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Spanish Business Schools Are Better For Entrepreneurs Than Stanford, Suggests FT Study

Spain is the top study destination for start-up founders, followed by Switzerland and the US

Thu Oct 20 2016

When we think of entrepreneurial ecosystems, Stanford University, right in the heart of Silicon Valley, tends to spring to mind.

However, those considering setting up a business should instead consider Spanish business schools.

That’s according to new research from the Financial Times.

The FT analysed full-time and executive MBA alumni who graduated in 2013 from top-ranked schools.

It found Spanish institutions are best for entrepreneurship, followed by Switzerland in second and the US in third.

Timo Buetefisch founded Cooltra Motos, a motorcycle rental start-up, in 2006. Since then, the company has grown to have a fleet of 5,000 and 100 employees. Turnover was €7 million in 2015, up 40% on 2014.

Timo says IESE Business School, based in Barcelona, supported the company in securing funding and customers. He earned an MBA there in 2004.

“Immediately, they trusted me and my projects,” he says.

US business schools have some of the best MBA programs in the world, such as at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business and the Olin Graduate School of Business at Babson College.

But in the FT ranking, the overall score of US schools was brought down by those with fewer entrepreneurs. Just 19% of alumni who studied at US schools launched a start-up, compared with 26% for Spain.

That’s despite key advantages for a school like Stanford, which has close connections to the Silicon Valley entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Stanford MBA Sam Hodges is the US managing director for Funding Circle, a fintech start-up valued at about $1 billion. Sam says the broader Stanford ecosystem has been helpful in founding the UK-based company’s US operations.

“The ability to share knowledge and learn from each other is great. We are able to attract talent across the board. And a number of our seed investors were our Stanford alums,” he says.

The FT criteria is based on metrics such as the proportion of students who set up a company after graduation, the percentage who raise equity, and the proportion of companies still operating three years later.

The findings contradict past rankings of MBA programs for entrepreneurship, which are dominated by US schools. When the FT ranked the top-25 institutions for founders in June, 15 of them were in the US. Spain’s IE Business School was the top non-US school ranked in June.  

More than 250 start-ups are born at IE in Madrid each year, the school claims. Its on-campus accelerator, Area 31, can accommodate for up to 100 start-up teams per annum.

Isabelle Delacave says the IE ecosystem gave her the motivation to launch her venture, From Belgium with Love, an e-commerce platform that sells high-quality European baby brands in Australia.

“Entrepreneurship is the DNA of IE,” says the MBA graduate. “I carry part of that in me.”

ESADE, Spain’s other top business school, is home to ESADECREAPOLIS, an innovation ecosystem for students and companies, and EGarage, a space designed for the cultivation of new start-ups.

“Since our founding over 50 years ago, entrepreneurship has always been in our DNA,” says Luisa Alemany, director general of the ESADE Entrepreneurship Institute.