Not every aspiring entrepreneur can be the next Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg. For every startup founder who strikes it big after dropping out of college, hundreds more build their businesses with the help top business colleges provide.
Universities provide mentorship along with strong alumni networks with people who have founded companies themselves. Many also have accelerator programs that offer money for fledgling startups along with the time, space and access to experts student founders need to get their projects going.
But not all business schools are created equal for the would-be entrepreneur. That’s why
PitchBook – a database for mergers and acquisitions, private equity and venture capital – releases its annual list of best university programs who have produced most founders among their alumni in the venture landscape. Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley topped this year’s list of top undergraduate programs. This year, Harvard overtook MIT for the third-place spot.
BAY AREA STILL REIGNS SUPREME AS STARTUP CENTER
No surprise that this year’s top schools are both located in the San Francisco Bay area, the heart of entrepreneurship and innovation in the world. At the top of this year’s list with 1,643 founders and 1,258 companies is Stanford University. Stanford-linked companies raised $76.7 billion raised in the first round of venture capital investment. University of California-Berkeley is No. 2 on the list with 1,548 founders, 1,383 companies and $49 billion raised. Both schools are situated in or near Silicon Valley and its influential investor ecosystem.
Looking across the country to the other coast, the next two schools on PitchBook’s undergraduate ranking are both in the Boston area: Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) swapped places in the ranking this year, with Harvard taking the No. 3 spot. Harvard has 1,275 founders and 1,142 companies, raising $56.8 billion in capital. MIT had just 25 fewer founders at 1,250, and it had 1,098 companies raising $49.3 billion.
Founders from the top three schools were also behind three of the largest IPOs in the past year: Robinhood (Stanford), DoorDash (Stanford and UC Berkeley) and Coupang (Harvard), Pitchbook noted in its release.
There was only one other ranking change from last year’s top 10 schools. Yale University overtook University of Illinois for No. 10.
INTERNATIONAL SCHOOLS ON THE RISE
In a repeat of 2020, Tel Aviv University is the only international school to break the top 10, ranking No. 8 each of the last two years. Other international schools on the list include Technion - Israel Institute of Technology (No. 12), University of Waterloo in Ontario (No. 22), University of Toronto (No. 27), Hebrew University of Jerusalem (No. 31), Tsinghua University in Beijing (tied for No. 37), Ben-Gurion University in Israel (No. 44), and University of British Columbia in Vancouver (No. 47).
However, foreign universities made up some of the fastest risers.
“The University of Toronto leapt six spots, while Tsinghua University in Beijing climbed five spots. The University of British Columbia and Israel's Ben-Gurion University also moved up in the undergraduate rankings,” PitchBook said in its release.
A mergers and acquisitions, private equity, and venture capital database, PitchBook’s annual rankings also include the top 25 MBA schools for founders, as well as rankings for female founders at both undergrad and MBA programs.
PitchBook’s annual ranking is based on the number of founders in a school’s alumni population over the previous 15 years. Its ranking also tracks universities around the world by how much first-round investment their founders have earned over that time period.
“The data on entrepreneurs, companies and capital raised come from the PitchBook platform. Data on founders' educational background is collected from publicly available and primary sources,” PitchBook reported in a release on its rankings. “Since companies can have more than one founder, and founders could have attended multiple schools, it is possible for the same company to count toward multiple universities.”
The top 50 universities are listed below, then click to the next page for the ranking for best schools for female founders.