Big 10 universities feed into Chicago at a higher rate than any other city. SB Nation found that there are over 240,000 alums of Big 10 universities living in Chicago, more than any other major metropolitan area nationwide.
And as universities place a growing emphasis on entrepreneurship and STEM fields, that also means those alums are feeding into Chicago’s tech and startup scene.
With that in mind, we analyzed LinkedIn data of 12 Midwest Big 10 universities to get a better picture of what flagship universities are sending the most entrepreneurial-minded alums to the Chicago area.
As mentioned with our last LinkedIn ranking, the data should be taken with a grain of salt: LinkedIn data is self-selecting and may not be up to date. But it offers a general picture of where universities are sending their entrepreneurship-oriented alums.
Illinois universities keep their alums in-state
Unsurprisingly, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Northwestern University are the most likely of any Big 10 university to send their entrepreneur alums to Chicago. UIUC has over 3,500 founders living in the Chicago area and over 5,100 list themselves as part of the “entrepreneurship” industry. Northwestern has over 2,800 founders in Chicago, and about the same number are part of the entrepreneurship industry.
That’s to be expected, given both school’s strong local ties, massive alumni networks, and proximity to the city, offering students the chance to get connected in the Chicago tech and entrepreneurship ecosystem even before they graduate. So what about students from universities outside Illinois?
Midwest schools likely to send entrepreneurs to Chicago
The closer a university is to Chicago, the more likely it is to have a presence in the city, which is not surprising given the ease of travel to the city. But several universities are sending more entrepreneur alums to Chicago than their local metropolitan areas, indicating the draw of Chicago’s growing ecosystem. For example, Indiana University sends the most entrepreneur alums to Chicago of any non-Illinois Big 10 school, and entrepreneurs are more likely to head to Chicago compared to Indianapolis (according to LinkedIn data, there are 1,178 Indiana founders in Chicago, compared to 1,099 in Indianapolis). Same with Purdue University.
That’s not the case with all schools, particularly the further you get from the city: though University of Wisconsin-Madison ranks fourth on the list for entrepreneur-alums in Chicago, there are about 600 more working in Madison than in Chicago. Though University of Michigan has had a substantial impact in Chicago’s tech scene, more alum founders are flocking to Detroit. University of Nebraska is more likely to send entrepreneurs to Omaha, Ohio State University is likely to keep alums in Columbus or Cleveland, and the University of Minnesota keeps alums in the Twin Cities.
Part of this is also due to the growing tech ecosystems in mid-major cities such as Columbus, Omaha, Minneapolis, and Madison. And that’s important for the city to remember: though Big 10 entrepreneur-alums are building the tech ecosystem in Chicago, smaller cities recognize their talents and importance to the local economy. Chicago will have to keep up its game to keep top tier entrepreneurs innovating here.
Here’s a look at the Big 10 entrepreneur-alum rankings:
1. University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Founders in Chicago: 3,572
Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 5,195
Local founders include: Al Goldstein, Paul Zhang, and John Sun (cofounders of Avant), Adam Tilton (cofounder of Rithmio), Nina Nashif (founder of Healthbox), Nick Brown (founder of Glappitnova)
2. Northwestern University
Founders in Chicago: 2,835
Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 2,839
Local founders include: Shradha Agarwal and Rishi Shah (cofounders of ContextMedia), Paul Lee (cofounder of Roniin), Raaja Nemani (cofounder of Bucketfeet)
3. Indiana University
Founders in Chicago: 1,178
Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 1,553
Local founders include: Evan Heraras (founder of Akouba Credit), Joseph Dickstein (cofounder of Flowers For Dreams), Justin Shiffman (founder of NextTier Education)
4. University of Wisconsin
Founders in Chicago: 1,002
Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 1,344
Local founders include: Jennifer Brandel (founder of Hearken), Ryan Jeffrey (cofounder of Roniin), Tyler Wanke (founder of Innoblative), Steven Dyme (cofounder of Flowers For Dreams)
5. University of Michigan
Founders in Chicago: 972
Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 996
Local founders include: Brad Keywell and Eric Lefkofsky (Groupon, Uptake, Lightbank), David Kalt (founder of Reverb), Jeff Silver (founder of Coyote Logistics), Michael Krasman (cofounder of UrbanBound)
6. Purdue University
Founders in Chicago: 818
Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 1,501
Local founders include: Charles Adler (cofounder of Kickstarter and Center for Lost Arts), Nicole Yeary (founder of Ms. Tech), Jeff Eschbach (founder of Page Vault), John Guidos (cofounder of TurboAppeal)
7. University of Iowa
8. Michigan State University
Founders in Chicago: 633
Alums in the entrepreneurship industry: 894
Local founders include: Matt Maloney (founder of GrubHub), Alex Pendenko (cofounder of Swingbyte), Leasa Navarro (cofounder of Nestled)
9. The Ohio State University
10. University of Minnesota
11. Penn State University
12. University of Nebraska