Finding the right early-stage startup to work for – a simple method

Every day we speak to people who ask us which early-stage tech companies they should work for. There are thousands of early stage companies, and it can be overwhelming to begin a search to find the team that is right for you.

We have constructed a list of early-stage start-ups that we think have real potential. This is by no means a comprehensive list of all great early-stage companies, but we believe it’s a great starting point.

The criteria we used to construct this list are:

  1. Company was funded in the last 12 months and has not exited, and therefore is likely hiring.
  2. Company has raised from a top VC Firm. We used Chris Farmer’s top 10 InvestorRank list, which, though slightly outdated, remains relevant. The reason you should care about investors is that they are paid to research companies in depth and pick winners. As a job applicant evaluating your options, you can piggy back off the work these investors have already done.
  3. Company has raised $4 – $15M. We limited it to companies with at least $4M, since they tend to have greater hiring needs. We set max funding at $15M to focus on start-ups that are still at a relatively early stage.
  4. Company is located in New York or Bay Area. We limited the scope for this analysis, but there are many start-ups outside these cities that are worth investigating.

This list is imperfect: Funding data is not available for all start-ups and is often inaccurate. We used MatterMark and Crunchbase as sources. These lists are mostly reliable, but we found a few mistakes when we reached out directly to the companies to spot-check information. The list of investors we chose is also not complete — some well known investors like Google Ventures, Bessemer or Spark Capital are not on the InvestorRank list.

How to use this list
If you are thinking of working at an early stage start-up, we recommend reviewing each start-up on this list carefully. Ask yourself the following:

  • Do I have a genuine interest in what this company is working on?
  • Do I have skills that can add value to this company given the stage they are in?
  • Do I believe that what they are doing has potential to become huge?

For companies that you find interesting, do the following:

  • Find the names of the founders (Crunchbase usually has this information)
  • Figure out their email address (guessing via verify-email.org is often effective)
  • Email the founders and tell them why you are interested in working with them and how you can help grow their company.

Before you start using this list, think carefully about whether an early stage company is right for you. Most of the companies listed below have fewer than 50 employees and likely still have a lot of volatility. Your salary will be lower than at a corporation or later stage tech company, but you will be rewarded with equity.

Please note that some of the companies are hiring via HireArt. Check it out at hireart.com/browse

List of companies that meet our criteria:

