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The Unicorn League: where top start-up founders went to college

If you want to set up a successful business after you graduate, this ranking could be for you

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THE reporters

January 24 2017
Unicorn, myth


Ever heard of a unicorn? No – not the mythical horse with a horn on its head, but a start-up company worth in excess of a billion US dollars.

While you might not be familiar with the term “unicorn” to describe such companies, you will almost certainly be familiar with some of the companies that fall into the category: Facebook, Uber, Airbnb, Twitter, Groupon and Deliveroo to name a few. The list is pretty big.

But who is it who founded these hugely successful companies? And more to the point, which universities did they attend?

There’s no guarantee that you’ll make your millions if you go to the same institution as Mark Zuckerberg (in fact, he famously dropped out of his Harvard studies), but there is no doubt that some institutions seem to churn out more bright young entrepreneurs than others.

It is Stanford University in the US that tops the table if you rank universities by the number of unicorn founders who attended. Some 51 such people attended the Californian institution – 14 more than the next best performer, Harvard University, which boasts 37 unicorn founders among its alumni. US institutions account for nine of the top 15 most popular universities among unicorn founders.

The top UK institution is the University of Oxford, which has produced eight unicorn founders: Allie Morse (Africa Internet Group); Ivan Griffin (BenevolentAI); James Meekings (Funding Circle); Jessica Butcher (Blippar); Kevin Hartz (Eventbrite); Michael Gould (Anaplan); Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) and Samir Desai (Funding Circle).

The Unicorn List is compiled by the software company Sage. You can find more information here. And now, the top 15.

The top 15 universities for billion-dollar start-ups (unicorns)

Institution  Number of unicorn founders
Stanford University 51
Harvard University 37
University of California 18
Indian Institute of Technology 12
Massachusetts Institute of Technology 9
University of Pennsylvania 9
University of Oxford 8
Tel Aviv University 7
Cornell University 6
University of Southern California 6
University of Waterloo 6
Insead 5
WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management 5
University of Michigan 5
Brigham Young University 5

Read next: where billionaires go to college

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