Which Business Schools Produce The Most Unicorn Founders?


Billion-dollar startups, more affectionately and repeatedly crowned as Unicorns, have become a benchmark that business schools around the world use to boast overall success. But which business schools actually produce the most successful startup founders?

Earlier this year, UK software research firm Sage compiled data on billion-dollar startups, which also included where company founders graduated from. The research, unsurprisingly, found two business schools standing taller than the rest of the competition: Harvard Business School (HBS) and Stanford University Graduate School of Business.

HBS alumni produced 23 of these Unicorn startups, as reported by Fortune. These companies include Blue Apron, one of the world’s most popular food subscription services, and Cloudfare, a web-based performance and security platform. Stanford GSB was close behind with 19, which includes personal finance company SoFi.

Ten business school’s managed to produce three or more alumni that created these Unicorns:

Looking beyond the impact of just business school graduates, Stanford University and Harvard—again—produced the most overall Unicorn founders. When including all graduates, the third highest-producing school was the University of California, followed by the Indian Institute of Technology and MIT.

Data via

Another interesting data point among many others discovered by Sage was the years in which these startups were founded. By far the most prolific individual year was 2007—the year before the housing market crash. Twenty-nine eventual billion-dollar companies debuted that year, including DropBox and Hulu. 2015, the last year in which data for this research was compiled, had the lowest number of eventual Unicorns (two) since 1998, although market evaluation usually increases over the span of several years (often depending when the company’s IPO is introduced), according to research from HBS.

However, while only two companies founded in 2015 have made Unicorn status thus far, more previously created startups managed to reach the billion-dollar valuation threshold that year than ever.

Data via

Uber is still the world’s biggest startup, with current valuation around $62 billion. Chinese financial service ANT Financial comes in second place with a $60 billion value, followed by Facebook at $50 billion.

Read the rest of the Unicorn research over at Sage.

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About the Author

Matthew Korman

Matthew Korman is a writer on MetroMBA. Since graduating from Rowan University with a degree in journalism and political science, Matthew has worked as a music industry writer and promoter, a data analyst, and with numerous academic institutions. His works have appeared in publications such as NPR and Sports Illustrated.

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