London Business School alumni raised more than two European countries combined in startup funding in 2021, according to a report by Business Leader. Receiving almost $4 billion in investment, LBS alumni eclipsed the total amount raised by Switzerland ($3bn) and Portugal ($600m).
LBS alumni-owned startups that attracted significant funding in 2021 include Peakon, an employee feedback platform recently acquired by Workday for $700 million, and digital payments app Zepz, which is the UK’s first black-owned tech unicorn—a startup valued at over $1 billion.
Peakon was co-founded by LBS MBA graduate Dan Rogers, while Zepz was started by Executive MBA alum Ismail Ahmed, who launched the business to tackle the high transaction fees he encountered when sending money to his family in East Africa.
Zepz, which now has over 11 million users globally, is valued at $5 billion and raised $292 million in 2021.
Why go to London Business School for entrepreneurship?
Although most London Business School MBA graduates are hired by finance and consulting firms—McKinsey and Bain increased their recruitment of LBS MBAs in 2021—the success of LBS students-turned-entrepreneurs is testament to the school’s strength in entrepreneurship.
Caroline Williams and Mary Liu, LBS MBA students and co-founders of sustainable food container startup junee (pictured below), feature among our BusinessBecause MBA Entrepreneurs To Watch In 2022.
Famous startups founded by LBS alumni include grocery subscription service HelloFresh, fintech startup WorldRemit, and Berlin-based Razor Group, which invests in and buys profitable Amazon businesses.
Dr. Luisa Alemany, academic director of the Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital (IEPC) at LBS, says students are increasingly keen to swap the corporate world for a career in entrepreneurship.
“At LBS, we work on the practical skills that keep founders and entrepreneurs going, we help them to understand where entrepreneurs fit into the wider business ecosystem and to explore the opportunities fully,” she says.
“Budding founders who study here will make life-long connections that will help them be successful when they start their own businesses.”
According to data compiled by PitchBook, reported on by Business Leader, 152 businesses raised the multi-billion dollar funding amount in 2021, mostly located in the UK or US.
Elsewhere, based in Brazil, DigiCash Technology Venture, which aims to integrate one billion unbanked people into the global financial system, raised $5.5 million.
For aspiring entrepreneurs, LBS offers a variety of courses including the Entrepreneurship Summer School, Developing Entrepreneurial Opportunities, and New Venture Development and Pathways, giving students the opportunity to develop and validate their startup ideas.
MBA entrepreneurs to watch from London Business School
London Business School also supports budding startup-owners via its incubator program, which has helped more than 100 startups raise £100 million ($135 million) in seed capital.
Each year, 12 companies are selected to participate in the incubator program and benefit from office space, mentorship, and access to funding. Junee, for example, has raised £250,000 ($340,000) to date.
Other LBS MBA startups to watch include:
- Insect-based pet food company, Grub Club Pets, founded by recent MBA grad Alessandro Di Trapani, which has secured £320,000 ($434,000) in funding.
- Little Steps Financing, a startup designed to tackle the costs of childcare co-founded by LBS graduates Panos Kyrkopoulos and John Frangis, which has raised £101,000 ($137,000) in investment.
- Earnr, a fintech app that helps entrepreneurs and small business owners automate their financial and tax administration processes. Launched by Enzo Ottens, Earnr has raised £750,000 ($1m) to date.
How do LBS MBA entrepreneurs get investment?
Aside from the incubator program, LBS offers a number of initiatives to connect student entrepreneurs with investment.
- Enterprise 100 (E100) is LBS’ own angel investor network and regular pitch evenings with investors from E100 provides opportunities for feedback as well as investments.
- The student-led initiative Booster is an early-stage LBS venture competition which gives LBS student entrepreneurs the boost they need, in terms of funds and in-kind prizes, to take their ventures to the next level.
LBS also estimates that around 10% of venture capitalists in London are school alumni, behind VC firms like Accel, Balderton, Beringea Index Ventures, Lakestar, LocalGlobe, Notion, and Octopus Ventures.
The most recent LBS alumnus-founded unicorn, Wayflyer, received investment from QED Investors, whose co-founder is LBS alum Nigel Morris.
After the outbreak of the pandemic, current LBS MBA students Jayne Lawson and Claire Blumenthal started providing personal protective equipment (PPE) to care homes and organizations in need.
They used the LBS MBA to build their PPE business, ShieldWear, and have now expanded to corporate clients.
Like many LBS entrepreneurs, Claire, a former consultant focused on e-commerce and retail, credits their success to her MBA experience.
“The courses at LBS were great hands-on experience, teaching us different frameworks that we could use to shape our business model, and build and grow a team,” she says.
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