SV Founders Report (2/5): How Educated are European Startup Founders?

By Siddharth Choksi, Marketing Analyst at Samaipata Ventures. We analysed roughly 200 founders across Europe who exited for, or raised rounds above $50M in the past decade, not for their financial success, but the technological disruption they caused. We analysed over 15 different variables, here are some of our key findings.

Famous Entrepreneurs Who Dropped Out ©FundersandFounders

Infographics and publications like this circulate all over the Internet. I’m sure that most of you have stumbled across a message like this every now and again.

Despite it being true that there are a number of cases where people dropped out of high school or college to found a hugely successful company, it needs to be communicated and understood that these are rare occurrences.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I think this is a great example of that.

The graphs above illustrate the academic backgrounds of some of the world’s most disruptive founders, which just shows the staggering rate of entrepreneurs that do in fact go through numerous years of formal education beyond high school.

It’s evident that people like Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs are outliers, and don’t conform to the general linearity of most founders. It’s clear that the notion that ‘most successful people never finished their college education’ is a misconception.

“Markets are constantly evolving and developing. College is a brilliant place to learn the ever-changing skill-sets needed to properly penetrate these markets.” Nicola Greco, MIT

In the 2016 edition of Forbes’ famed 400 list, a total of 63 from America’s 400 most disruptive entrepreneurs didn’t obtain a college degree, which is without a doubt a significant figure, but it’s important to bear in mind that it also means that 337 did; that’s a staggering 84 percent!

Another really interesting statistic, is that the majority of the ‘successful’ founders in the European startup ecosystem have actually gone as far as to obtain an MBA! Moreover, slightly over 15% of global unicorn founders have managed to obtain the prestigious MBA degree.

We reached out to Patrick Asdaghi, the CEO of the Paris-based virtual restaurant FoodChéri. This is what he had to say on his MBA experience at Harvard Business School:

It gave me stronger business judgement and the ability to think holistically about business problems. Additionally, I developed great friendships with people from the most diverse cultural horizons. — Patrick Asdaghi

Note: we are in no way suggesting or insinuating that getting an MBA makes you better qualified for your startup to make an impact. It’s merely an interesting observation.

Numerous articles circulate the Internet with rankings and lists of renowned universities and institutions that do a tremendous job at educating and stimulating the next generation of entrepreneurs. Therefore, we thought it would quite interesting to show you the institutions that, from our analysis, have proven to be somewhat silent startup launchpads.

Here are some of the ‘silent startup launchpads’ that came up in our analysis on successful founders.

We are fully aware that a GPA is not a fair reflection of one’s intelligence, however, we do strongly believe that the few years you spend at college really gives you a sense of open-mindedness, which in our experience has shown to be an invaluable asset.

So guys, our advice is simple: unless you have an extremely well thought-out back-up plan, we urge you to stay in school and obtain your degree. 😉 🎓

President Obama on the Importance of Education