two Boston institutions known for their competitive admissions and academic rigor, picked up the second and third slots, respectively, in our university rankings. This is the same ranking we saw in our last data crunch over a year ago, which looked at both early- and late-stage funding.
Berkeley leads among public universities, UT makes gains: University of California, Berkeley, in the No. 4 slot, is also the only public university that cracked the top 10. Berkeley has ranked high in past funded founder surveys, so this latest finding is no surprise, particularly given the school’s strength in science, engineering and tech-related fields.
The University of Texas at Austin, meanwhile, does appear to be climbing the ranks among funded founders. Coming in 11th on our overall list, UT Austin was the second-highest ranking public university. This ascent is likely tied in part to Austin’s rise as a hub for tech startup activity. Behind UT, the next-highest ranking public universities are University of Michigan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and UCLA.
Business school remains a popular path: We’ve seen several articles in recent months about declining applications to top business schools and a fall in the number of GMAT test-takers. But even if the popularity of an MBA is down from peak levels, it’s still a pretty common credential among funded founders. As usual, the most competitive business schools top our ranks, with Harvard Business School in the lead by a long shot, followed by Stanford Graduate School of Business and the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
In conclusion: A degree is not destiny, but it does make a difference
Of course, as many have observed, there is no required credential for becoming a successful startup founder.
That said, if you’re looking to apply to college or grad school and are attracted to the startup founder path, data seems to indicate it certainly wouldn’t hurt to try Stanford, Harvard or MIT. Schools that are known for being hard to get into, in general, seem to be fortuitous choices for future funded entrepreneurs.
However, data certainly doesn’t indicate that a particular degree, or any degree, will make or break one’s chances of success. If the history of innovation has taught us anything, it’s that great entrepreneurs come from a very wide range of geographies and educational backgrounds.
The list is not exhaustive, in part because many Crunchbase founder profiles do not include a university affiliation. Additionally, some founders attended more than one university or business school on the list and were counted twice.
Correction: The Top Schools chart has been amended to show that the University of Chicago count of funded founders for the time frame is 36.
Illustration: Li-Anne Dias
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