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The Top Venture Capital-Backed Start-Ups Launched By Female MBA Grads

Female founders from 10 top MBA programs raised $2.6bn over five years

Wed Dec 9 2015

Venture capital-backed female entrepreneurs from 10 top MBA programs have raised combined investment of $2.6 billion over five years, according to a report from PitchBook, a venture capital and private equity research firm.

More than 340 female founders from top schools including Columbia and Kellogg of the US have launched 332 companies that have attracted VC backers.

The findings illustrate the boom in the number of women founding companies and come as business schools try to turn their campuses into start-up factories — despite concerns over the impact to study.

Professor Ginny Gibson, deputy dean at Henley Business School, says there is an “increase in women leaving the corporate market to enter self-employment — providing greater flexibility and control over their earning power”.

Female start-upers from Harvard’s business school account for nearly half of total VC funding raised by the 10 MBA programs, with 82 female-led companies raising $1.2 billion.

These include Michelle Zatlyn, Harvard MBA and co-founder of CloudFlare, a Silicon Valley cyber security company that raised $110 million this year and is reportedly valued at $1 billion.

Stanford’s business school is second to Harvard, despite its links with Silicon Valley and top VC firms on its doorstep, such as Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, which has backed Facebook, and Andreessen Horowitz, an investor in Airbnb.

65 female founders from Stanford raised $231 million for their 61 start-up companies. Among the most noteworthy is Ching-Yu Hu, one of co-founders behind Skybox, the satellite imaging company acquired by Google last year for $500 million.

Schools around the Bay Area benefit from a readymade entrepreneurial ecosystem.

“VC funding, the start-up infrastructure — incubators, start-up hubs, etc — and the network are very strong here,” says Julia Min Hwang, assistant dean at California’s Haas School of Business, whose female entrepreneurs raised $95 million for 17 ventures.

Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is third, with its 40 female entrepreneurs setting up 37 businesses that have raised $437 million over five years. Jessup Shean for example co-founded, the student loans business, which secured $35 million in venture capital in September.

The list is dominated by US schools, echoing longstanding concerns that start-ups in Europe lack access to growth capital, although INSEAD of France is ranked ninth, with $139 million raised by female led start-ups.

Chicago Booth’s female MBAs have raised $16 million for 13 VC-backed companies; entrepreneurs at New York’s Stern School $37 million for 12 start-ups.

Elizabetta Camilleri has raised $1.3 million for her fashion tech start-up SalesGossip, which works with top retail brands, from Hérmes to H&M, since leaving London Business School.

The increase in number of female entrepreneurs is producing an inspirational affect, she says. “Women are also increasingly educated, career conscious, ambitious and in much more control of their choices and decisions than previous generations.”

Yet women in business school face hurdles to accessing venture capital and this holds them back from scaling their start-ups, says MIT Sloan’s Bill Aulet, managing director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship.

Just 2.7% of all the venture capital finance raised in the US between 2011 and 2013 went to companies led by women, according to a study by Babson College.

Patricia Greene, professor of entrepreneurial studies at the US business school, says: “The model for venture capital that has been in place since the 1980s simply does not work for women entrepreneurs.”

Faviola Palomino, an MBA graduate of top Italian business school MIP Politecnico di Milano, does not think gender matters much to VCs who are looking to back start-ups.

She launched VIP Soul, an online fashion and lifestyle market, in 2012 and has been approaching angel investors to raise capital.

“For me there is no problem at all,” she says. “I thinks investors, regardless of the gender, are looking for a sexy start-up with a good track record, an impressive and committed CEO/founder, and excellent team.”