Business Startups

Where Funded CTOs Went To College

Chief executives go to Harvard. Chief technology officers go to MIT. Unless of course, they go to Stanford.

At least that’s the stereotype you might have in mind if you had to guess the most common alumni affiliations of startup executives. And in truth, you’d be reasonably accurate.

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While of course there’s no degree required to be a venture-backed startup executive, in practice it sure helps to graduate from one of a shortlist of prestigious universities. That’s true for CEOs. It’s true for founders. And, as we recently put to the test, it’s also true for chief technology officers.

With another back-to-school season upon us, Crunchbase News decided to celebrate with a data dive into top universities among funded startup CTOs. For this dataset, we looked at U.S. schools attended by chief technology officers of companies that have raised $500,000 or more in funding in roughly the past two years.

For the most part, the results aren’t too different from lists we’ve put together previously for founders and CEOs. But there is one large and very obvious difference: CTOs are much more likely to graduate from technical universities and other schools renowned for their engineering and computer science departments.

So what’s the top school for funded CTOs? We list the top twenty below:

Ok, so what stands out about the list above? For one, we should note that every time we do one of these lists for any education ranking related to funded startups, Stanford is the school that winds up on top.

One might expect to see Stanford’s dominance slip a bit as the center of gravity in startup-ville shifts North from the university’s Palo Alto hometown to San Francisco, the current capital of the unicorn boom. However, that doesn’t seem to be happening. VCs still love to fund Stanford grads, and Stanford grads are still happy to cash their checks.

Seeing MIT in the Number 2 slot is also noteworthy, if not surprising. While MIT reliably ranks in the Top 3 for our funded CEO and founder rankings that don’t include business schools, it’s higher for the CTO rankings. One might expect this for what many lists rank as the nation’s top technical school.

University of California at Berkeley also performs well in our CTO list. The school reliably ranks as one of the top five American universities for engineering and technology, and its proximity to San Francisco and Silicon Valley don’t hurt. In fact, a majority of Berkeley-affiliated CTOs in our list work at startups in the San Francisco Bay Area.

We also found that public universities appear to be graduating a higher relative proportion of funded CTOs than funded CEOs or founders (a group that may also include CTOs). Half of the top ten schools for funded CTOs are public universities.


You see a lot numbers above. So just how definitive is this dataset, you may be asking? In truth, it’s more a general guide than a definitive count, given that a majority of Crunchbase CTO profiles do not list where the subject went to school.

For this dataset, we looked at chief technology officers of companies that raised $500,000 or more since August of 2017. There were nearly 5,500 Crunchbase profiles that met that criteria, but of those, fewer than half had a college or university listed.

CTO alum also did not necessarily obtain a technical degree from the university listed. Our search parameters did not allow us to specify a major. Also, we include business, law and medical school grads in the CTO search, although these accounted for very few of the degree recipients.

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