Daniel Roth, Editor in Chief of LinkedIn recently published a review of some of the most iconic ‘startups’ of our time (link). He introduces the topic stating “Some of the most fascinating businesses today are startups. Sensing a chance to transform (or take over) a market, founders are channeling their seemingly endless flow of venture funds into new ideas — and top talent. We wanted to see which startups were winning the talent game. Who are the 50 most in-demand upstarts in the U.S. today?”
Uber: has been in the public eye this year for all the wrong reasons: sexual harassment claims, regulatory issues, a new CEO and loads of boardroom drama. That hasn’t kept the ride-sharing giant from growing fast or attracting top talent. Of all the companies on our list, Uber has the most workers who have joined from other LinkedIn Top Companies; employees have left the likes of Google, JPMorgan and Facebook to work at the super-unicorn.
Airbnb: has had 200 million guest arrivals since the company launched. Taking on the $550 billion hotel industry is no small feat. To go head-to-head, the company has expanded its instant booking listings and even announced plans to open its first co-branded apartments (which residents will be able to share on Airbnb).
Lyft: has been rapidly expanding across the U.S. It now covers 95 percent of the population across all 50 states, more than any other rideshare platform, and provides over 1 million rides every day. In mid-October, it raised $1 billion in a new funding round led by the venture arm of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.
Slack: Known as a dead-simple collaboration tool, Slack is going head-to-head with the likes of LinkedIn parent Microsoft and Atlassian to own workplace productivity. Its platform allows workers to message each other in real time, while connected apps add context or automate mundane tasks to help get the job done.
NIO: Shanghai-based NIO develops smart, electric and autonomous vehicles. The startup, which expanded to the U.S. two years ago, built the world’s fastest electric car, manned or unmanned, able to go from 0 to 60 miles per hour in 2.7 seconds. CEO Padmasree Warrior, formerly of Cisco, says NIO cars will be available in the U.S. as soon as 2020.
Rubrik: helps companies organize their data in the cloud, ensuring instant access for recovery, analytics and application development. It counts corporate giant JLL, non-profit World Vision and the Tampa Bay Rays among its customers, but CEO Bipul Sinha has even bigger ambitions. “In the future, data will be like money,” he said in a May interview. “Rubrik can be like the Visa for enterprise.”
Dropbox: has a new look these days. The online storage company went through its biggest-ever rebrand this year, repositioning itself as the tool to enable and inspire creativity in the workplace. The new branding also comes with a major milestone: Dropbox reached a $1 billion revenue run rate in February, the company told LinkedIn.
Houzz: the online platform for remodeling and decorating, is transforming the way people design and shop for their homes. Beyond sketching ideas or hiring the right contractor, users can experience their designs through Houzz’s augmented reality tool. The company says that shoppers who engage with the tool are 11 times more likely to purchase.
Convoy: believes the world moves on reliable trucks, and it is in the business of building innovative services to match shipments with reliable carriers. The company works with a network of independent trucking companies and uses technology to match the right truck to the right load, helping optimize supply chain performance.
General Assembly: is creating a new way to educate today’s workforce. The company, which started as a single co-working space in 2011, now has campuses in 20 cities. GA has served over 40,000 students through its full- and part-time programs, and it says it works with a third of the Fortune 100 to develop proprietary, sustainable talent pipelines in fields like data science and web development.
Stripe: Bought something online at Target recently? Or Under Armour? Then you’ve likely used Stripe’s products without even realizing it. The company builds the tools businesses need to instantly accept and manage online payments, helping buyers pay seamlessly and providing sellers real-time analytics.
Glossier: Before starting her direct-to-consumer skincare and makeup company, Glossier CEO Emily Weiss ran the popular blog Into the Gloss. The industry expertise and cult following she gained was a recipe for Glossier success. Her social media-savvy brand became such a hit after launching in 2014 that its products quickly sold out and garnered waitlists 10,000 people long.
Flexports: Early in his career, Flexport CEO Ryan Petersen worked in logistics importing lawnmowers and jacuzzis from China. Now he’s on a mission to ensure any two businesses can trade regardless of distance or regulatory hurdles. His freight forwarding and customs brokerage company is growing at a rapid clip, with its base of clients up 315 percent over the past year, the company says.
