48 Hot Tech Companies To Build A Career

Every year, my students at Stanford GSB who want to work for startups ask me for advice on where they should work.

I disappoint them by recommending that they not to go work for a startup at all. I tell them three words I know it’s hard for them to hear: You’re not ready.

I prefer to see them take their first jobs after graduation at midsized companies with momentum, not startups, because they are the companies most likely to be big successes.

Why is success so important? You get more credit than you deserve for being part of a successful company, and less credit than you deserve for being part of an unsuccessful company. Success will help propel your career. At a fast-growing company, chances are good you’ll have a higher position two years after you join. At a slow-growth company, no matter how good a job you do, you won’t have the same opportunities to advance.

When it comes time to leave the successful company, you’ll be able to write your own ticket. No one will remember if you were employee 20 or 120. Everyone wants to recruit or back people from successful companies because they know/think people carry the lessons of success with them.

You also may gain something that’s even more valuable from that first job: insight. If you’re part of a company that’s the leader in a market for which you have a passion, you’re more likely to develop a unique insight that could lead to a great company of your own.

Facebook’s Lesson

Perhaps the best illustration of the way a successful company puts a halo over careers is Facebook. Back in 2006 and 2007, a handful of my students were considering job offers from what was then a mid-sized company with about $50 million in revenue. Some of my students were on the verge of rejecting those offers: Dreaming of startups, they believed that a job at a company already on a path to rapid growth would be boring.

Some of them listened to my advice, took jobs at Facebook, and are now benefitting. They are now able to start their own ventures, become venture capitalists or take their pick of jobs at hot companies. They’re writing their own tickets.

Facebook is a rarity, of course: its market capitalization is so large that even employees who joined fairly late in the game got big payouts. In most cases, joining a mid-sized company, even one with enough momentum to reach an IPO while you’re there, won’t make you rich.

Making money is not the point for most of my students, anyway. They take my classes because they’re the kinds of people who want to make an impact on the world. Because they have that desire, and they’re impatient to fulfill it, some of them come away quite disappointed when I suggest to them that they ought to wait.

But the odds are that your startup is going to fail. Why take that chance early in your career? If you’re willing to take three years to work for a company with momentum, then your experience at the midsize company will allow you to do something more amazing in the future. Not many people get multiple shots at starting a company, so why not put your best foot forward?

By the way, if it hasn’t been obvious already, I don’t buy the adage that you should start a company when you’re very young, because that’s when you have the energy. Insight, not energy, is the key to success in technology and insight doesn’t arrive on a particular timetable.

Why Mid-Size Private Companies?

After we talk, I offer to give my students a spreadsheet of 45-50 private companies, U.S.-based or with a strong presence here, that fit my description of an ideal company to work for. I compile this list each year by talking to about 10-15 venture capitalists at the premier venture firms.

Now, I’m sharing my list with you, as a follow on to the posts we’ve written on our Startup Compensation Tool and How Do I Choose Where To Work?.

All our advice on Silicon Valley careers is based on a simple idea: that your choice of company trumps everything else. It’s more important than your job title, your pay or your responsibilities.

The private companies we’ve listed have revenue between $20 and $300 million. They’re growing fast and appear likely to maintain their momentum for the foreseeable future. It’s important that your potential employer have enough momentum to keep growing rapidly until you decide to leave – probably after about three or four years if you want to assure yourself of the aforementioned halo.

Why not a startup? Most startups fail. That means their risk/reward ratios don’t look good. That concept is important in investing, too: You want the highest possible return for the least amount of risk. We pay a lot of attention to risk/reward ratios at Wealthfront to build our clients’ portfolios; you should apply the same sort of thinking when it comes to your career.

Why the upper limit of revenue? Above a certain company size, the lessons you learn are no longer applicable to the startup you eventually want to be part of. For example, if you join Facebook or Google today, you’ll spend most of your time learning how to take advantage of your company’s massive market position. Startups don’t have that problem so those lessons learned are not of much value. Company-building lessons tend to translate until around $300 million of revenue, though that is extremely subjective.

What Happens Next?

My students who put off their startup ambitions to join mid-size private companies with momentum have been more successful than my students who choose to start their own companies directly after school. Their experiences at their first jobs helped them develop an expertise that placed them in high demand.

After those first jobs, some of my former students have taken senior positions with hot startups. Others have founded companies, and had an easier time getting funded than they otherwise could have. They were smart: They took the time to make themselves ready for their startup careers. Now, those careers are taking off.

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44 Responses to “48 Hot Tech Companies To Build A Career”

  1. Phil October 29, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

    Andy,

    Thanks for this interesting post. I was surprised that Marketo didn’t make your list since they have made so many people’s fast growing company lists and they meet your revenue limits.

