The National University of Singapore is the top producer of successful startup founders in Singapore, beating Ivy League institutions like Harvard and Stanford, a finding that researchers said can be traced to the fact that the university is consistently ranked as one of the best in Asia.
NUS’ alumni include founders of favourite apps like mobile marketplace Carousell (Siu Rui Quek, Lucas Ngoo and Marcus Tan), property site 99.co (Cheung, Ruiwen Chua, Saurabh Mandar and Yan Phun) and delivery service Honestbee (Isaac Timothy Tay and Jonathan Low).
Harvard and Stanford come in at second and third place, with nine and seven founders as alumni respectively. Local university Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and business school INSEAD’s Asian campus rounded up the top five spots with five and four alumni respectively, leading researchers to infer that Singapore’s schools are as competitive as its global peers.
“We can only assume given NUS’ historical ranking as one of the best universities in Asia that they are a first choice university for Singaporeans who wish to study locally,” Benjamin Sim, a spokesman for iPrice, told Study International News.
Sim points to NUS Enterprise – its department to expand entrepreneurial education – and its initiatives, such as exchange program NUS Overseas College (NOC) and start-up hub Blk71, to be possible features attracting budding entrepreneurs to the school.
The NOC programme, for example, lets students intern full-time with start-up companies around the world while concurrently attending related courses at partner universities, like Beiing’s Tsinghua University and New York’s NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
The study looked at more than 90 startups and 190 founders in the country to analyze their education background. For a startup to be considered a success, they had to receive at least Series A funding, the first round of financing given to a new business once seed capital has been secured.
The findings come in the wake of Singapore emerging tops in Berlin-based startup Nestpick’s Startup Cities Index, which is based on metrics like existing startup ecosystems, quality of life, salary and living costs as well as social security and benefits.
Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report earlier this year also found the city-state to be the number one place in the world for startup talent, unseating Silicon Valley.
Against this backdrop, the revelation that NUS has produced more successful startup founders in Singapore than Harvard, Stanford and INSEAD combined, is not much of a surprise.
What is more startling is what the founders studied – most of these founders do not come from a traditional tech background. Instead, 112 our of 150 of the founders’ Bachelor’s degrees are from non-tech majors. Only 38 had tech-related majors.
From the 112, popular majors were engineering (30), economics (19), and business (12) – showing that to build and sustain a start-up, one needs more than just the skill to code.
“It requires the right product, building the right team, bringing the product to market, raising money, talking to users and so on,” Sim said.
“In all cases, it depends much more on the grit and wit of the founder than their background.”