What is The Most Popular Academic Qualification For Unicorn Founders?

Food delivery unicorn Doordash founder Tony Xu holds an MBA from Stanford University

Six Australian companies have now joined the ranks of corporate unicorns – meaning they are a tech company worth more than $1 billion – with the number of similar companies around the world now approaching 1,000, according to CBInsights.

There are many ways to build a unicorn, but – along with timing, intelligence and a little luck – education plays an important role in laying the foundations.

There are six Australian based unicorns according to CBInsights.

Now a Stanford Graduate School of Business Professor, Ilya Strebulev, has crunched the numbers to find the most popular educational achievement for unicorn founders.

Professor Ilya Strebulaev from Stanford Business School.

Professor Strebulaev and his team sorted through the data to identify the academic degrees earned by 1,263 of 521 US unicorns.

The research showed 236 founders (19%) have an MBA degree, including DoorDash’s Tony Xu. 217 founders (17%) have Master’s degrees other than MBAs. For example, Larry Page of Alphabet Inc. has a Master’s of Computer Science and Adam Bowen of Juul Labs has a Master’s in Product Design. 39 people have a dual Master’s degree, including an MBA, such as Christian Chabot of Tableau.

Nearly 290 founders (23%) earned doctoral degrees, such as Ph.D. and MD. 15 people have an MBA and a doctoral degree.

Unsurprisingly, a large number have a Bachelor’s degree. And 56 founders dropped out of college (many in order to start their companies). Examples include Arash Ferdowsi of Dropbox and Patrick Collison of Stripe.

This research has been done with the help of the Stanford University Graduate School of Business Venture Capital Initiative.

Ben Ready
Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).