    Phil

  2. Eduardo October 31, 2012 at 12:37 am #

    Thanks for sharing Andy, very handy info.

  3. Vince November 1, 2012 at 9:01 pm #

    Excellent post! This echoes my own thinking about companies.

    What do you think of Asana? I’m not sure what their revenue numbers are but I’ve had my eye on them. I also tend to prefer companies in the B2B sector.

  4. Ron November 2, 2012 at 10:56 am #

    Thanks Andy for the shout-out. I couldn’t agree more with this advice. Joining a fast growing company exposes you to battle-field promotions, a variety of challenges, personal and professional growth, and a fair amount of pixie dust when you leave. You may be employee 200 at Facebook or Google, but an outsized amount of credit goes your way for their success.

  5. Elizabeth MacBride November 2, 2012 at 11:56 am #

    Asana is too small to be considered a mid-sized company. And thanks for the compliment!

  6. Matt November 6, 2012 at 1:19 pm #

    Sunrun Inc is mid-sized (~$500M in assets), growing fast (50% YoY) and backed by elite VCs (Foundation, Accel and Sequoia). We are building very cool software that is changing how residential solar is sold, and we have the largest market share in the industry. We also have a fantastic culture that includes company parties, company meals, free yoga in the office, ping pong tables, values driven management, etc. Join Sunrun and do good while doing well.

  7. James Clark November 7, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

    Great post! Andy, what would be your pick of mid-sized companies to work for in the UK?

    • Andy Rachleff November 7, 2012 at 8:13 pm #

      I’m sorry, but we don’t keep track of companies outside the US

  8. Patrick November 9, 2012 at 9:58 am #

    Andy, as a 2nd year MBA contemplating these same questions, I found this is a very valuable and timely post, thanks!

  9. Adam Stein November 12, 2012 at 9:59 am #

    Good article and several important lessons from Andy. I was fortunate to work with Andy back in the late 90′s when he recruited me out of Cisco iOS marketing to run all of marketing at my first start up called Epigram – now the basis for Broadcom’s wireless & home networking business. I personally gained an incredible amount of product marketing, strategy and semiconductor experience that no other “classroom” would have provided. Since Epigram, I’ve worked with 3 other startups (Fortinet, Mu/Spirent and MobileIron) and my teams at these firms have all had a similar learning experience. My mobile & security product marketing team at SAP (shameless plug) is now applying the collective “start up” approach inside of larger firm and realizing good results.

    Keep the learning going at all of the firms noted on Andy’s list too … We’re ready!

  10. Ram December 2, 2012 at 4:50 pm #

    Great list Andy! Does this advice apply to engineers as well or is this specific for people moving into management/leadership positions?

    • Andy Rachleff December 2, 2012 at 9:12 pm #

      It applies to everyone who is interested in someday working for an early stage company

  11. Jess December 14, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Andy,

    Thank you so much for this post. I’m currently going through a change in career interests (currently in biotech), and I’ve learned that it is important to work for a great company in order to get the most rewarding learning experience. I used to think startups were the “it” thing until I came upon this blog. This post has motivated me to find a job at a mid-sized company (hopefully from this list!) to fulfill my dreams of success.

  12. Udit December 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm #

    Andy,
    Thanks for the very enlightening post. I was wondering if you had a similar list for the Seattle area?

    • Andy Rachleff December 20, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

      I’m sorry, but we do not know of many companies that fit the profile in the Seattle area.

  13. Sam January 11, 2013 at 5:00 pm #

    With the success that LinkedIn has been having and their profitable IPO, would you consider them for the list if you ever updated it?

    • Andy Rachleff January 11, 2013 at 5:03 pm #

      Likedin was left out because we only listed private companies

  14. Neha February 1, 2013 at 9:12 pm #

    Thank you for this. I just graduated with my MBA about 6 months ago and went directly to an early stage startup. I am in the process of switching course, and your advice on this post resonated with me really well. Do you have lists from past years? I would love to see how they have played out to be successes over the years.

    • Andy Rachleff February 2, 2013 at 9:53 am #

      A very large percentage of the companies that have been on this list in the past have gone on to be very large companies

  15. Ben February 6, 2013 at 7:47 pm #

    Hi Andy,

    Thank you so much for this post. Out of curiosity, is there any particular reason you didn’t include Boston based companies such as Rapid7 or Hubspot on the list? Thanks.

    • Andy Rachleff February 7, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

      Nope. We just hadn’t been made aware of them by my friends in the venture business. Great suggestions.

      thanks
      andy

  16. Hiral Parekh March 3, 2013 at 11:25 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this post. It is really helpful for those of us early in our careers post-MBA.

  17. Cinthia Chen March 12, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    Hi Andy,
    Is there a reason Quora is not on this list?

