LinkedIn Study Reveals the US Colleges and States Producing the Most Local Business Founders

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Every year, thousands of bright and ambitious graduates set off on an adventure to start their own businesses. Some travel across the country in search of success.

Others stay closer to their alma mater, using their education to benefit the communities and states where they studied.

And it’s these local business founders who inspired this latest study from Switch On Business. Using data collected from LinkedIn, it shows the top US colleges and states with the highest number of local graduate business founders.

Here’s a breakdown of the results:

The US College Producing the Most Lost Business Founders

Hunter College in New York City is producing the most local business founders and entrepreneurs, according to the Switch On Business study. More than 1 in 2 (or 54%, to be exact) of its graduate founders set up a new business venture in the city that never sleeps.

Hunter College is the quintessential New York City college. Located right in the heart of Manhattan, Hunter College students get the full New York experience.

And once you catch the New York bug, everywhere else just seems so boring.

It explains why eight more New York colleges feature in the top 20 list of schools churning out local business owners, including Pace University and the prestigious Columbia University.

Graduates Founders Setting Up Businesses in the Same State

Next up, the Switch On Business researcher looked at the results on a state-by-state basis.

And there’s some real state pride going on in Utah. A massive 80% of graduate founders coming out of Utah Valley University decided to open their businesses in The Beehive State.

The state of Utah has worked hard to keep its best talent, especially those ambitious entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. Utah has a low corporate tax rate, which was cut even further in recent years. And Utah’s job market is thriving, making it one of the USA’s fastest-growing state economies.

It also has a thriving tech scene, supported by a thriving ecosystem for startups through various organizations, incubators, and accelerators that foster growth and innovation.

Texas has a similar approach to supporting businesses, which is one of the reasons why Texas State University takes second place; 73% of its graduate founders start their business in the Lone Star State.

Three California schools complete the top five list. They are California State University, Chapman University, and Santa Clara University.

The College in Every State with the Most Local Business Founder Graduates

James Madison University is Virginia’s number one business founder factory. According to research compiled by Switch On Business, 66.23% of the school’s graduate founders opened their first operation in Virginia.

Notable James Madison graduates include Jason Harris, President and Founder of Mekanism, an award-winning creative marketing agency, and John-Paul Lee, founder and CEO of Tavalon Tea.

Kansas State University is another school making a major contribution to the local economy. Almost 7 out of 10 (68.69%) of its graduate founders stayed in Kansas to do their business.

Some of the lowest-scoring schools in the study include Howard University (20.21%), Mississippi State University (14.75%), and the University of Vermont (11.20%).

But it’s West Virginia University that props up this part of the study. The large majority of graduate founders can’t wait to get out of the state; only 10% decide that West Virginia is the best state to launch their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Percentage of Graduate Founders by State

Looking at the results on a percentage basis, California becomes the number one state for holding onto graduate business founders. An impressive 61% of all graduate founders from colleges in California use their education to reshape businesses and communities in the state.

California has taken a few hits recently, with big-name entrepreneurs like Elon Musk abandoning the state due to tensions with policymakers. However, this latest study signals that California is still a great place to start and run a business. In fact, California now ranks as the number one US state for the most new businesses formed over the past two years.

On the other hand, Rhode Island is one place where its business founder graduates don’t want to be. Almost 95% of them abandon Rhode Island after college. The reason? It’s close proximity to New York. The Big Apple is like a talent magnet, dragging all the best graduates from its neighboring states.

The State Attracting College Graduate Founders from Across the USA

Talking of talent magnets, the final part of the Switch On Business study identifies which US states attract the most graduated founders from across the USA.

And it seems like the best, brightest, and most ambitious founders can’t resist the allure of California. It rated as the top state that graduates founders move to when looking for a location to launch their business ventures.

So let’s give the last word to George Stoneman, the former governor of California: “Embrace the first opportunity you get to come to California. Because once you arrive, you realize that this is the place you were always searching for.”

About the author


Luke Doyle

Luke Doyle works with NeoMam Studios a team of creatives, analysts, researchers, writers, designers, developers and communicators.