The Top 10 Most Entrepreneurial Company Alumni Networks

Posted by Jessica Alter /November 6, 2013 / Hot Topics, Statistics

“There must be a ton of people from Google in the FounderDating Network,” an entrepreneur recently commented to me. “Ya, there are, but what makes you say that?” I responded. “Everyone knows people leave Google to start companies and Google is such an entrepreneurial place,” he said without hesitation.  

That got me thinking, there are a lot of lists out there: “Great Places to Work” or “Most Innovative Companies”, but few have looked at how entrepreneurial the alumni networks of different companies actually are.  We decided this would be super interesting to figure out. FounderDating is a curated network – 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 (over 100K data points). What we found may surprise you…

The Top 10 List

You can see the top 30 and get your company ranked here.

Surprises and Insights

The Top 3: IDEO, Bazaarvoice, Trilogy

They might not be the companies you immediately think of, but these alumni networks have a seriously high concentration of people with high entrepreneurial intent.  It’s not all that surprising that after helping other companies be more innovative, you’d want to go start something that allows you to do the same. IDEOers have spawned great companies from Plum Organics to Mailbox.

What’s Trilogy you say? One alum described their network as “the Paypal mafia without as much money.”  Alums have started companies like Zocdoc, MassRelevance, Capital Factory, H.Bloom and Bazaarvoice. And it seems that last one has come full circle.

Yahoo! > Google

Well, this was a little surprising to us as well. But even though people love to turn their nose at Yahoo! (YHOO) these days, don’t forget that for a very long time Yahoo! was an “it” place to work and had a very entrepreneurial vibe.  

Fleeing Startups

Sure there is something to be said for startups that hired quickly and have since needed some rightsizing (Zynga, Groupon, Livingsocial, etc.) showing up high on the list. But people who are feeling morale issues at a company or those that lose their jobs don’t necessarily need to go start something. It would be much simpler to just go get a different job. There is something to be said for hiring people that have a raw desire to do something entrepreneurial. Being fairly early at those companies might be an indicator.

McKinsey (Bain and BCG)

After thinking about this, it’s really not that surprising to find these and, quite frankly, other consulting firms near the top of the list.  The largest percentage of their employee-base (entry-level) come in for 2-3 years as analysts with the understanding that they will likely leave and go do something else. Each year there is literally an exodus of people with talent and drive. Even if they go work for a fellow-alum for a few years, it’s not surprising that they want to try their hand at it.

Honorable Mentions

Ones To Watch – Startups We Left Out

Because they are either still small or the data felt too preliminary, we excluded a few companies but would definitely keep put them on the “Ones to Watch List.” In no particular order they include:

  • Gilt Groupe
  • Twilio
  • Square
  • Dropbox
  • Eventbrite


There were a few interesting “non-companies” that we didn’t include in the final analyses because, well, they aren’t “companies” in the traditional sense. That said, both Teach for America core members and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) are spawning alumni with high entrepreneurial intent.  We know, everyone in Israel is part of the IDF, but not everyone lists it as a place they worked.  Those that do are often part of elite units and may have a higher likelihood of doing something entrepreneurial. A caveat with Teach for America: we’ve done a partnership with TFA so this also affects the data. That said, we’re not the first to notice this about TFA alum. Their selection process, branding and 2 years and then move on system all contribute.


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 who are currently or have ever worked at that company. To assuage any concerns there were over 100K data points and 70,000 companies. 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  (e.g. eBay includes Paypal; Google includes Youtube, Motorola, Meebo, etc.)


  • Yes, these are largely tech-focused companies
  • Yes, it’s fairly N.America driven although anyone anywhere can apply to join and we have a healthy presence in the UK and Israel
  • Yes, there are network effects – when one person from a company joins they pull in others

So it’s true (as my friend noted) that Xooglers have high entrepreneurial intent. But next time you meet entrepreneurs from Austin or Netflix or Yahoo! don’t be so surprised.

Check out the top 30 and get your company ranked and feel free to share your thoughts with us.

Special thanks to Ryan Jackson, Sean Murphy, John Le and Nick Pilkington for their help and guidance with this.