Though many of tech’s most successful entrepreneurs are college dropouts — Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Michael Dell, just to name a few — a degree can goes long way when it comes to starting a business.
Whether it’s because of a strong business and engineering curriculum or a helpful alumni network, some top universities tend to produce more tech executives than others.
Bloomberg lists the schools that have produced the most CEOs of U.S. technology companies with market capitalizations of more than $US1 billion. We also looked at the alma maters of executives of large tech companies like Cisco and Microsoft, as well as young startups like Snapchat and Instagram, and schools that have the most venture capital-backed startups.
We picked out the schools that have produced the most important tech graduates. Our non-scientific findings are below.
Although Princeton has produced the most tech CEOs, according to Bloomberg’s ranking, we think Stanford is clearly #1 when it comes to the tech industry.
From HP’s William Hewlett and Dave Packard to Snapchat’s Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, many founding stories of major tech companies have centered on Stanford’s Palo Alto campus.
Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman, PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel, and Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom all have undergraduate degrees from Stanford. An additional 17 tech CEOs have graduate degrees from the school.
According to Business Insider’s Karyne Levy, “Whether it’s through programs like StartX, an accelerator that offers students the help of different mentors and experts in the industry, or through the classes they take, it’s almost a sure bet that if you’re reading about a successful tech startup, its founders got their start at Stanford University.”
Princeton is a close second. According to Bloomberg, the Ivy League school is the country’s top college for producing CEOs of tech companies with market caps of more than $US1 billion.
Eight Princeton grads have served as CEOs of major U.S. tech companies, including Amazon chief Jeff Bezos, HP head Meg Whitman, and former Pandora CEO Joe Kennedy. Google chairman Eric Schmidt also attended Princeton, earning a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering in 1976.
The University of California at Berkeley has also minted some big tech success stories, thanks in part to its proximity to Silicon Valley. Apple cofounder Steve Wozniak is perhaps UC Berkeley’s most famous tech alum, but the school has also been home to plenty of other successful entrepreneurs.
Intel cofounder Gordon Moore, MySpace cofounder Tom Andersen, and Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs all have undergraduate degrees from Berkeley. Google chairman Eric Schmidt also earned his master’s in design there.
It’s no surprise that Harvard fares well when it comes to successful tech alumni, either. As one of the oldest and most selective colleges in the country, and it has yielded a total of 7 billionaire tech CEOs,according to Bloomberg.
Mark Zuckerberg launched Thefacebook in a Harvard dorm before dropping out of school in 2004. Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates is another famous Harvard dropout.
Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, and Sun Microsystems cofounder Scott McNealy all earned degrees from Harvard before going on to make major contributions to the tech industry.
Several other prestigious universities around the U.S. have also minted their fair share of tech executives.
Though Ann Arbor is pretty far from Silicon Valley, the University of Michigan has done well in this regard.
Google cofounder Larry Page, Groupon CEO Eric Lefkofsky, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, and Skype cofounder Niklas Zennström are some of the university’s biggest success stories.
Houston’s Rice University, another school far from Silicon Valley, has also had its fair share of successful tech grads. According to Bloomberg, four Rice alumni have gone on to lead tech companies worth more than $US1 billion.
One of Rice’s most notable grads is legendary Silicon Valley investor John Doerr, who’s invested in Amazon, Google, Coursera, Flipboard, and Twitter, among others.
Grads of the
University of Pennsylvania‘sWharton School of Business and School of Engineering and Applied Sciences haveplayed a significant rolein New York City’s startup scene. Many of them were frat boys, too, like Thrillist’s Ben Lerer and TechStars’ Dave Tisch.
Tesla CEO Elon Musk and LinkedIn CEO Jeff Weiner are also UPenn grads.
Two schools known for their engineering curricula stood out to us: Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Carnegie Mellon University.
According to Bloomberg, four former MIT students have gone on to become CEOs of tech companies with market capitalizations of more than $US1 billion. Among the school’s famous alumni are Dropbox CEO Drew Houston and Qualcomm cofounder Irwin Jacobs, as well as numerous Google executives.
And Carnegie Mellon, consistently ranked one of the best engineering programs in the country, counts former Cisco VP Frank Marshall and Sun Microsystems cofounder Vinod Khosla as notable alumni.
Among the rest of the Ivies, Cornell and Yale have contributed several execs to tech’s highest ranks.
Yale’s strong alumni network has helped entrepreneurs like 23andMe CEO Anne Wojcicki and Pinterest founder Ben Silbermann go on to successful careers in tech. Former Palm CEO Donna Dubinsky, Gilt Groupe founder Kevin Ryan, and Electronic Arts cofounder Bing Gordon also completed their undergraduate degrees at Yale.
And Cornell, which is in the process of opening a new school for entrepreneurship and technology, has a healthy startup scene, having served as the home base for Hotels.com founder David Litman, Palm founder Jeff Hawkins, Wanelo founder Deena Varshavskaya, and Priceline.com founder Jay Walker.