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December 21, 2016

These Philly colleges are breeding the most 'unicorns'

Scan a list of "unicorns" and you'll find that quite a few of their founders were educated in Philadelphia.

Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors and Solar City, would be the best known. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the same school.

A unicorn, of course, is a start-up company with a value of at least $1 billion. TechCrunch reported this month there are 208 unicorn companies with a total valuation of $761 billion.

Uber and airbnb are the two most valuable unicorns in the United States, at valuations of $62.5 billion and $30 billion, respectively.

The third company on that list is privately-held Palantir Technologies, a Silicon Valley software and services company specializing in big data analysis, with a $20.1 billion valuation. It was co-founded by Alexander Karp, 49, a Philadelphia native who took his undergraduate degree from a local school.

And four local grads are behind Warby-Parker, the billion-dollar company that makes eyewear for sale online, according to

So, which Philly institution's alumni have produced the most unicorns?

Not much of a surprise there. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania leads that list, with eight graduates behind four unicorns.

But the other local schools may surprise.

Drexel University has produced two graduates who went on to found unicorns, while Villanova University School of Law and Haverford College graduate founded one each. (Penn State University, while not a Philadelphia school has produced one, as well.)

Here's a list of the schools and their unicorn-founding alumni, according to


• Elon Musk, 45, founder of SpaceX, Tesla Motors, Solar City, graduated in 1991 with a BS degree in economics from Wharton and a BA degree in physics from Penn. SpaceX was valued this summer at about $15 billion. Musk reportedly has a net worth of about $11.6 billion, according to Forbes.

• Cyrus Massoumi is the founder and CEO of ZocDoc, which he created after suffering a ruptured eardrum nearly 10 years ago, to solve patient problems and offer onine-appointment booking. He graduated in 1998 with a BS in finance, management and information systems. The company has a $1.8 billion valuation.

• Dan Feldstein and Mark Brodsky are founders of Red Ventures, which provides online marketing services and customer acquisition marketing. Feldstein earned a BS degree in entrepreneurship. Brodsky received an MBA from Wharton after earning a BS in accounting from Drexel University. Red Ventures has a valuation of $1 billion.

• Neil Blumenthal, Jeffrey Raider, David Gilboa and Andy Hunt are co-founders of Warby Parker, the eyeglass manufacturer. All four earned MBAs in 2010. Warby Parker has a valuation of $1.2 billion.


• Elon Musk (see above)


• Jess Middleton is a co-founder of WeWork, which provides shared workspace and services for entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses. A Quakertown, Bucks County native, he graduated with a business administration degree from Drexel in 2009 and took classes at Bucks County Community College in 2002 and 2003 while a fulltime student at Palisades High School. WeWork has a $16.9 billion valuation.

• Mark Brodsky (see above)


• Rob Frohwein is a co-founder of Kabbage, an online lender to small businesses. A native of Vineland, Gloucester County, he earned a Juris Doctor degree in 1996. Kabbage has a valuation of $1 billion.


• Alexander Karp, 49, co-founder and CEO of Palantir Technologies, a software and services company, graduated with a bachelor's degree in 1989. The company has a $20.1 billion valuation. Karp has a net worth of $1.6 billion, according to Forbes.

To find out the U.S. schools producing the most unicorn founders, check out