Aryaka Networks: Organizations often spend a fortune investing in telecommunications infrastructure from the likes of AT&T and Verizon. Aryaka Networks, a SD-WAN provider, is disrupting those telecom giants by providing a networking option that eliminates hardware and helps control costs with a pay-as-you-use model. The end result is seamless connectivity that’s optimized for cloud-based applications and global access.
Pinterest: Seven years after the company’s debut, it’s still hard to nail down exactly what Pinterest is: it’s part social network, part scrapbook, part catalog of ideas. But, increasingly, it’s defining itself as a search company — one that hopes to offer marketers an alternative to ad behemoths like Google. The company is expected to generate $500 million in ad revenue this year, up from $300 million in 2016.
GRAIL: Since launching a year ago, GRAIL has attracted a whopping $1 billion in funding from Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and some of the biggest companies in healthcare. The company’s goal is to detect cancer early, when it’s possible to cure. To do that, it’s attracted world-class geneticists and biostatisticians, and launched one of the largest clinical research programs in genomic health, with studies enrolling more than 130,000 people.
Duo Security: Duo Security, the first of five cybersecurity companies on the list, provides features like two-factor authentication and secure single sign-on to clients as diverse as Facebook, Toyota and Zillow. The 8-year-old company has been on a tear: In the last year, Duo quadrupled its user base, doubled its headcount and became cash-flow positive, it says.
Udacity: On a mission to democratize education, Udacity offers courses designed by companies like Google and Salesforce that teach professionals the foundational skills needed to land jobs as web developers, mobile developers or data scientists — all at a fraction of the cost of normal universities.
G2 Crowd: With nearly 250,000 verified user reviews for software and services, G2 Crowd is making it simple to find the best business technology based on people’s real experience, acting as a Yelp for enterprise software. There’s one big difference from the consumer-focused review site: G2 Crowd doesn’t sell any ads. Instead, it uses its data to provide for-purchase research reports.
Blend : provides mortgage lenders the digital tools they need to make home loan applications faster, smarter and more secure. The company, which says its clients control about 25 percent of the $10 trillion mortgage lending industry, has helped process $57 billion in applications so far this year.
Opendoor: All new hires act as Opendoor secret shoppers in order to experience the service first-hand, using the app to enter a home and explore as if they were potential buyers.
Cybereason: Fighting hackers is no easy task, but Boston-based Cybereason is equipped for the challenge. Many of its employees served in the Israel Defense Forces’ cybersecurity unit and now use similar tactics to protect its clients. The company’s endpoint detection platform finds attackers’ vulnerabilities after they’ve infiltrated an organization, letting companies know if they are under attack and how to quickly stop the threat.
Cylance: is one of the world’s first companies to provide an antivirus platform built on machine learning and artificial intelligence. It uses its next-generation technology to proactively protect companies like Panasonic and Gap Inc., as well as the U.S. government and even consumer home devices, from malware attacks.
CrowdStrike: Cybersecurity company CrowdStrike was the first to point a finger at Russia after its investigation of the Democratic National Committee email hack prior to the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Since then, it’s capitalized on the surging interest in online security to raise new funding (another $100 million in May) and to sign on ever-more clients. CrowdStrike tells LinkedIn that more than 10 percent of the Fortune 1000 now leverage its tech and services.
Uptake : Chicago-based predictive analytics firm Uptake added more than 300 jobs this year. The company’s software analyzes sensor data to improve productivity and decrease failures across a host of industries, from aviation to energy. One example: wind farms. Uptake’s software can predict when parts on a turbine may soon need to be replaced, preventing costly outages.
Affirm : Third-party lender Affirm aims to offer shoppers an alternative at the register by providing quick and easy personal loans with fixed monthly payments. The company recently announced it’s available at checkout with more than 1,000 merchants, up from 100 a year ago, often for higher-priced merchandise like furniture and electronics.
Katerra : Construction projects rarely finish early or under budget. Katerra wants to streamline the process — by owning all of it. With its model, developers don’t parcel out work to contractors who in turn subcontract again, which inflates costs. Katerra oversees everything, from design to materials sourcing and assembly. Its Phoenix, Ariz., manufacturing facility can build a 24-unit apartment building every two weeks.