    • Andy Rachleff March 13, 2013 at 11:51 am #

      As explained in the post, you had to have revenue between $20 million and $300 million and exhibit a ton of revenue momentum. Quora does not qualify on the revenue metric. Hopefully it will make the list in a year or two.

  18. Linda Werner March 19, 2013 at 7:20 pm #

    Hi Andy,
    Thanks! Great post! Any insights into companies in the DC area that meet the revenue and growth criteria?

    • Andy Rachleff March 19, 2013 at 7:40 pm #

      Nothing other than Opower and Palantir

      • rodrigo March 20, 2013 at 4:05 am #

        Then, why Opower is not in the list?

        • Andy Rachleff March 20, 2013 at 7:13 am #

          It was brought to our attention after we posted the original article. We plan on updating the list once a year.

      • Linda Werner March 28, 2013 at 7:17 pm #

        Thanks!

  19. Darren April 11, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Thanks Andy! Would you mind posting their revenues and valuations?

    • Andy Rachleff April 12, 2013 at 8:33 am #

      I’m sorry but that data isn’t public

  20. Alyssa April 22, 2013 at 11:08 pm #

    Andy – This article is very insightful and I continue to share it with many friends and job seekers trying to decide if joining a start-up is the right move for them. Thanks for sharing and fingers crossed that TubeMogul makes your list next time around!

  21. Mike May 30, 2013 at 6:19 am #

    Andy – Great post. What is a good estimate of the expected payout from IPO for someone joining a company on the list today? Also, what is the expected timing of the payout?

    • Andy Rachleff May 30, 2013 at 1:29 pm #

      The amount of payout is highly dependent on when you joined. I can give you an average but that’s misleading. I think you should play with the startup compensation tool to figure what you would get at various stages, assume further dilution due to future financings and then assume the company is worth $1 billion post IPO. I suggest $1 billion because most tech companies trade at least that high if they are actually able to pull off an IPO. Of course your mileage may vary :-)

      • Mike May 30, 2013 at 6:44 pm #

        Andy-Thanks for the response. Any thoughts on the timing of the IPO for a company on your list – i.e., a company with current revenues of $20-300MM in a market with a lot of momentum (assume avg. market conditions). After reaching $20-300MM revenue mark, how long before a company would typically go for IPO?

        • Andy Rachleff May 31, 2013 at 9:54 am #

          In this environment you typically need at least $100 million in annual revenues to consider going public. The choice of when depends on management’s evaluation of the benefit of being public which varies widely. Therefore I can’t give you a valuable guess.

  22. Teddy Zhai July 9, 2013 at 3:34 am #

    Hi Andy,

    Great article indeed! Thanks a lot.

    However, what immediately comes to my mind is: Why not BIG companies for a fresh graduate?

    You seem to convey the message assuming a career path which ultimately ends up with start-ups (or founding own start-ups). I certainly understand there are more opportunities in this type of companies.

    I was wondering how would comment on the approach of first BIG companies (Google, Intel, Amazon, etlc.) and then moving some else for a bigger stage.\

    Thanks a lot.
    Teddy

    • Andy Rachleff July 9, 2013 at 6:24 am #

      The problem with working for a big technology company in marketing, product or business development is the skills are not transferable. Let’s take Google for example. Every product manager’s first priority is to take advantage of the tremendous traffic generated by the search engine. For Microsoft it’s windows and office. For Intel it’s the pentium. Startups don’t have that luxury. Therefore the most important skill a new graduate would learn would be of no value to the startup. While a lot larger than startups, medium companies have a lot more in common with them and I and have found over the past 30 years that the vast majority of the skills developed are transferable. That’s why we avoid recruiting marketing, product or business development people form big companies.

      In the old days we used to say never hire from IBM. Make sure the candidate has had at least one stop at a smaller company in between.

      It’s different for engineers. Their skills are far more transferable.

  23. Rolinda C July 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm #

    Andy – any such list for Austin TX? thanks

  24. Shawn August 15, 2013 at 10:57 am #

    Hi Andy, this is a great list. Some of the names really echo what I heard from my research (e.g., Palantir). When do you plan to offer the updated list for 2013? (- apologies if you have already answered the question. I searched but didn’t find answers to this question)

    • Andy Rachleff August 15, 2013 at 4:29 pm #

      An updated (and much longer) list will be published as part of an eBook we will publish on the topic of Careers in a couple of weeks. Stay tuned.

  25. Scott January 3, 2014 at 10:50 pm #

    “…if it hasn’t been obvious already, I don’t buy the adage that you should start a company when you’re very young, because that’s when you have the energy. Insight, not energy, is the key to success in technology…”

    HERE HERE! (says the 46-year old startup kid :)

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