The Best Universities for Startup Entrepreneurs

What happens when you rank colleges based on entrepreneurs and venture capital? Surprise! Silicon Valley figures prominently.
portrait of Mark J. Drozdowski, Ed.D.
Mark J. Drozdowski, Ed.D.
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Mark J. Drozdowski, Ed.D., is a senior writer and higher education analyst with BestColleges. He has 30 years of experience in higher education as a university administrator and faculty member and teaches writing at Johns Hopkins University. A former...
Published on September 28, 2023
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Darlene Earnest is a copy editor for BestColleges. She has had an extensive editing career at several news organizations, including The Virginian-Pilot and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. She also has completed programs for editors offered by the D...
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  • A new ranking from PitchBook evaluates colleges and graduate schools based on alumni entrepreneurs and venture capital.
  • Stanford, Berkeley, MIT, Harvard, and Penn rank high across all lists.
  • Colleges are also ranked according to the number of female entrepreneurs.
  • Many prominent entrepreneurs never attended or graduated from college, though others have earned degrees.

So you want to be an entrepreneur, and you're thinking about which college to attend.

Wait … do you even need a degree to start a business?

For argument's sake, let's assume you want one. What's your best bet? Head West, suggests a new ranking of universities based on alumni entrepreneurs and venture capital.

Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley top the list of undergraduate schools producing the most entrepreneurs, says the new ranking by PitchBook, a financial data and software company focused on capital markets.

Schools are ranked based on the number of startup founders. The list also reflects the number of companies started and the amount of venture capital raised over the past decade. PitchBook bases its analysis on more than 150,000 venture capital-backed founders.

You can sort universities based on undergraduate, graduate, and MBA alumni, and there are separate lists highlighting female founders.

Stanford and Berkeley top the undergraduate list. That's not exactly shocking given Stanford's historic interdependent relationship with Silicon Valley. Berkeley also sends more than its fair share of graduates to the world's tech capital.

Following the two California schools are Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Cornell University.

Mousing over a school's name reveals the Top 5 companies founded based on capital raised. Stanford boasts 1,435 founders, with $73.5 billion in venture capital, including for the company DoorDash.

Sorting by graduate alumni results in Stanford once again topping the list, followed by MIT, Harvard, the University of Cambridge, Berkeley, and the University of Oxford.

And the MBA list features Harvard in first, with Stanford, Penn, INSEAD, Columbia University, and Northwestern University rounding out the Top 6.

At the undergraduate level, the schools represented by female entrepreneurs fall into almost the same order as the overall list, except that Cornell comes in at No. 5, New York University ranks No. 6, and MIT drops to No. 7.

For graduate female alumni, Stanford, Harvard, and MIT constitute the Top 3, and the female MBA list features Harvard, Stanford, and Penn at the top.

What's more, every list allows you to sort by public and private universities. Taking the overall undergraduate ranking, for example, and sorting by publics reveals Berkeley, Tel Aviv University, the University of Michigan, the University of Texas, and the University of California, Los Angeles as the Top 5.

Of course, the list of famous entrepreneurs is replete with people who never attended or never finished college: Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Steve Jobs, Larry Ellison, and Mark Zuckerberg, to name a few.

But many other famous corporate titans do have degrees. Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Donald Trump, and Warren Buffett come to mind.

No, you don't have to earn a degree to become an entrepreneur, but the evidence suggests going to college remains a worthwhile venture.