VCs may have good reason to be biased against Harvard MBAs. And all other MBAs too.

Is Chamath right about HBS entrepreneurs?

By Dan Primack February 10, 2014: 4:13 PM ET

Not too many ‘unicorns’ went to HBS. Or any other business school.

FORTUNE — Venture capitalists are biased against would-be entrepreneurs who went to Harvard Business School.

That was the message imparted top current HBS students at a conference keynote this past weekend by Chamath Palihapitiya, a current venture capitalist and former Facebook (FB) executive. From DealBook:

“It’s really unfair to you guys, but I think you’re discriminated against now,” Chamath Palihapitiya, the founder of the venture capital fund Social+Capital Partnership… “I would bet a large amount of money that the overwhelming majority of us would not look favorably on a company started by one of you.”

It’s a fascinating message, particularly given how many venture capitalists once attended HBS (including one of Palihapitiya’s partners, Mamoon Hamid). And it is virtually impossible to prove or disprove scientifically, without access to all of the business plans that have reached VC desks without affirmative reply.

One thing we can look at, however, is how many highly-valued startups have been founded by HBS alumni.

To do so, I pilfered Aileen Lee’s list of “unicorns” — a group of 39 tech companies founded since 2003, and which were valued at $1 billion or more by the private or public markets (note: her list has not been updated since last November).

Of those 39 companies, only three had at least one co-founder who went to HBS. They were:

Yelp: Jeremy Stoppleman (HBS 2005, but dropped out)

Zynga: Mark Pincus (HBS: 1993)

Gilt Groupe: Alexis Maybank (HBS 2004), Alexandra Wilkis Wilson (HBS 2004)

But this isn’t just an HBS issue. Only 12 of the 39 companies had any MBAs within their co-founding teams (i.e., just 28%) and, of those, only four had multiple MBAs. The leader (barely) is Stanford, with MBAs at five unicorns (Homeaway,, Marketo, Tableau Software and Workday)

For venture capitalists who pray at the alter of pattern recognition, it would be hard to ignore how few massive tech successes have been founded by entrepreneurs with MBAs on their resumes. In fact, Palihapitiya could have made the same comments at any other business school in the world, including Stanford.

But fret not MBA candidates. VC firms are still hiring…


About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (, the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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