This school is famous for graduating founders of billion-dollar companies, from Nike to Google to Instagram

Larry Page (L), then co-founder and president, products, and Sergey Brin, then co-founder and president, technology, at Google's campus headquarters in 2003.
Kim Kulish | Corbis Historical | Getty Images

For the second year in a row, Stanford University ranks No. 1 on CNBC Make It's list of the Top U.S. Colleges that Pay Off the Most in the private school category. 

Stanford is famous for having tons of alumni who found unicorn-status start-ups, as well as graduates responsible for many of the world's most successful companies

Thanks in part to the university being located in California's famous Silicon Valley, Stanford has been a hub for tech talent in particular, graduating the likes of Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page; Yahoo founders Jerry Yang and David Filo; and Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom.

Mary Barra, CEO of General Motors, who made history as the first female CEO of any major automaker, is also an alumna, and even SpaceX and Tesla founder Elon Musk planned on attending the University for its Material Science Engineering graduate program, but ultimately did not enroll and chose to instead found his first successful start-up, Zip2.

Here are some of the most notable companies founded by former Stanford students. 


Google co-founders Page and Brin met in 1995 at Stanford as computer science graduate students.

With a mutual curiosity about the then-fledgling internet, Page and Brin teamed up to create a web search algorithm in 1996, which ultimately became the foundation for Google Search.

In 1998, Page and Brin launched Google out of a small, messy Menlo Park, California garage they had been renting for $1,700 a month from Susan Wojcicki. At the time, Wojcicki was working in the marketing department at Intel, and today, she is the CEO of YouTube, which is owned by Google's parent company Alphabet.

Page and Brin built Google into a massive tech behemoth before stepping down from their respective roles as CEO and president of Alphabet in December. 

Today, Alphabet has a market value of over $1 trillion.


Bill Bowerman Handmade Waffle Spike Shoes
Source: Sotheby's

Before Nike co-founder Phil Knight graduated from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business in 1962, he ran track as an undergrad student at the University of Oregon. 

Back then, he enjoyed watching his coach, the late Bill Bowerman, fix other athletes' running shoes before competitions, Knight recalled in his book "Shoe Dog." But, it wasn't until he attended an entrepreneurship class at Stanford that he realized the potential in starting a shoe company.

In 1964, Knight and his former coach Bowerman decided to start Blue Ribbon Sports, which in 1971, became Nike, named after the Greek goddess of victory.

Bowerman created Nike's iconic Waffle Shoe sole pattern after putting rubber into a waffle iron. In 1972, Nike sold about $3 million worth of shoes. And in 1980, the year Nike went public, it passed Adidas to become the industry leader in the United States.

Today, Nike has a market value of $150 billion.


Yahoo! founders David Filo, left, and Jerry Yang are seen in Santa Clara, California in October, 1999. (Photo by Eric Sander)
Eric Sander | 3rd Party - Agents | Getty Images

Yahoo co-founders Yang and Filo met as doctoral students at Stanford in the 1990s.

The two were assigned a project creating "computer chips using computer-aided design," according to Entrepreneur, but had a stronger interest in the internet. And to keep track of the websites they'd find, Yang and Filo posted a list online called "David and Jerry's Guide to the Web" in 1994.

Yang and Filo renamed their "Guide to the Web," calling it Yahoo and it gained traction – by 1998, more than a million web users would visit the Yahoo site a day.

However, the success of Yahoo was regularly crashing Stanford's system, and the University asked the founders to move the operation off campus. Yang and Filo then dropped out of the PhD program at Stanford and built Yahoo into a massive business.

In 2016, Yahoo was acquired by Verizon for $5 billion.


Gap founders Doris and Don Fisher
Gap Inc.

Doris Fisher, co-founder of retailer Gap, graduated from Stanford in 1953 as one of the first women to earn an economics degree.

In 1969, she and her late husband, Don Fisher, decided to start Gap after Don could not find jeans that fit properly.

That year, the couple raised $63,000 to open their first store in San Francisco, which sold jeans and music, and by 1972, Gap grew from one store to 25

Today, Gap has 3,300 company-operated stores worldwide, and has grown to include brands like Old Navy. Gap has a current market cap of $5 billion and Doris has a net worth of $2.3 billion.


Instagram co-founders Mike Krieger (L) and Kevin Systrom at the 2019 SXSW Conference and Festival at the Austin Convention Center on March 11, 2019 in Austin, Texas.
Jim Bennett | WireImage | Getty Images

Instagram co-founders Krieger and Systrom met at a Stanford University fellowship program before starting the photo-sharing app. 

At the time, Systrom, who graduated from Stanford in 2006 with a degree in management science and engineering, was developing a location-based app called Burbn. He decided to bring on programmer Krieger, who graduated from Stanford in 2008 with a degree in symbolic systems, after meeting him at the university's program.

After working together for a few months, Krieger and Systrom released an app called Instagram.

Instagram became popular in Silicon Valley "almost immediately," The New York Times reported, and caught the attention of Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. 

In 2012, Krieger and Systrom sold Instagram to Facebook for $1 billion. And in 2018, the two decided to step down from their respective positions of Instagram chief technical officer and chief executive officer. Today, the app has over a billion users.

Hewlett-Packard (HP)

Hewlett Packard founders William Hewlett (L) & David Packard (R) w. transistorized electronic counters in factory. (Photo by Jon Brenneis/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Jon Brenneis | The LIFE Images Collection | Getty Images

HP co-founders William Hewlett and David Packard met as Stanford students while attending a radio engineering class in the 1930s. There, the two became friends, and both graduated with degrees in electrical engineering in 1934.

Five years later, in 1939, Hewlett and Packard bought a small property in Palo Alto, California, and out of their garage, started hardware company HP. The two had $538 to start the company and split the property's $45 per month rent.

With research conducted from their time at Stanford, including Hewlett's "resistance-capacitance oscillator" graduate project, the two got to work.

Today, the garage is nicknamed the "Birthplace of Silicon Valley," and HP has a market capitalization of $24 billion.

Other well-known and successful companies whose founders went to Stanford include StubHub, WhatsApp, Netflix, LinkedIn, Sun Microsystems, Trulia, Snapchat, Cisco, PayPal, YouTube and the Charles Schwab Corporation.

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