Which companies have the generated the greatest number of Founders as of today?
If you want the tldr, scroll to the bottom, but would advise you read the post as it explains how the data was gathered and methodology around that.
The above question came to mind during the current debate as to why Amazon left NYC for their HQ2 and what the impact will be (that topic requires a whole separate blog post). Many folks in the NYC tech community wanted Amazon to open an office here, partially as there would be a side benefit in that startups could be created by ex-Amazon employees (Amazon planned to hire 25K+ people in NYC, they have 8K+ currently based in NYC). This perspective led to me to dig into some data to see if Amazon does generate startup Founders and if so, how many and what scale?
All the data came via Linkedin, through their advanced query. In the query, I created a few filers:
Title: Co-Founder or Founder. I wanted to know which individuals indicate that they are CURRENTLY Founders. This doesn’t include people who were Founders at some point and are now doing something different. It also doesn’t specifically filter for if they are a Founder of a tech startup or not. While most of the people who are captured are likely tech Founders, some might be Founders of VC firms, consulting firms, non tech companies, etc. I specifically didn’t want to search for the title “CEO”, as some CEOs are not the Founders of the companies they are currently leading.
Relationship: 1st Degree Connections and 2nd Degree Connections. Majority of my LinkedIn connections are VCs, Founders and tech operators. I only captured people in my more immediate network. If you are a startup Founder, the odds that my 1st and 2nd Degree connections having not connected with a tech Founder via LinkedIn is pretty low.
Geography: San Francisco Bay Area, Greater Seattle Area and Greater New York City Area. I only wanted to look at three geographies. The only reason I included Seattle, is that I wanted to understand what impact Amazon has had in terms of generating Founders in Seattle, as a way to benchmark Amazon vs other large tech companies that are HQ’d in SF Area and NYC Area.
Company: I only looked at PAST companies. Obviously, it is hard to be a Founder of startup and work at another company. I looked mainly at some of the large tech companies out there, I feel like it is pretty inclusive of most of the companies that have generated startup Founders. I didn’t query the most recent past company (not sure if that is possible), meaning this data captured people who most recently worked at Facebook or worked at Facebook several jobs ago.
A few disclaimers:
- I realize that the data doesn’t look at “successful” startups. I understand why that is interesting but it is less relevant for what I wanted to accomplish. I would add the word successful can be interpreted in various ways. In addition, if you did look at successful Founders, it is a lagging indicator of which companies used to generate successful Founders and doesn’t necessarily mean they will create successful Founders going forward. That being said, if you decide to pull this data, it would be an interesting blog post, so encourage you to do so.
- These large companies didn’t necessarily “generate” these Founders. “Generate” was a word that best fit what I’m trying to accomplish, but please don’t get hung up on it. These individuals simply worked for these companies in the past. That being said, there could be some credit given to these companies for helping create Founders.
- To reiterate, some of these Founders are not necessarily working on tech related startups.
A few key observations (I have a bunch but wanted to limit it for the sake of brevity):
- regarding Amazon. If you look at the Seattle column data, they grossly underperform Microsoft in terms of startups Founders, 812 vs 223. I assumed the two would be pretty close. On a more positive note, Amazon faired decently in NYC, which was surprising. Between Seattle, SF and NYC, they only had 475 Founders in total, that seems really low relative to how large that company is and how long they have been around.
- Goldman Sachs!!! Wow, I didn’t expect them to have that many Founders. There were #1 in NYC and did well in SF too.
- IBM did surprisingly well in SF , NYC and Seattle. Didn’t see that coming but they do have over 500K employees, so the odds they generate startup Founders is high.
- Seattle is really a two company town when it comes to Founder creation. Microsoft and Amazon. I didn’t expect anything different. Over time there will likely be more balance as there are some interesting late stage startups that will generate Founders in the next decade.
- SF has a strong concentration with 10 companies that really outperform in terms of startup generation. In comparison, NYC seems to have a longer tail of companies that generate Founders, I think that is more healthy for a tech ecosystem. This partially supports my argument that Amazon leaving NYC isn’t going to make a big impact in terms of future startup formation.
- Facebook?? I really expected a much higher number from them, that was quite the shock. I can foresee people making the argument that Facebook Founders are better than other tech company Founders, maybe, don’t have that data but from an absolute number, that is really low.