The Best Startup Companies to Work For

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Which are the best startup companies to work for? There are so many startups out there, you’ll need to decide what you’re interested in and what type of company to focus on. The startup space moves at a fast pace, and there are always plenty of new options to consider.

If you’re looking for a challenging and rewarding growth experience, then a startup job might be for you. You can start by identifying startups that match your career goals and interests. Most startups begin small, so you’ll find many location-dependent opportunities.

You’ll also find remote opportunities if you have in-demand skills that translate seamlessly to a remote work environment.

Because working for a startup can involve a lot of your time and energy, it’s important to look for opportunities that are a match for your interests as well as for your skills. It’s much more fun working long hours when it’s doing something you enjoy for a company that you believe has a shot at success.

Be Ready to Take a Risk

Keep in mind that working for a startup can be risky. Forbes reports that about 60% of startups fail. That failure rate isn’t all about funding. A CB Insights study states that the main reason (42% of the time) that startups fail is because there isn’t a market need for their products or services. Running out of money (29%) is second on the list, followed by not having the right team (23%) on board.

Anyone of those things can happen, so be prepared to take the risk that the job might not work out and be ready to move on.

In addition, if you’re looking for stability and a long-term tenure with your next employer, the startup environment might not be the one for you. Turnover is high among tech companies, with Business Insider reporting employee tenure ranging from 1.8 years (Uber) to 2.5 years (Facebook). That’s not necessarily negative, though.

Employers probably won’t be surprised if they see you’re back on the job market after working in tech roles like these, and you can avoid being considered a job hopper.

What You Can Expect at a Startup

You can also expect a different work environment and company culture than if you were working at a company that’s been around for a long time. That’s what can make working for a startup fun and exciting.

  • You will be part of building something new, and the potential is there for being part of a successful organization from the ground floor.
  • You may need to work evenings and weekends to help make that happen.
  • It's important to be flexible and ready for a challenge.
  • The pay may not be great at first, but you may be offered stock options or future compensation.

Before you start exploring opportunities, review the pros and cons of working at a startup.

Where to Find Startups to Work For

How can you find the best startup companies to work for? What’s “best” is different for everyone and depends on your priorities. Some people might want to work for a company that has received a lot of funding; others might care more about working with female founders or about how innovative or impactful the product is. For some job seekers, the perks and the pay are most important.

LinkedIn has a “Top Companies” list that focuses on the 50 top startup companies in the United States. The top five for 2018 include Lyft, Halo Top Creamery, Coinbase,, and Bird. Some of the list is comprised of tech companies, but others are from outside the tech space.

Other information resources include Business Insider, which evaluated startups by technology, partnerships, leadership, and funding to generate a list of 44 enterprise startups to consider. Forbes, too, has a list of startups you should watch for 2019, as well as a list of startups that have been analyzed by researching company track records, evaluating business plans, and talking to founders, investors, customers, and competitors.

Use these lists to make your own list of potential companies to work for, then learn as much as you can about each company before you decide to apply.

Research and Evaluate Options

You’re probably not going to be able to figure out if a startup is going to be the next Airbnb or Uber, but you can research the startups you’d like to work for to discover if they could be a viable opportunity for your next career move. Start by finding out everything you can about the company. What is it trying to accomplish, and where does it fit in the marketplace? What is the competition like? Are they hiring or would you need to come on board as an investor or partner?

Tools for Researching Startups

Start with Crunchbase, which is the industry-standard report on startups. You’ll be able to search by company, people, funding rounds, and acquisitions. Look at funding rounds to see which startups are getting investments. This could be a good indicator of a startup's viability. Then approach it from the flipside.

What new products are out there? Who is creating them? Product Hunt is a good website to see up-and-coming products. In many cases, these are coming from startups that are actively doing business. Also take a look at lists of the best new apps (like Fast Company's, for example), or PCMag’s list of the 25 Best Productivity Apps for 2019.

Growth Industries for Startups

Check the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) for information on the industries with the top projected growth to get a sense of where the company might fit in. For example, health care and professional and business services lead the list for 2016 - 2026 growth. You can review the fastest growing industries and the industries with the most projected new jobs, as well as the occupations with the highest percentage change in employment.

Dig into the data to get specific information about the industries you’re interested in, because the general statistics don’t tell the entire story. For example, the BLS reports a 5% increase in jobs for taxi drivers, chauffeurs, and ride-share drivers. However, the growing demand for ride-share services is expected to increase job growth for self-employed workers by 40% from 2016 to 2026.

Data won’t tell you everything, however. When you’re evaluating the facts you gather, remember that many successful startups are disruptors—forward-thinking, aggressive organizations that quickly transform industries and the nature of how business is done (here’s the complete list of 50 industry disruptors you need to know when you’re seeking work at an innovative, high-profile startup).

Some startups can be brilliant and game changers; others might not make it. The ones that are successful often offer brand-new technologies and services, so research data may be scarce until the new venture grows and begins to generate a significant market presence.

Check Social Media

Finally, you can discover a lot about a company from social media and the web. What’s the latest buzz? Is this the next best thing or is it going to be a bust? Follow the company on every social media channel it has. Check Google for the latest news.

Do you have any LinkedIn contacts or university alumni contacts at the company? Connect with them to see what inside information you can find. Doing so will help you choose the best startups to target during your new job search.