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Startup Search Methodology: Identifying Fast-Growing, Venture-Backed Startups, Hiring Now

Industry Insights
At the start of the decade, the default place for the best early career engineers, designers, and operators was big tech — Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft. However, as young people experienced the slow-moving side of big tech and realized the upside of joining fast-growing startups, we saw an influx of movement toward some of the now most well-known unicorns — Uber, Lyft, Airbnb.

Today, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb are considered big tech, yet new grads still funnel themselves toward the Google and Ubers of the world. It’s hard to identify which startups will provide better career and financial upside as well as sustained growth when early teams are small with not widely recognized startup names. At Startup Search, we help early career people discover the best high-growth startups roles by critically evaluating each company we feature among a set of success indicators — the Startup Search Methodology.




The Startup Search Methodology

How Startup Search Vets Companies

Vetting startups can be difficult because it’s hard to find public information about early companies, and evaluations and funding rounds in venture can be confusing to navigate. We solve this by leaning on our advisors, investors, and community at Contrary to get the information we need to curate the best startup roles for you.

Great Founders

When we evaluate a startup to share with you, we start by looking at the founder(s). Specifically, we look for founders that have experience building in the industry they are founding in and/or prior experience founding or working for a startup. For example, we’ve featured password-less authentication API startup Stytch multiple times in our newsletter given their co-founders Julianna Lamb and Reed McGinley-Stempel’s backgrounds previously building authentication as product managers and engineers at Plaid (a banking API startup requiring high security).

References Within Our Network

One of the best ways to evaluate a startup is to talk with knowledgeable investors and the company’s current employees. We get referrals from the Contrary Fellowship which is a community of early career individuals founding or working at top early startups. They refer open positions at their companies and we discuss these opportunities with investors at Contrary before sharing the best ones with you.

Great Investors and Funding Record

Acquiring the information, expertise, and time to evaluate an early startup is challenging. Lucky for us, venture capital investors do this for a living.
To identify if a startup is growing fast, we look at how venture investors valued the startup through its cap table, a table showing the equity ownership and valuation of each funding round. Specifically, we look to see whether the team has raised in the last year, how much they raised, and who has invested.

Here are 10 of the top venture funds we frequently feature startups from.

Top Investment Firms

  • Sequoia
  • Greylock
  • Andreessen Horowitz
  • Kleiner Perkins
  • Index
  • Accel
  • Benchmark
  • Founders Fund
  • General Catalyst
  • Lightspeed
We also like to see startups backed by venture funds focused on the same industry. For instance, funds like Lux Capital and Innovation Endeavors are likely to back the best deep tech companies while Polychain Capital and Paradigm are likely to back the best in Crypto. Moreover, if we see the same investors backing a startup across multiple funding rounds, that’s an indicator to us that the startup has continued to perform well.

Fast-Growing Markets

Startup Search highlights companies that are building in fast-growing markets because they are likely to be hiring fast and performing well. For instance, during the pandemic, we featured more remote work tools, health tech, and virtual communication startups given their explosive growth and demand. Most recently, we launched startup lists highlighting the best companies in the crypto, fintech, and creator economy spaces given their success in funding and increased prevalence in our lives.

Resources for Your Startup Job Search

Now that you understand the Startup Search methodology, subscribe to our newsletter to get our well-researched list of startup opportunities every week.




We have guides to help you navigate your startup search from acing your interview to understanding your compensation package when you get an offer.

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