Stanford provides the most unicorn founders of any university. But the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) are not far behind, in fourth place after Harvard and the University of California (UC).

This is the finding of an analysis by UK software firm Sage. Although US institutions take nine of the top 15 places, the IITs’ strong performance in the rankings reflects the rise of India as a start-up hub. A unicorn is a private company valued at more than $1 billion.

India is now the world’s third-largest tech start-up hotspot, according to a report from last year.

Stanford out ahead

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Image: Atlas

Stanford surges ahead in the rankings, reflecting the broader US dominance.

The IITs are a group of 23 autonomous institutions, though, so it’s worth keeping this in mind when comparing them to other institutions. The first IIT was established in 1950, in Kharagpur, with further institutions established across the country.

The success of the IITs reflects overall improvements in the Indian higher education system.

India increased its share of universities in the Times Higher Education BRICS and Emerging Economics University Rankings 2017 compared to last year. It’s the second most represented country, with 27 universities in the top 300 and 19 in the top 200 – up from 16th last year.

 India's best universities
Image: Times Higher Education

Entrepreneurial India

India now has more tech-driven start-ups than renowned innovation hubs Israel and China, according to a NASSCOM/Zinnov report.

Government incentives have helped drive the boom – Start-up India has promoted entrepreneurship across the country.

India is also the youngest start-up nation in the world, with nearly three-quarters of founders under the age of 35.

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Image: NASSCOM/Zinnov