As of January 2019, there are more than 300 unicorns (a unicorn startup or unicorn company is a private company with a valuation over $1 billion) around the world. Variants include a decacorn, valued at over $10 billion, and a hectocorn, valued at over $100 billion. A unicorn startup or unicorn company is a private company with a valuation over $1 billion. These unicorns include industry leaders such as TransferWise, Monzo, AirBNB and SpaceX.

Now think about this for a moment. Over 20% of these Unicorn founders have the same degree, two specific Universities have produced the most unicorn founders, and more than 60 of Unicorns are found within a 60 mile stretch. Although many things contribute to a startup succeeding, we were interested to see whether any patterns emerge when looking at their founders backgrounds. So, what is the recipe to be a successful start-up entrepreneur?

The team at Mojo Mortgages have crunched the numbers and have looked at the educational background of every unicorn founder in the world. This includes the university they studied at, the subjects they’ve undertook and at what level they’ve read too. We’ve also identified where the most unicorns are found in the world, as well the unicorn value of the regions in terms of start-ups.

Methodology:
Using Linkedin, Bloomberg, Crunchbase, and Forbes, the people at Mojo Mortgages went through the academic background of every unicorn founder in the world. This includes the university they studied at, the subjects they’ve undertook and at what level they’ve read too. We’ve also identified where the most unicorns are found in the world, as well the unicorn value of the regions in terms of start-ups.

It’s fascinating to see how many founders have been to Stanford University, and who have studied an MBA. We were expecting to see more variety particularly from prestigious Ivy League universities in the US, however with Stanford’s closeness to Silicon Valley it’s logical that so many founders have chosen to study near a hub of innovation.

Perhaps it’s also unsurprising to see that a huge number of unicorn founders have studied computer science at some point considering the importance of technology in new products and services.  Despite the US and China leading the way for the number of unicorns in the world, we’re immensely proud to see that the UK has the most unicorns in Europe – by quite a margin as well!

Below are the key highlights from their findings: 

  • Stanford University is the most popular place for unicorn founders to have studied at – 63 of the world’s best entrepreneurs. Harvard finishes in second place with 39 graduating unicorn founders, and the Indian Institute of Technology comes in third with 36 founders. Notable omissions from the top 10 include other American Ivy League schools like Yale University, Brown University, Princeton University and the University of Pennsylvania, although many of these features in the top 30. No European Universities also make the top 20, with LSE, Oxford and Cambridge all coming in 25th. 

  • 93 unicorn founders have an MBA, 75 founders have an undergraduate in Computer Science, while 40 founders have graduated with a masters in the same discipline. Other popular degrees among the most successful start-up entrepreneurs are economics, studied by 26 unicorn founders, and business administration, studied by 21. 

  • A total of 462 unicorn founders had an undergraduate degree, with 230 going on to studied a masters of sorts. Although 32 people have PhD’s from the worlds unicorns, 13 founders had not gone to University or had dropped out midway.
  • The US produces the most unicorns with 115 companies originating from the states. Specifically, San Francisco has 37 unicorns, while 31 are located in Silicon Valley. The total value of the San Francisco unicorns amounts to $180 billion, with the 31 in Silicon Valley cumulatively being valued at $63.26 billion.

  • China comes next, where 111 unicorns can be found in their country – 47 are situated in Beijing, and 20 in Shanghai.

  • The average age of a founder when their start-up becomes a unicorn is 41.15. Between the age of 35 and 39, there are 136 founders, 65 between the age of 30 and 34, and 81 between the ages of 40 and 44.

You can find the the full study here: https://mojomortgages.com/learn/article/how-to-become-a-unicorn-founder




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