The 31 Most Entrepreneurial Company Alumni Networks

Posted by Katie Pang /December 3, 2014 / Hot Topics, Research, Statistics

Thirteen months ago we published the first list that examined just how entrepreneurial the alumni networks of different companies actually are.  It spawned questions, excitement and conversation. This year a fast-growing “startup”, a classic design company and an 87 year-old media company join the list.

As quick background, the Cofounder Network on FounderDating is highly curated – people apply, we literally screen and reference everyone and then invite a sub-segment to join. Submitting an application means you have high entrepreneurial intent – either you have or you really want to start something. Using this as a key indicator of entrepreneurial intent, we crunched the data. This year’s list includes rises, falls from grace and some surprising additions…

31 Most entrepreneurial Co alumni networksInsights and Surprises

Welcome to the top 31…

This year a fast-growing “startup”, a vintage design company and an 87 year-old media company join the list. It’s just emblematic of how far reaching the desire to be an entrepreneur is. Congrats to Box, Frog Design and CBS alums on joining the list.

Design Dominance

Last year IDEO held the #1 spot and they’ve done it again – after all companies like Mailbox, Plum Organics and Yummly are spawned from IDEO alum. But this year Frog Design joins IDEO in a healthy #6 spot.  It’s true we’re in design renaissance of sorts. Beyond Jobs-mania, designers are seeing design-centric companies, from AirBnB to Nest, attain success. Nothing encourages like people you can relate to. Combine that with the hardware revival. Those products demand designers at their core. So the demand for designers as entrepreneurs is growing in combination with the rise of role models.

Old(er) School Mainstays

It’s easy to dismiss companies as they get larger as “not entrepreneurial” and while there may be truth in that for those that join later and stay longer, there are three other effects in play: First, we’re talking about alumni networks so the earliest employees count.

Second, a lot of people join, stay for a few years, get great training (and networks) and leave. They might even join a smaller startup before starting their own company, but these companies do breed entrepreneurs. Linkedin, AOL, Google, Yahoo! all solidified spots in the top 10. While Viacom, Adobe, Salesforce and RIM and Oracle all made the top 30. Finally, they have large alumni networks with deep ties in the venture world – think Greylock, Andreesen, Google Ventures, etc.

Noticeable Drops

Most of the biggest drops in rank from last year are banks and consulting firms – McKinsey, BCG, Goldman, etc.  The (partial) explanation of this is that based on reader feedback from last year that pointed out how high attrition at these companies are at the lower level, we increased the attrition rate for banks and consulting firms.

Honorable Mentions

As always, there are companies we excluded because they are either too small (under 500 employees) or the data felt too preliminary.  You might call this “ones to watch.” In no particular order they include:



We looked at the overall size of a company’s employee alumni network in the last 16 years (so as not to have a bias against companies that have been around for a longer period of time) and the number of people who have applied to FounderDating Cofounder Network only (advisors or general entrepreneurs not included) in the last year, who are currently or have ever worked at that company. We then excluded: companies with under 500 employees and some startups (as mentioned above, where the data just feels too preliminary).  Major (and some minor) acquisitions are included in the parent company (e.g. eBay includes Paypal; Google includes Youtube, Motorola, Nest, etc.).


  • Yes, these are largely tech-focused companies
  • Yes, there are network effects – when one person from a company joins they pull in others but not necessarily as people wanting to start companies

Why does this matter, though? Aside from being interesting, startup ecosystems care about successes. But it shouldn’t be just because they create a small group of wealthy angel investors, but also because they have the potential to create an offspring of entrepreneurs for years to come – see Trilogy (#2) and the Paypal mafia as perfect examples. You need this to create truly healthy and long-lasting entrepreneurial ecosystems.