Most unicorn founders in the world are graduates of Stanford, Harvard…and the IITs

Spot the unicorn.
Spot the unicorn.
Image: Biswarup Ganguly/Wikimedia, CC BY 3.0
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In India’s decidedly mediocre education system, the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have been celebrated for many things.

For decades, they produced a legion of top-notch engineers that scrambled up the corporate ladder in the US, with some even rising to the very top. Lately, though, it’s the horde of entrepreneurs coming out of these elite engineering schools that’s caught everyone’s fancy. And some are incredibly successful.

In fact, according to an analysis by British software firm Sage, the IITs are among the best in the world at churning out founders of unicorns—i.e. privately-held startups valued at $1 billion or more.

Of course, unlike Stanford or Harvard, the IITs are now a collection of 23 autonomous institutions, having grown from the original five established between 1951 and 1963. So, combining the number of unicorn founders from individual IITs into a single head is somewhat misleading.

Still, the statistical oversight doesn’t entirely overshadow the entrepreneurial achievements of IIT alumni who, among other things, must also clear one of toughest entrance exams in the world to find a seat at India’s elite engineering schools.