Name Total Funding Last Funding Location Founded on Blurb
Adatao 13,000,000 8/7/14 Sunnyvale 1/1/12 Adatao is on a quest to deliver Data Intelligence for All.
ALOHA 4,500,000 1/21/14 New York 1/1/12 ALOHA is a health and wellness company focused on producing nutrient-rich, gluten-free, all natural, vegan foods and essential minerals.
Aorato 11,000,000 1/21/14 New York 12/1/12 Protection through Entity Behavior
BetterDoctor 13,200,000 10/22/13 Bay Area 8/1/11 BetterDoctor provides web and mobile apps that help users locate doctors of their choice.
Canary 11,200,000 3/5/14 New York 1/1/12 Canary is a systems integration peripheral hardware manufacturer and software development company.
Casper 15,000,000 8/7/14 New York 11/1/13 Bedtime is back.
Clever 13,300,000 3/25/14 Bay Area 1/1/12 Clever is building the platform for modern learning software.
CoreOS 8,000,000 6/30/14 San Francisco CoreOS is a new Linux distribution that has been rearchitected to provide features needed to run modern infrastructure stacks.
DreamFactory Software 9,300,000 3/5/14 Bay Area 1/1/05 DreamFactory develops technology that enables developers to connect modern mobile apps to enterprise back-end cloud infrastructure.
Good Eggs 10,500,000 9/26/13 Bay Area 7/1/11 Good Eggs is a technology company bringing local groceries right the consumer through online ordering and offering delivery or pickup.
Granular 4,200,000 2/23/14 Bay Area 2/20/14 Granular is a software and analytics platform that helps farmers operate more efficiently and make better business decisions.
Grokker 5,500,000 12/2/13 San Jose Grokker Human Development is a management consulting company.
HackerRank 12,400,000 6/12/14 Bay Area 7/1/12 Hackerrank is a social platform for hackers to solve puzzles, code game bots and collaborate to solve real-world challenges.
Heyday 5,500,000 1/3/14 Bay Area 2/1/12 Heyday is an automatic journal enabling people to keep track of the places they visit and the things they see.
HighFive 13,400,000 10/24/13 Bay Area 2/10/12 Highfive is a B2B technology company reimagining the way people communicate at work.
Highlight 4,000,000 12/12/13 Bay Area 10/1/11 Highlight is a mobile ambient awareness app that sends the user a push notification when they are near another Highlight user.
If You Can Company 9,300,000 2/26/14 Bay Area 11/1/12 Social and Emotional Learning SEL Games
Imimtek 5,100,000 10/9/13 Sunnyvale 1/1/11 Imimtek is a start-up that develops next-generation natural user interfaces for mobile and desktop devices.
Index 7,000,000 11/19/13 Bay Area 3/1/12 Index is a retail software company providing solutions for personalization and measurement of online commerce to the offline world.
Kahuna 13,000,000 2/26/14 Palo Alto 1/1/11 Kahuna is a customer engagement engine that analyzes and unifies customer behavior across the web and mobile networks.
Level 5,000,000 10/10/13 Bay Area 6/22/12 Level offers an iPhone app that automatically updates the users' cash purchases to give real-time financial health pictures.
Listia 11,200,000 10/2/13 Mountain View 8/1/09 Listia is an auction marketplace that uses a virtual credit system for bidding and trading goods.
Lumiata 9,000,000 1/8/14 Bay Area 1/1/13 Lumiata applies big data-driven medical science to patient data in order to optimize every health care interaction.
Mango Health 8,300,000 5/21/14 Bay Area 9/1/13 Online/Mobile Payments in Latin America
Mesosphere 10,500,000 6/9/14 Bay Area Turn data center into one big computer
Metanautix 7,000,000 8/5/14 Palo Alto 1/1/12 Metanautix helps large enterprises navigate oceans of data.
Mojave Networks 5,000,000 11/18/13 Bay Area 1/1/11 Mojave Networks is a developer of cloud-based mobile security solutions that detect advanced threats and protects data in enterprises.
Nginx 13,000,000 10/15/13 San Francisco 1/1/11 Nginx, Inc. offers advanced Internet infrastructure software helping companies match increasing demand for faster web experiences at scale.
Nomi 13,000,000 10/16/13 New York 9/1/12 Nomi is an omni-channel marketing platform that helps retailers better engage with their customers.
PandoDaily 4,700,000 2/17/14 Bay Area 1/16/12 PandoDaily is a web publication offering technology news, analysis, and commentary, focusing mainly on Silicon Valley and startup companies.
Paxata 9,500,000 10/28/13 Bay Area 5/29/12 Paxata builds enterprise software with the principles of social and consumer technologies, focusing on user experience.
RethinkDB 12,200,000 12/16/13 Mountain View 5/1/09 RethinkDB is an open-source distributed NoSQL database storing JSON documents and scaling data for applications.
Romotive 12,100,000 1/29/14 Bay Area 8/1/11 Romotive is a robotic technology company developing personal robots with telepresence, autonomous navigation and machine vision.
Runscope 7,100,000 4/10/14 Bay Area 1/1/13 Runscope develops tools that support the modern application development life cycle.
Sentinel Labs 14,500,000 4/23/14 Bay Area 1/1/13 Sentinel offers malware detection and protection technologies that are capable of handling online threats and attacks.
Singular 5,000,000 7/17/14 Bay Area 1/1/14 Singular is re-inventing the way companies manage their mobile marketing operations.
Skillshare 10,800,000 2/28/14 New York 11/1/10 Skillshare is an online learning community to master real-world skills from project-based classes.
Sookasa 6,600,000 4/1/14 Bay Area 1/1/11 Sookasa secures, manages and provides analytics for enterprise data on the cloud or on mobile devices.
Sprig 11,700,000 4/2/14 Bay Area 1/1/12 Monthly Subscription Service
Synack 9,000,000 4/24/14 Bay Area 1/1/13 Synack is a human-powered security solution offering scalable continuous testing for enterprise applications and networks.
Syntertainment 5,000,000 9/18/13 Bay Area 1/1/12 Syntertainment is a developer of multiplayer online games.
Tactile 11,200,000 3/25/14 Bay Area Personal Sync Platform For Professionals
Tapingo 14,000,000 2/5/14 Bay Area 1/1/12 Tapingo is the complete mobile ordering solution for campuses and campus dining. Our customers benefit from improved quality of life for stu
Terrajoule 11,500,000 11/4/13 Redwood City 1/1/09 Terrajoule Corporation developed a technology enabling solar panels to yield higher energy storage at a lesser cost.
Thatgamecompany 12,500,000 5/27/14 Santa Monica Thatgamecompany develops artistically crafted, broadly accessible interactive video games.
Timeful 7,000,000 5/16/14 Mountain View Timeful is a technology company dedicated to reinventing the way that people manage their most precious resource: time.
Transifex 5,000,000 6/24/14 Bay Area 1/1/09 Transifex offers a localization platform that integrates with software development processes to manage translations for digital content.
Trufa 4,500,000 12/4/13 Palo Alto 12/4/13 Trufa delivers True Finance Applications, employing big data and predictive analytics to help companies unlock cash.
uBiome 5,000,000 8/18/14 Bay Area 1/1/13 uBiome gives you access to cutting edge DNA sequencing technology to understand your microbiome.
Upworthy 12,000,000 9/16/13 New York 3/26/12 Upworthy is a social media platform offering viral videos and graphics on diverse topics.
YieldMo 12,100,000 12/9/13 New York 1/1/13 YieldMo is a mobile advertising startup allowing marketers to purchase ad placements on mobile pages and premium mobile apps.
Zazma 10,000,000 9/3/13 New York 1/1/11 Zazma is a web-based finance company providing funds for start-ups and other enterprises.
Zumper 8,200,000 3/4/14 Bay Area 1/1/12 Zumper is a real-time home and apartment rental platform for tenants and landlords to find and rent apartments.

If this blog post is useful and you are interested in seeing a similar list for later stage companies, please let us know.

6 Comments

  1. Alan Elmont said:

    Interested in Early, Mid AND late stage start-ups in and around Culver City and Los Angeles at large.

    Thanks
    Alan

    October 1, 2014
    Reply
  2. K. Murphy said:

    Skillshare sounds incredible..would love to know more about them. Thanks for this information. Will see if I can find further information.

    October 1, 2014
    Reply
  3. Gee Hen said:

    Expand this list to Seattle and Dallas.

    October 1, 2014
    Reply
  4. Rosie said:

    Great article!

    October 1, 2014
    Reply
  5. Tamar said:

    Weird that Sprig is listed here, bearing in mind this was posted in September, as they shut their doors in April, 5 months before….

    But this is a pretty cool list. How about one for remote-worker friendly companies?

    October 5, 2014
    Reply

Leave a Reply