Announcing the 2021 Wealthfront Career-Launching Companies List
Today we are pleased to present our ninth annual list of information technology companies where young people should start their careers. We published this list to complement the career advice I have been giving to my Stanford Graduate School of Business students for the past 15 years:
“Your choice of company is more important than your job title, your pay or your responsibilities.”
The full logic behind this advice can be found in our Silicon Valley Career Guide. I’m proud to say my students who followed this advice have gone on to incredible success.
Many people ask us why a next-generation banking service would go to the trouble of offering career advice and publishing this list. Our objective is to help our clients manage their short- and long-term financial needs. We can think of no advice that impacts our clients’ long-term financial state more than helping them make the right career choices. It’s one of the many ways we build an unprecedented level of trust with our clients.
We are very proud that more than 120 companies from our annual lists have gone on to become public companies or be acquired for sizable sums over the past eight years. We know of no other annual list that comes close to helping young people get off to a great start building their careers in technology.
By being part of a very successful company early in your career, you build a halo that not only leads to faster upward growth, but greater financial rewards as well.
To qualify for our Career-Launching Companies List, a company must be US-based, privately held, have a revenue run rate by year end of between $20 million and $300 million, be on a trajectory to grow at a rate in excess of 50% for at least the next three or four years, and have compelling unit economics. Selling a product at very low margins can lead to rapid revenue growth, but it doesn’t necessarily imply a great long-term business.
We built our list by surveying partners of the following 19 premier early and late stage venture capital firms: Accel Partners, Addition, Andreessen Horowitz, Benchmark, Bond, Coatue, Dragoneer, Greylock Partners, Index Ventures, IVP, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Matrix Partners, Redpoint, Ribbit Capital, Social Capital, Spark Capital, TCV, Tiger Global and Unusual Ventures. As always, we may have missed a few companies, but we feel confident that our list is pretty all-encompassing.
Changes since last year
This year’s list includes 187 companies, up 9 from last year’s 178. We added 72 new companies, which is yet another record for an annual increase. That’s saying something because last year’s record of 71 represented a 40% increase from the prior year. I think many might be surprised that we set a record in a year so heavily impacted by COVID-19. The large number of new companies added to the list really speaks to the amount of innovation that continues to be driven by the Internet.
We dropped 63 companies, also a new record, which includes 8 that went public (or are in registration), 11 that were acquired (almost all of which were acquired for at least $1 billion), a record 9 that grew beyond the $300 million revenue qualification cap, a record 33 that experienced growth that was too slow to continue to qualify and 2 that should not have been included last year because they are headquartered outside the US.
Interestingly, two of the companies included in the IPO category went public through a merger with a Special Purpose Acquisition Company (SPAC). This is the first year in which we’ve experienced companies from our list going public this way. This trend should continue as a record number of SPACs were funded in 2020.
The number of companies dropped from the list due to declining growth is up almost two and a half times from last year’s 14. Many of these companies can attribute their slowdown to COVID-19, which means I wouldn’t be surprised if they reappear on our list in a year or two.
Five companies we dropped from the list in prior years for growing beyond $300 million of annual revenue, Airbnb, Doordash, Palantir, Roblox and Wish, have gone public this year or will soon go public at astronomical valuations.
Other fun facts
As usual, the majority of the companies are based in the Bay Area (56%), but that’s down 5% from last year’s 61% and marks the first year since we’ve been publishing this list that the Bay Area lost market share. This loss in market share cannot be attributed to COVID-19 because all the companies were founded a while ago. This implies the Bay Area might lose further share in the future. The majority of the Bay Area companies (61%) are still located in San Francisco rather than Silicon Valley. That’s flat from 61% last year, but down from a peak of 70% in 2015.
A few geographies gained slight share this year, but generally speaking the relative market shares remained approximately the same. While other regions may be experiencing an increased level of startup activity, it still appears that the more successful companies are likely to be based near Silicon Valley. This means you should seriously consider moving to the Bay Area to launch your career and then think about moving elsewhere to start your own company once you’ve gained the halo and experience.
Enterprise share increased from last year’s 65% to 67% of the companies, an all-time high. But 75% of the newly added companies are enterprise-focused. The data implies it is increasingly difficult to create a consumer-focused company that qualifies for this list. The number of consumer-focused companies located in Silicon Valley increased to 13 this year, up from 9 last year and only 5 the year before. That is encouraging for the many people who want to move from San Francisco to the southern suburbs. Interestingly, we also had our first semiconductor company in a very long time, Cerebras, added to the list.
Your career matters to your financial future
We hope you find this year’s list helpful. If you are an engineer, we provide slightly different advice, which can be found on our engineering blog. No matter what your background, we believe this list can help young professionals looking to rapidly grow their careers. And once you’ve achieved some success, we hope you will consider using Wealthfront as your next-gen banking service.
By the way, if you still haven’t opened a Wealthfront account, we encourage you to do so. It’s easy to get started: the minimum for our Cash Account is only $1, and the minimum for our Investment Account is only $500.
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About the author(s)
Andy Rachleff is Wealthfront's co-founder and Chief Executive Officer. He serves as a member of the board of trustees and chairman of the endowment investment committee for University of Pennsylvania and as a member of the faculty at Stanford Graduate School of Business, where he teaches courses on technology entrepreneurship. Prior to Wealthfront, Andy co-founded and was general partner of Benchmark Capital, where he was responsible for investing in a number of successful companies including Equinix, Juniper Networks, and Opsware. He also spent ten years as a general partner with Merrill, Pickard, Anderson & Eyre (MPAE). Andy earned his BS from University of Pennsylvania and his MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business. View all posts by Andy Rachleff