Start-ups: the universities with the most successful alumni

Academics say university is the ideal time to launch a company

July 22, 2023
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The universities with the most successful start-up founders have been revealed by new figures.

Data from, a global provider of intelligence on start-ups and tech ecosystems, shows that 22,000 alumni from universities across the world have gone on to found a start-up since 1990 with funding in excess of $10 million (£7.8 million).

The organisation said that the vast majority of these graduates (about 85 per cent) founded their latest venture in the past 10 years – and roughly one in seven have done so since 2020. said looking at such data is a key component to assessing which universities are most successful at producing entrepreneurial talent according to a commonly accepted measurement of success – venture capital funding. 

Stanford University recorded 1,318 high-value founders among its alumni – more than any other global university.

It was followed by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (857), and Harvard University (843).

Also included in the top 10 were Harvard Business School (812) and Stanford Graduate School of Business (623).

Ranked seventh globally, but highest in Europe, was the University of Cambridge, with 531.

Andy Neely, senior pro vice-chancellor for enterprise and business relations at Cambridge, said the university’s success in growing the Cambridge ecosystem into one of the world’s leading innovation clusters did not happen by accident. 

“It is the result of a culture of excellence, underpinned by a depth and breadth of research and innovation that connects the discovery of new knowledge with the expertise to turn these ideas into companies and organisations that change people’s lives,” he said.

Recent analysis showed that the total impact on the UK economy associated with Cambridge’s activity in 2020-21 was £29.8 billion – more than any other provider in the country.

The multi-campus business school INSEAD had the second largest number of high-value founders in Europe (392), followed by the London School of Economics (LSE), with 349.

Julia Black, strategic director for innovation at LSE, said the university gains considerable advantages from such success – its students are creating real-world impacts based on social sciences insights, and it allows LSE to stay connected to its alumni.

“For students, university provides a great opportunity to explore whether entrepreneurship is for them,” added Professor Black.

“For those who want to build their own ventures, it is the lowest cost opportunity that they will ever have to fail, to test their idea and to build a network.”

Chas Bountra, pro vice-chancellor for innovation at the University of Oxford, which ranked sixth highest in Europe, said universities can provide a level of support, and invaluable networks, that are not as widely available to non-university start-ups looking for investment.

“A large proportion of our spinouts choose to stay in Oxfordshire and retain links with the university,” said Professor Bountra. 

“This contributes to a thriving innovation ecosystem which attracts global investment and talent, which in turn help to grow more successful companies.”

Dealroom said institutions that do not feature at the top of such a ranking can still contribute to the global start-up ecosystem through research, and by producing graduates capable of helping founders scale up their projects.

“Universities are often one of the lesser mentioned components of startup ecosystems, but nonetheless have a crucial role to play in nurturing entrepreneurial talent,” said a spokesperson for

“From culture to curriculum, research breakthroughs, tech transfer terms and investment funds, universities are a fundamental player in innovation economies.”

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