Stanford, Harvard, MIT still top the list of schools that nurture and fund founders

After a two-year pandemic hiatus, in-person commencement ceremonies are back. Over the next few weeks, millions of students will dress up for the presentations and celebrations that come with the completion of another important milestone.

It is also time for the entrepreneurial spirit to reflect on an important question in higher education: Is it all worth it? Can a prestigious degree really give you an edge over the competition?

While Crunchbase’s data can’t answer these specific questions, it does provide some insight into how a degree at a particular institution correlates with a person’s likelihood of being a funded founder. It turns out that your likelihood of raising money for a startup has a strong correlation with where you went to school.

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So what are the top schools to fund founders?Well, if you’ve read one of our previous iteration On this subject, you may realize that the survey results don’t change much from year to year. That is, Stanford, Harvard and MIT perennially tops the list. Prestigious prestigious colleges and major research universities also top the list.

This time, we’re focusing specifically on seed and early funding recipients. Even so, the results haven’t changed much. We look at the specific breakdown below for a table of founders of our top schools who have raised $500,000 or more since the beginning of 2021.

We separate business schools as follows:

While many things remain the same, we do see some changes. With that in mind, here are some key takeaways about new and long-term trends:

Stanford still gets it: We’ll start with a long-standing trend. Stanford — Silicon Valley’s preeminent university — still produces more founders than anywhere else. At least 338 alumni have raised seed or early-stage funding since last year, excluding business schools.

Along with Harvard and MIT, Boston got it too: MIT and Harvard, two Boston universities known for their competitive admissions and academic rigor, earned second and third spots, respectively, in our university rankings. This is the same ranking we saw in the last data crunch a year ago, which looked at both early- and late-stage funding.

Berkeley leads among public universities, UT gains: UC BerkeleyRanked 4th and the only public university in the top 10. Berkeley has topped past surveys of funded founders, so this latest finding isn’t surprising, especially given the school’s strengths in science, engineering and technology — related fields.

University of Texas at AustinAt the same time, it does appear to be climbing among funded founders. Ranked 11th on our overall list, UT Austin is the second-ranked public university. This rise may be partly related to Austin’s rise as a hub for tech startup activity.After UT, the second-ranked public university is University of Michigan, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and UCLA.

Business school remains a popular path: In recent months we have seen several articles about reject application Top business schools and numbers fall GMAT candidates. But even though the MBA’s popularity has dropped from the top, it’s still a fairly common credential among funded founders. As usual, the most competitive business schools top our ranks, Harvard Business School Leading with long shots, followed by Stanford Graduate School of Business and University of Pennsylvaniaof Wharton School of Business.

Conclusion: A degree is not destiny, but it does make a difference

Of course, as many have observed, no credentials are required to be a successful startup founder.

That said, if you want to apply to college or grad school and are drawn to the entrepreneurial path, the data seems to suggest that it certainly doesn’t hurt to try Stanford, Harvard, or MIT. In general, schools with a reputation for being difficult to get into seem to be serendipitous choices for future entrepreneurs who get funding.

However, the data certainly does not suggest that a particular degree, or any degree, will make or break a person’s chances of success. If the history of innovation has taught us anything, it is that great entrepreneurs come from a very wide range of geographic and educational backgrounds.


The list is not exhaustive, in part because the profiles of many Crunchbase founders do not include university affiliations. Additionally, some founders attended more than one university or business school on the list and were counted twice.

illustration: Leanne Dias

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