The Best Schools For College Startups

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When Dante Alvarado-Leon was home last summer, his mom asked if he was coming back after graduation. Probably not, he told her — there are more opportunities in the Bay Area.

Alvarado-Leon is from Southern California. He grew up commuting between Tijuana and San Diego. Now he’s a senior at the UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, and he’s also CEO and co-founder of Mentor Room, a startup he launched his junior year and the reason he’ll stay away from home after graduating. “I said I’m probably going to stay up here. It’s where the VCs are, where we can get funding,” he says.

Alvarado-Leon not the only one who thinks location has a lot to do with opportunity. A new PitchBook report lists the top undergraduate programs for startups, and in nearly every category Stanford University and UC-Berkeley — two Bay Area schools — are in either first or second place, with MIT following in third.

THE PITCHBOOK RANKINGS

PitchBook conducts research into investments, then sells the data it collects. It is also known for its annual report about college startups. This year’s edition ranks undergraduate programs in several categories including venture capital backing, serial founders, and number of exits. The rankings are based on startups founded at the schools between 2006 and 2016.

In VC backing, Stanford University was at the top, with 1,006 founders whose companies received a first round of venture funding between 2006 and 2016. UC-Berkeley had 997 founders, and MIT had 813.

UC-Berkeley is at the top, however, in serial founders — founders with VC backing for more than one company. The report lists UC-Berkeley as having 157 serial founders; Stanford follows with 135, and then MIT with 124.

And in number of exits — meaning an investor let go of their stake in a company, presumably for a profit — Stanford is back on top with 160 companies with a combined exit value of $35 billion. UC-Berkeley has 144 companies with a combined exit value of $11.9 billion, and MIT has 112 companies with a combined exit value of $9.9 billion.

SELF-SELECTION AND CULTURAL INFLUENCE

UC-Berkeley's Haas School of Business

UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

“I’m not surprised that Cal ranked highly,” says Rhonda Shrader, director of entrepreneurship at Haas. “There’s some self-selection, and a lot of people also come to Berkeley not as entrepreneurs, but find a real passion for it here.”

Shrader says location probably plays a role in the success of their startups. The school itself focuses more on developing skills and ideas and less on pitching to VCs, she adds, but Cal has relationships with mentors who can come in and help student startups with just about anything.

And Bay Area startup culture may be influencing student interest in startups, too. Alvarado-Leon, for example, says he probably wouldn’t have done a startup if he’d gone to a different school.

“That’s something I really like about Berkeley and the Bay Area,” he says. “To be in a place where startups and entrepreneurs are everywhere, and people are wearing shirts with their startups on them. It makes it unique.”

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