Entrepreneurship · Entrepreneurs

Is there a clear bias against entrepreneurs who are not associated with an Ivy League University?

Saurabh Saha Co Founder at Talent Pegs

April 22nd, 2015

It's been said,observed,experienced time and again that there is a clear bias against entrepreneurs who don't hail from an Ivy League fraternity.But doesn't that defeat the entire idea of entrepreneurship which depends on an individual's ability to build a sustainable business over a brilliant product or service idea than on the fraternity an individual belongs to.I have experienced this bias a lot when I see mediocrity getting endorsed on the notion of it emanating from the corridors of some Ivy League University.Most of the funding activity or acceptance to elite accelerator seem to be some examples where this philosophy seems to be cultivating.No matter how much 21st century world order stresses on different facets of meritocracy there definitely exists a partial approach when it comes to selecting entrepreneurs who don't hail from Ivy League but are seemingly brilliant.The excellence of the mind does not depend on an Ivy League stamp.R.N.Tagore was never formally schooled but went on to write such brilliant literary stuff that won him a Nobel.If this conception continues the world might lose out on some bright entrepreneurs who could have changed history forever with their innovations.History has shown that entrepreneurs like Dheerubhai Ambani, George Soros devoid of a link to any Ivy League fraternity still managed to build multi billion dollar businesses on the basis of sheer intelligence and rock solid determination to succeed.

I am sure people would agree.

Andy Leventhal Angel Investor, Advisor and Strategy at Leventhal Advisors

April 22nd, 2015

Having been an entrepreneur for nearly 25 years, and not from an Ivy League school, I can assure you that Silicon Valley funding sources look for team, technology and markets to place their bets. I don't think the school you came from is nearly as important as these other factors. 

Ben Sweat Director, Product at Idealab

April 22nd, 2015

The answer is a big no. If there was any place where your degree didn't matter, it's in entrepreneurship. Besides your profile says you are a Stanford GSB grad so not sure what the problem is. That would seem to mitigate whatever Ivy League bias there may be. (An Ivy League degree certainly helps get you a job, but that's not what we're talking about here.)

But I'm not sure I understand the question really. It seems more of a rant than a question. And I say that in the most non-inflammatory way possible.

Julien Fruchier Founder at Republic of Change

April 22nd, 2015

As an entrepreneur who didn't attend an Ivy league school: 
  • Who cares? "Entrepreneur" is another word for resourceful. If you're resourceful, a bias is almost a dare. 
  • It's not accurate. As @Andy pointed out above, adding to @Andy's list above of what investors look for, I would say they look for evidence of hustle, creativity and leadership potential well ahead of resume or school.
  • I couldn't agree more with @Sudeep about "this whole idea of relying only on investors capital from day 1". There are two opposing approaches: 1) you hustle to raise money (a crutch) and rush to prove yourself right (hard to do) or 2) you prove yourself right and you attract money without effort. Unfortunately, our culture values shortcuts too much to give #2 serious consideration. However, that's what makes them stand out. 

Alejandro Moreno S. Cofounder / VP, Marketing at VenturePad

April 23rd, 2015

These days, if anything, there would be a bias AGAINST the Ivy League.

Because they're not near Silicon Valley or in the SF Bay Area, not even in California, not even on the West Coast for that matter. 

Two words - Stanford; Berkeley.

Nuff said.


April 24th, 2015

Well, the writer of the original post provides no evidence for his statement, and then cites examples of successful non-Ivy League people, of which there are many of course. I can't tell if he is angry that he isn't an Ivy Leaguer or what, but I do know that his writing is so unclear that perhaps the problem lies with his communication skills more than any degree he does or doesn't have.

Jose MBA Journalist Super-connector PR/Marketing Leader Quadrant Two PR LLC & EVECAIN Network Founder Business Adviser

April 27th, 2015

Sadly, This bias does exist on various levels. These folks actually believe that the Ivy League frads are 20-100 times smarter than non-Ivy Leaguers. This is ridiculous to me but it's the perceptual reality of some well funded, well-connected people. Just outperform them and prove their folly. JM de Jesus, MBA On Apr 22, 2015 6:48 AM, "Saurabh Saha"

Bill Kelley

April 23rd, 2015

Any bias I have seen has all come from funding sources - angels and VCs. And the bias is toward proven people and their teams. It is more difficult for an unproven entrepreneur to get funding. In my experience, a funding source that sees potential in the idea and team but has doubts about the leader will either provide an advisor or CEO candidate to step in and make it happen. This is irrespective of the education history of the startup's team members.

Dont forget, both Bill Gates and Steve Jobs were college drop outs. They are perhaps extreme examples, but you get my point.

David Stewart Agile Coach, Scrum Master and Product Owner

April 23rd, 2015

I think there is probably a bias towards having an Ivy League degree as much as there is with an particular field. Most people assume that if you went to an Ivy League school then you're a) very smart, b) wealthy and connected or c) both. That said investors who know their stuff should be able to recognize a good investment when they see one.

Tim Kilroy Analytics - LTV - Boosting Profits - Digital Marketing

April 24th, 2015

There is no bias. Silly supposition.

Saurabh Saha Co Founder at Talent Pegs

April 23rd, 2015

Trust me Bill had they been in India they'd have never reached the pinnacle of success that they did being in America.....More so if you look at Bill Gate's background he seem to have come down from a wealthy family and even the fact that he got an audience with the senior management at IBM was because of his mom so you see as opposed to that people like me and zillion others without an Ivy League background are toiling on their own to create a sustainable enterprise in an emerging economy that does not get what technology business is all about as opposed to the likes of Silicon Valley.
Steve Jobs was just plain lucky that he was in the company of Steve Wozniak.All the fame that he received initially was coz of Woz who wanted to keep a low profile.
What I am saying is that every entrepreneur when he starts his shop is unproven and mostly an underdog. Big shots that we talk about today are probably the n+1 version of the same person after n failures.But whats interesting is that when it comes to funding people take into account Ivy League credentials more than how brilliant a person is or relevant leadership skills or how amazing the team is.But guys who pass out from Ivy League or have an affiliation with Ivy League do get lucky out there.
I am not saying people not a part of an Ivy League fraternity can't be successful but I am saying the path is filled with difficulties.