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Michigan Wins “March Madness” for VC-Backed Student Entrepreneurship

Michigan will have to wait until next year to try their luck on the basketball court, but the good news is that they did come out on top in another arena: student entrepreneurship. This week, Michigan was named the winner of PitchBook’s 2019 VC Founders Bracket.

In this entrepreneurship-themed March bracket, PitchBook tallied how many venture-backed entrepreneurs each undergraduate program in the Division 1 Men’s Basketball tournament produced between 2006 and 2018. Michigan emerged victorious, with 712 VC-backed entrepreneurs.

Here’s the bad news for University of Michigan: in this year’s NCAA basketball tournament, the Wolverines were sidelined during the sweet sixteen in a crushing 63-44 defeat to Texas Tech.

Many of these entrepreneurs were no doubt helped by the fact that Michigan is home to the Ross School of Business and the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies.

In announcing their March bracket victory, Michigan points out that their school has been named by the Princeton Review as the top program for undergraduate entrepreneurship, and that their graduate program isn’t too shabby either, making the top ten.

These established programs for entrepreneurship seem to have given alums a real advantage when it came time to raise venture capital. Altogether, Michigan grads were responsible for 638 companies that raised over $12 billion VC dollars in the time frame considered.

Those 638 companies include some household names like 23andme (cofounded by Michigan alum Paul Cusenza) and Groupon (Eric Lefkofsky and Brad Keywell).

In their press release, Michigan highlights some more recent examples of student entrepreneurship, including Morning Brew (Austin Rief, BBA ‘17 and Alex Lieberman BBA ‘15), Neurable (Michael Thompson MBA ‘17) and Mindwell Snacks (Allyson Stewart MBA ‘17).

Like the March basketball bracket, the March student entrepreneurship bracket featured some formidable competition, including Yale School of Management (504 VC-backed entrepreneurs) and Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business (415). In the finals, Michigan came up against Midwestern rival University of Wisconsin, responsible for 461 VC-backed entrepreneurs.

Beyond the bragging rights of who has the highest number of VC-backed entrepreneurs, this tournament illustrates a more general point: schools with strong entrepreneurship programs provide opportunities that really do seem to translate into real-world success.

If you’re looking to attend business school with a focus on entrepreneurship, Michigan’s Ross School might naturally be on your list. We can help you evaluate how your profile fits in there and at other schools with a track-record of producing successful entrepreneurs.

Just ask us for a free MBA application assessment!