High-tech luggage & mobile linking: Top 10 startups by MBA graduates in 2019
Jen Rubio co-founded Rubio when she was an MBA student at Columbia Business School. Source: Facebook/@Away

MBAs and startups are an unlikely pair. MBA entrepreneurs are “doomed to fail” they say. They are “high extrovert/low conviction people” Peter Thiel, Co-founder of PayPal and Palantir once said. Their spaces include investment banks and consulting firms, not startups. Elon Musk, startup extraordinaire, advises to “avoid hiring MBAs”.

“MBA programs don’t teach people how to create companies…our position is that we hire someone in spite of an MBA, not because of one,” said the founder of Tesla Motors and SpaceX.

But data shows there’s an impressive pool of successful startups founded by these very people. Nearly a quarter (24 percent) of the 157 unicorns (private companies with a valuation more than US$1 billion) have at least one MBA founder.

In Poets&Quant’s latest rankings of MBA-led startups, the top 10 listed companies all have funding of at least US$90 million. Their incubators are mostly America’s elite business schools, with Stanford and Harard having 39 and 21 respectively. P&Q’s rankings measure the success of an early-stage venture through the amount of venture funding.

“The heart of our approach to entrepreneurial education is the same,” says Deb Whitman, heads of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at Stanford’s Graduate School of Business. “We continue to offer more than 60 different courses related to entrepreneurship and innovation, allowing our students to craft a curriculum that fits with their interests and learning goals.”

Here’s a brief look into the top 10 MBA startups of 2019:

Poets&Quants’ Top MBA Startups Of 2019

1. Branch Metrics

Funding Amount (millions): US$242.10

Founders: Dmitri Gaskin, Alex Austin, Mada Seghete, Mike Molinet

School: Stanford Graduate School of Business

Branch Metrics has emerged as a leader in “deep linking” ie. linking pages within apps the same way you could link to pages on the open web. It attracted major technology companies, with its client base including customers such as Pinterest, Redfin, Hotel Tonight, Jet, BuzzFeed, Ticketmaster, Dubsmash, Coffee Meets Bagel, Home Away and more.

2.  Plenty 

Funding Amount (millions): US$226.00

Founders: Nathan Mazonson, Jack Oslan, Matt Barnard & Nate Storey

School: Stanford Graduate School of Business

Plenty is best known for its vertical farms – growing crops indoors using vertical space to intensify production. Its aim is to radically change how we grow and eat produce. The world’s supply of fruits and vegetables falls 22 percent short of global nutritional needs and many companies are jostling to fill this gap, but Plenty appears to be its most promising.

3. Rivigo

Funding Amount (millions): US$216.20

Founders: Deepak Garg, Gazal Kalra

School: Stanford Graduate School of Business

India’s most valuable logistics start-up now has 2,661 employees across two locations. Previously called TrucksFirst, Rivigo aims to make long-haul road sipping quick and reliable. It operates a “relay system” where it tracks the amount of time most drivers can stay on the road before safety becomes a concern. Using these numbers, they urge drivers to end their shifts and hand their truck off without interrupting Rivigo’s 24-hour route operations.

4. Farmer’s Business Network

Funding Amount (millions): US$193.90

Founders: Charles Baron and Amol Deshpande

School: Harvard Business School

FBN, as it’s known, provides agronomic and financial insights for farmers and farmer-to-farmer networking solutions. Farmers can subscribe to the members-only platform for a few hundred US dollars per year, in return for data on seed and other crops provided by other members. Other functions include data management of data they receive from drones and satellites to mobile apps and on-the-ground sensors.

5. BlockTower Capital

Funding Amount (millions): $140.00

Founders: Ari Paul 

School: Chicago Booth

This cryptoasset investment firm applies professional trading, investing and portfolio management to an emerging digital asset class. Block Tower fills the growing demand for cryptocurrency-related hedge fund investment and has a healthy mix of investors thus far, from Andreessen Horowitz, other VR firms, and family offices.

6. RigUp

Funding Amount (millions): US$123.80

Founders: Michael Witte, Xuan Yong, Sandeep Jain

School: Columbia Business School

RigUp is oil and gas’s preredominant marketplace for on-demand services and labour. Through the app, a pre-qualified contract oilfield worker can search for a job and often find work within a matter of days. The startup estimates their app saves operators 25 percent on variable labour costs and helps them scale labour resources up to three times faster.

7. Away

Funding Amount (millions): US$107.50

Founders: Steph Korey and Jen Rubio

School: Columbia Business School

Away is making waves as a manufacturer of high-tech luggage with 100 different parts. The company also tracks customer preferences and feedback of their products using social media, live chats, retail asociates and focus groups. Forbes estimates more that the company has sold 500,000 suitcases, raking in more than US$125 million in revenue.

8. FourKites

Funding Amount (millions): US$101.50

Founders: Mathew Elenjickal

School: Northwestern Kellogg

Chicago-based FourKites provides a real-time tracking platform that lets freight brokers, shippers and and third-party logistics track and manage their freight using predictive analytics and GPS-connected devices. The company has since doubled its staff from last year and has plans to expand beyond trucking and US domestic shipping from its latest round of funding this February.

9. Ankura Consulting Group

Funding Amount (millions): US$100.00

Founders: Roger Carlile

School: Virginia Darden

Ankura provides management consulting and expert services to businesses, from government issues to complex business challenges to legal proceedings. According to Bloomberg, the Washington DC-based company offers  “services in the areas of analytics and digital transformation, cybersecurity, economics and statistics, intellectual property, investigations and accounting advisory, investment banking, litigation/arbitration and disputes, risk management and compliance advisory, strategy and performance, transaction advisory services, and turnaround and restructuring”.

10. ProducePay

Funding Amount (millions): US$94.90

Founders: Pablow Schwarzbeck & Ben Dusastre

School: Cornell Johnson

This Los Angeles-based company connects fresh produce farmers with financial resources, tech tools and data insights. It has created the “first ever means of securitizing perishable produce as a financial asset through the use of technology”. Since 2015, over 600 growers and distributors in six countries have received financing over US$850m of produce in under four years.

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