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Stanford Leads Unicorn League of Billion-Dollar Start-Ups

By Sabrina Collier

Updated February 8, 2017 Updated February 8, 2017

Stanford University leads the Unicorn League, a table showing the 15 universities with the most unicorn founders amongst their alumni.

Even if you haven’t heard of a ‘unicorn company’ (a private start-up worth more than US$1 billion) before, you’ll certainly be familiar with some of the companies considered unicorns –  including Facebook (before it went public), Uber, Deliveroo, Airbnb, Twitter and Spotify, to mention just a few.

According to research compiled by software company Sage, Stanford boasts 51 unicorn founders among its alumni, far more than any other university in the world. The next highest number comes from Harvard University, with 37. 

Stanford’s ‘unicorns’ include the founders of LinkedIn, Shazam and WhatsApp.

While US institutions dominate the table, elsewhere the University of Oxford has the highest number of unicorn-founders in UK and Europe with eight, while the Indian Institute of Technology has the highest number of unicorn start-up founders in Asia with 12.

Top five universities for billion-dollar ‘unicorn’ start-ups


Number of alumni unicorn-founders

Stanford University


Harvard University


University of California


Indian Institute of Technology


Massachusetts Institute of Technology



Stanford’s success in the table doesn’t come as too much of a surprise, considering the university’s strong reputation and close proximity to the world-famous start-up ecosystem of Silicon Valley.

The university also recently topped the QS Graduate Employability Rankings 2017, a ranking based on the five key aspects of graduate employability: employer reputation, alumni outcomes, employer partnerships, employer-student connections, and graduate employment rates.

Stanford received perfect scores for its reputation among graduate employers and alumni outcomes, reflecting the high number of former students who go on to become successful entrepreneurs and business leaders.

While there’s no guarantee that a Stanford education will make you billionaire, it’s certainly not a bad place to start out if you plan to start-up!

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This article was originally published in February 2017 .

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Written by

The former Assistant Editor of, Sabrina wrote and edited articles to guide students from around the world on a wide range of topics. She has a bachelor's degree in English Literature and Creative Writing from Aberystwyth University and grew up in Staffordshire, UK. 

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