Are These The Best Universities For Entrepreneurs?

The University of California – Berkeley campus in Northern California. Courtesy photo

Sure, there’s no shortage of college dropouts that have turned into millionaires and billionaires by founding or co-founding companies. Michael Dell dropped out of the University of Texas-Austin as a freshman to launch Dell Computers. Steve Jobs left Reed College as a teenager and later went on to found Apple. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg each attended Harvard for two years before dropping out and creating Microsoft and Facebook, respectively.

But there’s also a lot of value in using the resources of a university to launch a startup. Universities can provide mentorships with professors that have launched companies. They can connect students with recent alums working at startups. And that doesn’t even include the financial support or accelerator and workspace many universities provide their most promising student-run startups. Recent college graduates have had their fair share of impactful startups. Take DoorDash, for example, which was founded by a team from Stanford University and the University of California-Berkeley. Or MIT-founded Dropbox and Oscar Insurance. Or Lyft, founded by Cornell graduates. The list is long and impressive.


To track some of the most recent successful startups founded by college graduates, Pitchbook publishes an annual look at the top-50 universities from across the globe in terms of founders that received a first round of venture capital investment over the past 15 years. When it comes to launching businesses, two regions stand out above all others — the San Francisco Bay Area and Boston. At the top of this year’s list with 1,448 founders and 1,258 companies is Stanford University. Following Stanford is the University of California-Berkeley with 1,365 founders and 1,225 companies founded.

Stanford-founded companies have raised nearly $48 billion while UC Berkeley ventures have raised more than $37 billion. Both schools benefit from being in and around Silicon Valley. Based in Palo Alto, Stanford sits right in the middle of Silicon Valley and near Sand Hill Road and the investor ecosystem that goes with it. While Berkeley isn’t as close, it’s a simple BART ride or drive to San Francisco and on down the peninsula to Silicon Valley.

Following the Bay Area schools are Boston-based MIT and Harvard. MIT had 1,125 founders with 985 companies and Harvard had 1,100 founders with 988 companies. Both MIT and Harvard are traditional entrepreneurial powers and definitely have the ecosystems to produce successful startup founders.

Of the top-10 universities, all but one are based in the U.S. Tel Aviv University is the one international school. And while many are elite private or Ivy League schools, half of the top-10 universities are public ones — UC Berkeley, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Illinois, and Tel Aviv University.