The Rocket Ship Startup List: 2020 (Covid-19 Edition)

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Finding a good place to launch your career has never been more challenging

It’s been a disruptive few months for many parts of the population, to say the least, including new graduates from our colleges and universities entering the job market. Students hungry to jump into the startup community (aka StartUpLand) are more challenged than ever to sort out which company is the right one to successfully launch their career.

Each spring, I provide a comprehensive list of exciting, growing, hiring startups at the growth stage that represent strong candidates to start or continue a career in StartUpLand. This year was the hardest one ever due to the pandemic and tremendous economic uncertainty. Startups that were once sure things have laid off half or all of their staff. It is a confusing time to be a graduate on many levels. I hope this year’s list helps cut through some of the clutter to highlight the nearly 150 companies (a substantial drop from past years) that still appear to be hiring and growing in the post-Covid world.

The criteria for being on the list is subjective but is a mix of fundraising (typically > $50m raised, including a substantial recent round), scale (typically > 100 employees), momentum (typically growing revenue or users > 50%/year), and hiring (typically growing headcount > 20% with dozens of open positions, even post-Covid, that would be a fit for recent college or business school graduates). Many “hot” companies have dramatically cut back on hiring and laid people off. Although these companies may still become valuable companies in the future, they may not be as good places to start your career at this moment if they’re not hiring and growing.

This year’s list is domestic only. In past years, I have included companies from China, India, Israel, and the UK but it was fiendishly difficult to gather information and pin down how the pandemic was affecting the companies on the ground in those countries. I look forward to returning to the international markets for next year’s list.

Before listing the companies, I suggest checking out two of my posts where I give more detailed advice on how to select the right company for you and position yourself to secure a job — a playbook that is more important than ever in this competitive environment:

Once you have reviewed this framework for deciding what you’re looking for, review the companies below. As usual, the list is compiled and organized by location. Like David Brooks, I advise my students to select a particular community to invest in and contribute to over the long term. We also organized by sector and created an Airtable to make it easy to navigate.

I’m sure I made many mistakes and omissions and I thank you in advance for any feedback you might have — the wisdom of the crowd definitely makes this list better. Special thanks to my Flybridge teammates as well as Karan Shah of MIT Sloan and ex-Accel, who spent countless hours helping me sort and resort the list despite the many moving targets. Without further ado:

Here is the Airtable link:

There are nearly 150 companies (as noted, all US-based) on this year’s list as compared to 600 on last year’s list, of which 500 were US-based. The geographic spread, which is even more highly concentrated in Silicon Valley than past years, is as follows:

  • Boston: 8
  • LA: 6
  • NYC: 34
  • SF/Bay Area: 90
  • Other (Chicago, Seattle): 5

Disclosure: Among the listed companies, the following are Flybridge portfolio companies — BetterCloud, BitSight, Bowery, Chief, Codecademy, Imperfect Foods, Nasuni, NS1, and Splice.

Former entrepreneur turned VC @Flybridge, teach @HBS, author of Entering StartUpLand and Mastering the VC Game

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