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Which colleges produce the most founders?

16 min read
which colleges produce the most founders
Do you have ambitions to start your own company? Should you be eyeing a place in a top school? @resume.io have found out which schools in the U.S and U.K produce the most founders.

If you can dream it, you can build it. Anybody with ambition and an idea can found a business from their school incubator, garage, or phone.

Whether you have the confidence to do so or the expertise to do it right is another question. This may or may not be a golden age for start-ups to, um, start up - but new companies are failing at the same rate as ever.

Nothing can provide that confidence and expertise like a college degree. Heading to school to start your entrepreneurial journey also opens access to networks and infrastructural support.

For our latest study, Resume.io used LinkedIn’s Alumni Search to identify the US and UK universities that have produced the most founders historically, the ones that are producing the most founders right now, and the ones with the most founders as a percentage. We’ve also provided the full statistics in an interactive table.

And, because confidence and education are tied up with privilege, we’ve highlighted the public US schools and northern UK schools that offer the best odds for entrepreneurs below.

Key Findings

  • Harvard is producing the most new founders in the US right now, with 6,914 in the past three years.
  • Berkeley has produced the most founders historically: 44,139.
  • Cambridge has produced the most founders in the UK both historically (25,366) and in the past three years (4,226).
  • The University of Manchester is the northern UK university that’s produced the most founders historically (13,922) and recently (1,793).

Harvard Overtaking Berkeley as Best Bet for Tomorrow’s Founders

Berkeley may not be Ivy League, but who needs east coast elitism when you’ve got 44,139 founders in your history books? Well, 2,300 Harvard students per year, apparently. Harvard has produced the most founders in recent times, just pipping UC Berkeley with 6,914 vs.6,224 in the past three years. Berkeley’s historical founders include Gordon E. Moore, who launched Intel with Robert Noyce after graduating in 1950.

Harvard offers slightly better odds of becoming a founder, with 16% of alumni having started a business. Three graduates (from ’92, ’17, and ’18) have recently secured $16 million in seed funding for Cellino, a biotech start-up using stem cell biology, machine learning, and laser physics to make regenerative medicines.

which us universities produce the most founders

Cambridge is the UK’s Top School for Founders – But a New University Offers Better Odds

Cambridge and Oxford lead the way for founders in the UK. The so-called Oxbridge universities are the royalty of UK higher education and known for big-name attendees, including the ‘founders’ of evolution and modern computing. Arianna Huffington was the first foreign president of the Cambridge student union, ahead of graduating in 1972 and co-founding Huffpost in 2005 and Thrive Global in 2016.

But the school with the highest density of founders is the less well-known Regent's University London. Regent’s traces its history to 1849 but only gained university status in 2013. In recent times, alumnus Asil Attar co-founded SALT, an affordable luxury goods concept integrating socially integrated e-commerce and pop-ups; and four alumni (Rebecca Masri, Elizabeth Sieff Rafferty, Navid Mirtorabi, and Nathaniel Glas) banded together to launch Little Emperors, a members’ only luxury hotel club.

which uk universities produce the most founders

 

Best Public Schools for Founders Are in California

The “world’s top public school” is also the American public school that produces the most founders. Historically, University of California (UC), Berkeley has produced one-third (32.6%) more founders than UCLA, the Los Angeles campus of UC. Over the past three years, that gap has been two-thirds (68.5%).

However, Berkeley doesn’t offer the best odds at foundership. Around 7.06% of Berkeley graduates start their own business, placing it just outside the top ten for density of founders produced by public schools. By this metric, the honors go to the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC, which has a founder density of 8.48%.

which us public universities produce the most founders

 

Manchester Home to UK’s Top Northern School for Founders

The UK’s north-south divide in academic attainment is weighted against schoolchildren in the north (and the UK’s disadvantaged in general). But the UK boasts world-class universities in the north and south alike. Northern students who wish to take the university path into business should not be discouraged by the cost of leaving home.

The University of Manchester has produced the most founders in the north and the fourth most founders altogether. Notable founders include Vikas Shah, MBE, founder of the Thought Strategy consulting firm/investment fund and the 53 Degrees North film studio.

which northern uk universities produce the most founders

The Founder of You, PLC

The job -for-life generation has already retired, making everyone an entrepreneur of their own career. While starting an actual business isn’t for everyone, college is a good place to find out – as you position yourself among your peers and test the viability of your ideas.

If you’re not the studying type, it’s possible to learn the ropes from the inside by working under an established founder. And you only truly graduate when you start your own business. “We discovered there’s no real substitute for learning the hard way,” says Wombi Rose, Harvard ’15, co-founder of LovePop. “The lesson just doesn’t sink in until you feel the pain of doing it wrong.”

Why not search through our data on universities and the founders they’ve produced to help you find the school for you?

METHODOLOGY & SOURCES

We compiled lists of US and UK universities using UniRank and Wikipedia. For each university we found the LinkedIn page and used the Alumni section to source founder numbers. We calculated the founder density as a ratio of total founders to total graduates.

The data was collected in March 2021.

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