The Top Universities for Churning Out Unicorn Executives

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A unicorn is not only used to describe a mythical horned horse, but also known as a business term. The term, which was first popularized by venture capitalist Aileen Lee, is used to describe a privately held start-up company with a value of $1 billion or more.

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The term is used in the venture capitalist industry and are rare businesses, however some are familiar. Companies such as Stripe, Klarna and Reddit are all unicorns, and former unicorns such as Google and Facebook are now household names both going public in 2012 and 2014.

Even though these start-ups are seen as scarce, according to CBI Insights, there are 697 unicorns operating in the world today.

But who founded these successful companies and what education level do they have? SJD Accountancy analysed Crunchbase data, to find out where these highly coveted C-Level executives got their education, and whether there is a correlation to attending a prestigious university and being involved with a highly valuable start-up.


The Country With The Most Unicorn Executives

America currently boasts over 2757 unicorn executives across the USA. Many of these unicorns begin life in the USA, notably in California the home of Silicon Valley. Unsurprisingly then, that Stanford University, the elite institution, is the creator of 170 unicorn executives, the most of any other university in the world.

Among its renowned founders are Porter Gale, of Reddit fame; Jack Conte who co-founded Patreon and Edward Kim the co-founder of Gusto. However, it may be something in the Californian waters that nurtures a creative hub for start-ups with University of California producing 114 executives. The publicly owned university proves that a prestigious Ivy League university education isn’t what is needed to create a unicorn. But it most certainly helps.

Third in the list is Harvard, the leader of Ivy League education and one of the most renowned universities in the world has produced 102 unicorn executives in recent years. Closely followed by its Business School counterpart, the Massachusetts college, which is famous for the fact that it has produced Facebook founder, and former unicorn, Mark Zuckerberg, but it has also produced such luminaries as Harry Nelis, who is a partner at Celonis, Lexi Reese who is the COO at Gusto and Neeraj Agrawal, who is the General Partner at Sprinklr.


Countries That Produce The Most Unicorns

The leading institutions are based in America, however not all executives were born in the states. When it comes to global country rankings the US leads, but the UK comes in second with 217 executives produced which is only one of two European countries that make the top five. 14 of UK unicorn executives went to the University of Oxford, including Hagan Bayley who is the Founder and Director of Oxford Nanopore Technologies, Jan Hammer who is the main investor and Partner at Robinhood and Collibra, and Jason Austin who is the President and Co-Founder of Greensill Capital.

China, which has recently had a boom in start-up culture, resulting in several unicorns springing up, comes in 3rd place with 161 executives, whilst Hong Kong is 19th place, with only 12 unicorn executives. Most of the China and Hong Kong’s executives went to university in the United States.

The proof is in the data, an Ivy League education is not needed to be the founder of the next unicorn, founders and executives can be created anywhere; but it helps getting an education in America.


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