Tsinghua Beats MIT, Harvard in Startup Ecosystem Funding
Three companies in Beijing tech ecosystem have attracted $13.1 billion of investment.

Beijing’s Tsinghua University came out ahead of Harvard, MIT and UCLA among the world’s top schools in a measure of surrounding tech ecosystem investment.

The proximity of a few big tech players, including former Uber competitor Didi Chuxing, gives Tsinghua its edge.

In a comparison between the top 50 rated schools in the world for ICT, and investment attracted by startups, the University of California at Berkeley, Stanford University, and New York University had the most investment locally. In an IBM Watson Analytics data visualization, the century-old Beijing university placed next.

The Californian schools were first and second in the list. The companies closest to them have $48.3 billion and $25.9 billion of aggregate investment, respectively, due to the overwhelming number of startups in their neighborhoods (San Francisco, and Silicon Valley).

Tsinghua, sometimes called “China’s MIT”, is closer to Beijing’s startups than its companion school, Peking University. Tsinghua is local to only three companies in our test, but together those three companies have booked $13.1 billion of investment.

The largest of these is Didi Chuxing, a mobile transportation platform that recently took over Uber’s operations in China. Didi Chuxing’s total funding is $7.3 billion, of which $4.5 billion came from Apple private equity in June 2016.

Xiaomi, with $2.45 billion in angel funding, develops smart devices and software. Meituan Dianping is a new merger of two popular group-buying communities. In January 2016 it attracted $3.3 billion in investment.

Schools with tech ecosystem funding

According to James Giancotti of Oddup, Beijing is an emerging startup powerhouse because of its large domestic market, government support, and talent pool from schools such as Tsinghua and neighbouring Peking. “There is no question that Beijing is following in the footsteps of Silicon Valley,” he writes.

China’s tech ecosystem hasn’t suffered for its relative isolation. Shenzhen-based Tencent Holdings, for example, developed WeChat, a messaging app that handles a wider scope of functions than most U.S. tech giants, including Facebook and Google.

And Tech in Asia reports that in the first six months of 2016, investors put a record $37.2 billion USD into China’s young tech firms.

Top 10 universities for local* startup funding, by amount

  1. University of California, Berkeley – $48.3 billion
  2. Stanford University – $25.9 billion
  3. New York University – $14.7 billion
  4. Tsinghua University – $13.1 billion
  5. University of California, Los Angeles – $6.32 billion
  6. Massachusetts Institute of Technology – $4.56 billion
  7. Harvard University – $3.24 billion
  8. University of Washington – $2.67 billion
  9. University of Chicago – $2.63 billion
  10. University College London – $1.84 billion

* local = within a 50-mile radius.

Peking University, the other Beijing-based university on the top 50 school list, arguably has a claim to joint fourth place status. It wasn’t counted as the closest school because it’s geographically further from the areas where technology companies gather.

Compare this to MIT and Harvard, which are within a mile of each other and are both surrounded by startups. They each appear in the top 10 list, but combined they would only edge out University of California, Los Angeles.

Startup funding data was taken from Pitchbook’s public database in August 2016. Top school rankings are from the QS World University Rankings 2015. The data was geocoded with ArcGIS, and then collated by the IBM Watson Analytics data exploration tool.

Globally, there was $33 billion of funding attached to startups not within 50 miles of a top-50 school for ICT.