Business

Where Funded Founders Went To School

Universities don’t give out degrees in how to launch a startup. Yet over time, some schools have established impressive track records as starting grounds for funded founders.

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At Crunchbase News, we’ve been tracking the intersection of alumni affiliation and startup funding for the past few years. This time around, we’re looking once again at which U.S. universities graduated the most founders of startups that raised $1 million or more in roughly the past year.1

For those seeking to avoid a spoiler alert, no such luck. The annual results tend to be repetitive, with the top slot perennially dominated by Silicon Valley’s own Stanford University. The rest of the top rankings are filled by well-known, prestigious research universities, including Ivy League schools, top tier public universities, and MIT.

We do a separate ranking for business school grads, and this too regularly has Harvard and Stanford in the lead.

Yet there are surprises in the mix too. Each year we do see some notable movement in the rankings, and this time was no exception.2

For 2018-2019, we saw some changes in the top three, as University of California at Berkeley edged out Harvard for third place in the non-business-school rankings. Tech-focused Carnegie Mellon also moved up a notch. And Brown University, one of the lower profile Ivy League members, also jumped higher, with its funded founder count rising over 30 percent from last year’s tally.

To keep it fresh, we also try to spice up annual rankings with a new and different list each time. Last back-to-school season, we looked at smaller colleges that punch above their weight class when it comes to graduating funded founders.

This time around, we’re planning to follow up with something on the other end of the scale — looking at how the largest, most heavily public research universities rank in terms of launching funded entrepreneurs.

We did this out of true interest, but also in the hopes that, with their massive alumni pools, these schools would provide vast numbers of people to click on our list. We’ll be publishing the public university list tomorrow.

For now, here are our rankings for public and private U.S. universities and business schools.

Top US Universities For Funded Founders

Top US Business Schools For Funded Founders

The Big Takeaway

If your school wasn’t on the list, no need to fret. More than 16,000 people founded or co-founded companies that raised $1 million or more since last May, according to Crunchbase data. The universities listed above represent only a tiny percentage of that group.

While it’s pretty clear that Stanford grads are statistically more likely than most others to become founders of funded startups, the field remains wide open.

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.

Methodology Notes

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.

Photo by MD Duran on Unsplash.


  1. Dataset looks at funding rounds of $1 million or more announced after May 1, 2018.

  2. Our story last year looked at funding rounds announced after 8/1/17, so it’s not an exact year-over-year comparison.