What is the best resume to launch a successful start-up?

Le Figaro Étudiant looked at the diplomas of the founders of 24 unicorns. Engineering schools dominate.

Do you necessarily need to do brilliant studies to create a unicorn, that is, a start-up whose stock market valuation exceeds 1 billion dollars? For the second year, we analyzed the academic profile of the 58 founders and co-founders of 24 French unicorns.

This year, École polytechnique takes the top step of the podium: seven of its alumni have founded a company of this type, including Ivalua, Payfit, Dental Monitoring, Shift Technology or Spendesk. A result that does not leave Éric Labaye, president of l’X indifferent: “We are happy and proud with this result, since Polytechnique’s mission is to train young people to help develop tomorrow’s economy, namely through our training for entrepreneurship”. HEC comes in second, with six creators of French startups valued at more than $1 billion: Aircall, Doctolib, Ivalua, Mirakl, Qonto and Ankorstore.

scientists rule

With three unicorn founders (tied with Ecole des Ponts and Edhec), against four in 2021, École Normale Supérieure is no longer at the top of the list this year, but continues to record a more than honorable score. How do you explain the attraction of normal scientists to startups? “They want science to provide solutions for the big transitions to come: climate, biodiversity, health, inequalitiesexplains Frédéric Worms, director of ENS Ulm. And they also know that tech startups are one of the greatest expressions of that willingness to commit and take action.”

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On a general level, the “science schools” versus “business schools” game is advantageous for the former: in total, science or engineering schools actually generated 24 creators, versus 22 for business or generalist schools. Foreign universities (Stanford, Berkeley, etc.) contributed to form five of them.

Among unicorn founders and co-founders (there is only one co-founder, Vanessa Rabesandratana of Ledger, ex-Sciences Po Paris), 62% of them graduated from one of the top schools listed in the unicorns ranking. Student Figaro (or ENS, Insead and Sciences Po graduates). But the percentage was 78% last year. This seems to testify to a greater openness of the start-ups ecosystem to less “formatted” profiles: self-taught (7 this year), university students (8 in 2022), graduates from less valued schools. But the driver of the “big school” seems decisive to create a unicorn, since among the founders of classic start-ups, only 46% come from this elitist seraglio.

A great school to absorb knowledge

So what are the strengths of Grandes Ecoles to create these successful companies? “Going through a great school allows you to absorb a lot of knowledge quickly and work efficientlyrecalls Jean Charles Samuelian-Werve, CEO of Alan (and graduate of École des ponts ParisTech). In addition, a reputable school gives you access to an alumni network and, above all, allows you to gain credibility during fundraising. In terms of disadvantages, let’s say that there is a risk of disconnecting from reality, since it is essential to face the field when launching a start-up.

Alexandre Prot (founder of Qonto) will not deny: “My studies at HEC and Insead taught me to develop rigor in analyzing a problem, structuring a solution and teamwork, often internationally. These fundamentals were useful for building a business plan, presenting a project to investors and structuring a business. But where I learned the most was creating my first company before Qonto with my partner Steve Anavi. Launching and growing a business is a human adventure with successes and difficulties, for which the best school continues to be entrepreneurship itself. Jacques-Antoine Granjon, founder of Veepee (formerly Private Sale) and EBS graduate, took advantage of his time at a business school to hone his entrepreneurial path: “Internships at companies during my four years at school made me realize that I would never work at a company other than mine.” An ultimately beneficial conscience.

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