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Oxford University tops European league table for producing Unicorn business success

Mark Dorman

The success of taxi app Uber has propelled it to the top of the Unicorn business league table, with an estimated value of almost $70 billion.

Now new research has shed more light on these $1bn-plus Unicorn businesses, who’s behind them, where they are based and what sort of impact they are making around the world.

For Britain, Oxford University leads the way in producing founders of these businesses. Since 1984, eight of the world’s largest Unicorns were founded by Oxford graduates – with LinkedIn, Funding Circle and Eventbrite among those founded by alumni of Britain’s oldest university.

Oxford is the only European centre of learning to feature in the rankings, with Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, who studied philosophy at Wolfson College, and Kevin Hartz of Eventbrite (MA in history at University College) among the leading lights.

The research, compiled by software provider Sage UK, showed that Oxford was ranked seventh worldwide, with the US universities  of Stanford and Harvard topping the league table, producing 51 and 37 Unicorn businesses, respectively.

Further findings include:

  • For 60% of founders, their current unicorn is the first and only company they’ve built.
  • Those who founded more than one company have, on average, a 34.5% higher valuation than those who founded just one company ($4.29bn vs $5.88bn).
  • 2015 was by far the most prolific for Unicorns – 86 $1bn dollar companies were formed that year – this is a 32% rise from the year before, and a 98% increase from just a decade before.
  • The gender split of the founders of Unicorn companies in the last 12 years shows 94% are male.
  • 150 companies on the Unicorn list are valued at between $1bn and $2bn – 16 companies are valued at more than $10bn.

Overall, the US has produced 144 Unicorn businesses followed by China (44) and India (10) – and the majority are in the science, technology, engineering or maths fields.