Venture capital firm Antler has once again given WHU – Otto Beisheim School of Management an excellent score when it comes to entrepreneurial opportunities. The second edition of the firm’s study, “The 2022 DACH Unicorn Founder Roadmap,” has revealed that WHU, by a wide margin, produces the most unicorn founders proportional to the size of its student body. For the study, Antler analyzed schools and universities in the European DACH region (comprising Germany, Austria, and Switzerland) between mid-2021 and the end of May 2022. WHU produces, for every 1,000 alumni, an average of 1.53 unicorn founders. By comparison, the Technical University of Munich (TUM), in second place, produces 0.15; and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH), in third place, produces 0.14. WHU also leads the pack in absolute figures: 21 unicorn founders (TUM: 17; ETH: 12) and 12 unicorns (TUM: 8; ETH: 5). Additionally, WHU alumni founded Flink, one of only three start-ups analyzed to have achieved unicorn status within 15 months. All in all, four of the fastest growing European unicorn businesses—of all time—were founded in the DACH region.
The DACH region an excellent environment to start a company
On the whole, Antler's analysis shows that the speed start-ups need to become a unicorn has significantly increased, mirroring the heightened amount of capital invested in new enterprises between mid-2021 and the end of May 2022. Despite the challenges felt across the globe during that time, history was made. The corporate world saw the largest ever funding rounds conclude; the quickest jump from founding to unicorn status; and a new record in the number of total investments achieved. Companies offering on-demand grocery delivery, such as Gorillas or Flink, lead when it comes to raising investments, ahead of companies like N26 and Grover. Between 2000 and 2021, a total of 40 unicorns were founded. In the past ten months alone, another 25 were added to the list—accounting for 40% of all unicorn start-ups. Antler also identified a further 25 companies they have dubbed “soonicorns,” i.e., start-ups that are likely to become unicorns in the near future.
Action needed regarding diversity
Eighty-three percent of all unicorn companies are founded by teams and not by single agents. This speaks to the importance of having complementary skills when building a large, scalable business. Additionally, there has been a sharp increase in the number of founders with technical backgrounds; by comparison, the number of founders with a pure business background has decreased. That being said, there is clear synergy between the two camps, reflected in the way these founding teams are composed.
Notably, there is a lot of room for improvement in the start-up community when it comes to diversity. Sixty-three percent of all founding teams comprise members of the same nationality. Only 2% of these team members are women. But the soonicorns offer hope, with women accounting for 12% of all team members—and this figure is likely to increase. Members of the LGBTQ+ community, as well as people coming from an underprivileged background, are also noticeably underrepresented among unicorn founders.
To learn more about WHU’s unicorns, click here.
To read the Antler 2022 DACH Unicorn Founder Roadmap, click here.