February 26, 2019

Tech Founder Education (28 pg research report): Impact Centre | Feb 21, 2019 |

Research on Entrepreneurial Education

With the recognition of entrepreneurship playing a key role in economic growth and relevance for society, it has climbed up on the government’s’ priority lists and a growing interest in entrepreneurship education has been voiced by officials, universities and students (the Impact Centre)

Startups succeed because of their founders, but what makes a successful founder? The Impact Centre has undertaken research to determine the educational backgrounds of founders of over 300 technology companies. Please contact CATA CEO, John Reid at jreid@cata.ca for a link to this report.

Some Questions Examined

  • What undergraduate degrees are entrepreneurs graduating from?
  • Who goes to graduate school?
  • Who gets an MBA? Where are the founders educated?
  • Which professors are startup founders?
  • Who starts companies together?
  • What are the gender and the age of tech founders?
  • Did they receive a university education, or were they college dropouts as typically portrayed in the media? What were the most popular bachelor’s degrees in?
  • How many founders went to graduate school?
  • Did they have to be professors in order to realize their potential, or did they all need an MBA to make it in the startup world
  • Where were they educated?
  • Is it typically men or women who start companies and how old are the founders?

Findings at a glance

On the surface, the most apparent and overwhelmingly clear results in the study indicate that most tech entrepreneurs are highly educated. There are, however, significant demographic differences that have also been observed once area of educational specialization of these entrepreneurs and the industry sector of the startups have been taken into account.

  • 95.4% of all startup founders have a bachelor’s degree.
  • At 34.9% of all undergraduate degrees, engineering was the most popular, followed by science at 21.4%. • Founders with business, computer science or humanities and social sciences undergraduate degrees represented a smaller fraction, each at 12–14%.
  • The vast majority, 79.8%, of founders received their undergraduate education at one of Canada’s universities, top five being University of Waterloo, University of Toronto, University of British Columbia, Western University and McGill University.
  • 50.9% of those with a bachelor’s degree, also obtained a graduate degree. The most common graduate degree was a PhD. Summary “Founders of Canadian tech startups are highly educated – 95% of them hold a bachelor’s degree.” Tech Founder Education | Impact Centre | University of Toronto 5
  • The second most prevalent graduate degree was an MBA, primarily taken by engineering and humanities, and social science students, whereas science students obtain very little business education.
  • Scientists attain the highest level of education overall: 85% of undergraduate degree holders go to graduate school, while only 19% of business students get a second degree. 37% of founders with a science backgrounds hold professorships, while none of the founders with a business undergraduate degree hold academic positions. 
  • Only 5.8% of startup founders are women. Women with graduate degrees in humanities or social sciences make up 37% of that educational demographic – by far more than in any other sub-discipline.

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