Some famous entrepreneurs like Microsoft’s Bill Gates dropped out of graduate school to build fabulously successful businesses. But the best business schools have developed startup ecosystems as MBA students launch companies, some of them groundbreaking for their industries—think Wharton-founded food delivery app Deliveroo, or Harvard-made ride hailing business Grab.
If you see your future in a startup over a blue chip business, which MBA program is best for you?
Poets & Quants just released an inaugural ranking of the 27 best MBA courses for budding tycoons globally. All but three are based in the US—ESADE in Spain (fifth), CEIBS in China (seventh), and INSEAD in France and Singapore (15th)—so we’ve focused on America in this report.
Best US b-schools for entrepreneurs
Washington University’s Olin Business School in Missouri was ranked number one, thanks to the strong appetite for startups among its MBAs (20.7% launched one within three months of graduation). Olin also has about $1 million in annual funding for these ventures.
The ranking is based on 10 factors including the percentage of electives in entrepreneurship offered, the number of recent graduates who launch businesses, the accelerator space and mentors available to students.
Olin’s ascension shows that location is not the be all and end all when it comes to building a business. It is based in the Midwest, yet the west coast is more synonymous with startup success, especially the San Francisco Bay Area.
This explains why Stanford Graduate School of Business, in the heart of Silicon Valley, came second in the ranking. Students are a stone’s throw from Sand Hill Road—home to a cadre of top venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz, which backed Airbnb. This helped Stanford MBA graduates to raise nearly $1.5 billion, collectively, in the past five years. And 297 of them launched businesses in that timeframe.
Babson College, on the east coast in Boston, came third. The school is renowned for its entrepreneurial prowess. Some 16.6% of MBA students between 2016 and 2018 launched companies straight after graduation. Michigan’s Ross School of Business, where 17.3% of MBAs launched a business in this time, is fourth in the ranking. MIT’s Sloan School of Management completes the US top five.
More appetite for entrepreneurship
Appetite for entrepreneurship among MBA students has ballooned in recent years, and business schools have responded by launching entrepreneurship electives: Olin has 15. Schools argue that they can teach the entrepreneurial process, which includes coming up with a hit idea, building a business plan, raising funding and finding customers.
Building a thriving startup ecosystem is also important: after all, one reason students are drawn to business school is for the networking with classmates and alumni. At California’s UCLA Anderson School of Management, 83.3% of full-time MBA students were involved in an academic club, with the school ranked ninth overall. At Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management (ranked 17th) the proportion of students involved in clubs is also relatively high.
Business schools are also investing heavily in infrastructure to support their entrepreneurial students. In Silicon Valley, UC Berkeley (whose Haas School of Business is ranked 10th) runs the SkyDeck—a penthouse startup lab for students from multiple disciplines including business. It invests $100,000 in each venture in its program. In seven years, they have raised more than $1 billion of additional funding. These ventures include Lime, the electric bike rental business.
Building an entrepreneurial ecosystem at business school involves all of these elements, and budding tycoons should look for this when picking an MBA to build a business.