The Top 8 Companies Founded by University Professors

by NotedSource

Published Mar 06, 2023

Photo by Startaê Team on Unsplash

Universities have always been at the forefront of innovation, research, and development. Although professors are frequently seen as being hidden, doing theoretical research, many of the world's most successful companies have been founded by university professors. These professors have leveraged their academic and scientific expertise to create groundbreaking companies that have transformed industries and changed the way we live and work.

Gorden Moore and Robert Noyce, co-founders of Intel.


Robert Noyce (PhD, Caltech) and Gordon Moore (PhD, MIT) founded Intel in 1968. Although Robert Noyce began a career in the private sector shortly after receiving his doctorate, Gordon Moore spent 3 years as a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Intel is now one of the world's leading semiconductor manufacturers, producing microprocessors, memory chips, and other electronic components.

Pat Hanrahan, founder of Pixar.


Pat Hanrahan (PhD, University of Wisconsin) - a founding employee at Pixar, Hanrahan led the design of RenderMan Interface Specification and helped in the production of Toy Story. In 1989, he joined the faculty of Princeton University.

Phillip Sharp, founder of Biogen.


Phillip Sharp (PhD, University of Illinois) - after completing his postdoctoral training at Caltech and teaching at MIT, Sharp co-founded Biogen in 1978. The company is a leading biotechnology company, specializing in the development of treatments for neurodegenerative diseases, such as multiple sclerosis.

Andrew Viterbi and Irwin Jacobs, founders of Qualcomm.


Andrew Viterbi (PhD, University of Southern California) and Irwin Jacobs (Doctorate, MIT) - both founders of silicon valley giant Qualcomm were former university professors. After receiving a doctorate from MIT, Jacobs began his career as a professor at the University of California, San Diego. Viterbi was also a professor at UC San Diego as well as UCLA. They founded Qualcomm in 1985, a company that is still a leader in the development of wireless tech.

Herbert Boyer, founder of Genentech.


Herbert Boyer (PhD, University of Pittsburgh) - after receiving his doctorate, Boyer spent three years in post-graduate work at Yale and was an assistant professor of Biochemistry at the University of California, San Francisco. In 1976, he, along with venture capitalist Robert Swanson, founded Genentech. The company was a pioneer in the development of recombinant DNA technology, which led to the production of the first genetically engineered human protein, insulin.

Pat Hanrahan, founder of Pixar.


Pat Hanrahan (PhD, University of Wisconsin) - appearing again on the list, after moving to Stanford University to teach, Hanrahan co-founded Tableau and remains its Chief Scientist.

Craig Venter, founder of Celera Genomics.

Celera Genomics

Craig Venter (PhD, University of California, San Diego) - after working as a professor at SUNY Buffalo, Venter founded The Institute for Genomic Research. He would eventually found Celera Genomics to sequence the human genome using new tools and techniques he and his team developed. The company was acquired by Quest Diagnostics in 2011.

Amar Bose, Founder of Bose


Amar Bose (PhD, MIT) – after completing his bachelor’s master’s and doctorate degrees in electrical engineering, Dr. Bose joined the MIT faculty in 1956. Thirteen years later, with angel investment from academic colleagues, Bose would found the eponymous audio equipment company. Upon his death, Dr. Bose donated his shares to MIT, and the institution is still the majority owner of the Bose Corporation.

Universities are at the cutting edge of technology, and although recent graduates are building amazing startups, some companies have been founded by professors with new ideas. With renewed focus in areas such as sustainability and artificial intelligence, NotedSource sees the trend of companies founded or led by professors to continue growing.

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