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If Your Child Can’t Get Into Harvard Or Stanford, this is a top 10 Alternative.

My daughter just graduated from college and my son just started. So, I was especially interested in the findings of a recent study, conducted by GraphicSprings , which reviewed 2,292 transactions over the past 12 months to determine which university alumni generated the most funding. 

The study looked at which universities had the most alumni who were funded as well as those whose alumni who raised the most funding.

The top universities in each category are not much of a surprise. Stanford has the highest number of company-founding alumni who have raised capital, had an exit or IPO in the past 12 months, at 138 founders, followed by Harvard University with 89 founders. 


Harvard University graduates who go on to found companies come out on top when combining funding, exits and IPOs, with a total of $7,939 billion, with Stanford coming second at $6,015 billion.

You can see the full ranking of the top 15 schools in each category here. It’s interesting to see the breakout, however what struck me most was the school that came in 7th for number of startups and 8th for total funding generated.

I should preface this by saying that I’ve always believed that the value of knowledge gained in a university education is dwarfed by the value of the community that you become part of. In my travels around the globe I’m consistently amazed by the common ground that a shared university experience provides to both open doors and establish rapport. Which is why I was surprised by the school that came in 7th and 8th place. 

Drum roll please…and the school is…the prestigious school of drop outs! Yes, that’s right, founders who dropped out before getting a college degree came in 7th place for total number of founders and 8th place for the total dollar amount when combining funding, exits and IPOs, ahead of top universities such as Columbia and MIT. 

The study doesn’t provide direct insight as to why that might be the case, however, I’d like to offer a few suggestions. 

Living In The Past

First, our model for post-secondary education is an industrial age model which is going to crumble under the weight of its self-imposed economic burden. Having taught at four separate very well known Boston-based universities, I could write endlessly about this. The reality is that undergraduate education takes too long. Many self-motivated students could learn in half the time all they need to enter the knowledge workforce (and that’s being generous). The one-size-fits-all four-year baccalaureate may be worthwhile for some students who want to take their time, but those who are capable of learning faster and in a self-directed manner, and who are impatient, don’t tolerate the classroom (the one with four walls). They realize that no education can prepare you for success as well as the real world can. 

Second, we are living in the past and wasting our youth by forcing them to waste the wonderful unbridled creativity of youth while we force them to learn all of the reasons why their crazy ideas will not work. The good news is that the smart ones (or the most impatient) will find a way to accelerate or short circuit (pick your metaphor) the classroom education process.

Clearly, there’s still a place for higher education. I’m not advocating for its demise, but it is time to re-evaluate its role. Whatever happens to higher education, I fully expect to see the “dropout” category continue to rise in its ranking.

Of course, your best bet to succeed at funding a startup, if you have the choice, is to head west.

According to one of the study’s authors, Carl Davis, “One of the biggest takeaways from this study is that a student who attends a Californian university has a much higher probability of being funded for a start-up venture. For young students who are now trying to decide which college to apply for, innovators and business entrepreneurs should head to the West Coast.” 

However, if that or the other dozen schools on the list are not an option for your prodigy, take heart, they are not the only path to success. Although I will share that my very bright son once pointed out to me, in an effort to justify the use of his college fund for his own startup company, that Zuckerberg, Dell, Gates, Jobs, and Ellison were all drop outs. “True,” I agreed, but went on to ask  “do you know which schools they dropped out of?”

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