Funding reports

Top Universities And Business Schools For Funded Founders

Illustration of graduation. cap with paper money tassle. [Li Anne Dias]

In startup circles, it’s well known that a handful of universities graduate an outsized share of funded founders. Year after year, the same schools top the list, and the sums their alums secure continue to soar.

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Some of the names are easy to guess: Stanford, Harvard, and MIT. But who else is high up there?

For this second annual installment of our back-to-school fundraising series, Crunchbase News is ranking top U.S. universities for their success in graduating founders of startups funded in roughly the past year.

We look at which institutions launch the most founders who’ve raised $1 million or more since August of 2017. We follow up with top business schools. For the first time, we’re also looking at smaller schools that punch above their weight class when it comes to graduating future startup entrepreneurs.

The 2017-2018 Founder Alum Rankings

Generally, students do not choose a university based on the likelihood that it will help in raising startup funding. Stanford, however, may be an exception to that generalization.

For yet another year, the pre-eminent Silicon Valley university topped the rankings for funded founder grads. More than 300 Stanford-affiliated entrepreneurs secured funding rounds of $1 million or more over the survey period. That’s more than fifty percent higher than the next two runner-ups.

In the table below, we look at the top twenty-five schools in our survey. The chart ranks universities according to the number of alumni who founded startups that raised $1 million or more since last August.

It should be noted that we did a similar ranking about a year ago. Compared to last year, the top six remain unchanged in terms of ranking, although all have a much larger reported number of funded alums.1

The one newcomer to the Top 15 is University of Southern California, perhaps indicative of Los Angeles’ growing startup scene. We also included a number of other additional schools as we extended the list from fifteen universities to twenty-five.

Getting Down To Business

Crunchbase lists business schools separately, so we put together another ranking for the top business schools for funded founders.

The latest business school rankings are pretty similar to the prior year. Harvard came out on top and the mostly the sames names rounded out the list.

However, there were a few changes. Wharton edged out Stanford for the Number two position. And USC’s Marshall School of Business made the top ten. Here are the full top ten rankings below:

Punching Above Their Weight Class

It’s not exactly fair to compare universities directly. Some are a lot larger than others. Harvard and Stanford, for instance, each have close to 20,000 grad students and undergraduates. Big state research universities are even larger. The University of Michigan and University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, for instance, each have around 44,000 students.

We noticed in our number crunching there are some universities with comparatively small student populations that still manage to crank out a high number of funded entrepreneurs. While funded founder totals are smaller than those of many bigger institutions, on a per-capita basis, they are doing exceptionally well.

Take, for instance, Caltech, which had 19 funded founders for our survey period. Given that it has a student population of just over 2,200, and a much smaller alumni pool than larger counterparts, that’s an impressive showing.

Below, we look at some other smaller and mid-sized universities that punch above their weight class for startup entrepreneurship:


We saw sharp gains (50 percent or more) in the number of funded founders from a number of top-ranked schools. While some of this may be attributed to higher venture investment levels and average round sizes year-over-year in the survey periods, additions to the Crunchbase database also appear to be a factor. This includes an effort to add education credentials to more individual profiles in the database as well as more specificity regarding degrees. For the most recent dataset, we also included initial coin offerings (ICOs) of $1 million or more, a funding category that was not included the prior year.

Generally, Crunchbase lists business school affiliations in lieu of the university. (For instance, alums who only attended Harvard Business School aren’t listed as Harvard University grads, too.) However, the database isn’t comprehensive in this area, so a few business school grads may be in the main university listing and vice versa. This does not significantly impact rankings, but it does create some margin of error.

Additionally, many business schools grant additional degrees and certifications beyond the traditional MBA, such as Harvard’s AMP (Advanced Management Program). For the first business school chart showing the total number of funded startups, Crunchbase includes recipients of both degree and certification programs who list themselves as alums in our database. However, we attempted to exclude short-term degree recipients from the largest rounds in the listing of funding totals.

Additionally, a number of funded founders have degrees from more than one university in the ranking. These entrepreneurs are counted once for each university.

Illustration: Li-Anne Dias

  1. For more information, see methodology notes at the bottom of the article.

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