Ring : Video doorbell company Ring turns your smartphone into a surveillance hub, sending you a live feed of your front door. The company, rejected by judges on “Shark Tank” in 2013, went on to generate an estimated $160 million in sales last year. It recently expanded into other user-friendly home security products like floodlight cameras.
Convene : Convene designs and operates corporate meeting spaces, and sees its business model as much more, calling it “workplace as a service.” The company amps up the cool factor of average office buildings by adding high-end touches more common in luxury hotels like microbrew coffee shops and farm-to-table meals. It brought in $40.7 million in revenue in 2016, up from $28.9 million the prior year.
Coursera : Online education giant Coursera offers a multitude of digital courses on topics from cryptocurrency to game theory. It has grown to over 28 million users globally and is adding nearly a half million new users every month, the company told LinkedIn. Coursera is committed to amping up the technical skills of underemployed people worldwide, often partnering directly with governments to close the skills gap.
Stitch Fix : Online styling service Stitch Fix pairs customers with its more than 3,000 personal stylists to gauge wardrobe needs and dispatch regular boxes stuffed with clothes, shoes, and accessories. There is a strict separation between the company’s merchandising and data teams to ensure its recommendation algorithms get just the right products into customers’ hands.
Wish, a mobile commerce app, connects shoppers directly with the suppliers of everything from down jackets to wireless chargers. This direct access to manufacturers, many of which are in China, means cheaper prices and a huge selection: the site has tens of millions of listed products.
Robinhood : Online brokerage Robinhood lets members make trades without paying any fees, an appealing proposition for many first-time traders. “Free is pretty difficult,” says co-founder Baiju Bhatt, noting that most of the company’s employees are software engineers focused on building automation into the system to ensure customers can easily trade without human guidance or intervention.
Darktrace : Cybersecurity company Darktrace uses AI and machine learning to defend enterprise networks. Rather than building perimeters to keep hackers out, it looks at what normal behavior is in a system and raises alarms when something deviates. The company was founded by mathematicians from the University of Cambridge.
Sprout Social : is an enterprise social media management platform that helps companies with the often chaotic task of tending to their presence across multiple social networks. More than 19,000 brands currently use Sprout, and the company has been expanding both its workforce and its capabilities to meet demand. Sprout grew its headcount by 80 percent since September 2016 and added features like Instagram scheduling and a built-in image editor.
Virgin Hyperloop One : recently announced an investment from and partnership with Virgin Group that gives Richard Branson a board seat and rebrands the startup: Meet Virgin Hyperloop One. The company, which remains independent, will be able to tap into Virgin’s expertise in operations, safety and passenger experience as it looks to commercialize its first hyperloop systems as early as 2021.
Snowflake Computing: is a pay-as-you-go data warehouse for the cloud. The 5-year-old company boasts clients like Adobe, Capital One and Sony Pictures and says its sales have increased 300 percent in the past year while its workforce roughly doubled. It raised $105 million earlier this year, bringing its total funding to $210 million, in part to open more sales offices worldwide. It tells LinkedIn it expects to add another 300 jobs next year, a move that would again double the size of the company.
ThoughtSpot : is an analytics platform that aims to take the pain out of using business intelligence tools. Its AI-powered software lets users ask questions in everyday language, similar to a Google search. Customers include Chevron, Capital One and OpenTable, with the company aiming for 20 million users by 2020.
Zenreach : has transformed free wifi from a service into a tool: brick-and-mortar businesses can collect the email, demographic information and visit behavior of customers just by inviting them to log onto in-store wifi. Companies can then use that information to better target marketing campaigns to the right consumers at the right time.
Cohesity : Storing, protecting and analyzing data is big business, and multiple enterprise startups are competing to own the space. Cohesity has been rapidly gaining momentum with its proprietary technology that allows companies to streamline their backup and data protection while delivering real-time analytics. Its products have wooed the likes of Cisco and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which are both investors.
Pendo: is making that ubiquitous — and loathed — emailed customer feedback survey obsolete. Its software leverages in-app surveys, polls and analytics to give product developers more detailed user feedback. Revenue is up 400 percent compared to a year ago, Pendo told LinkedIn.
Moda Operandi : is redefining what it means to be a luxury shopper in a digital age, allowing customers to pre-order clothing, accessories and jewelry straight from the runway online. New this year is Moda Operandi Madison, a private boutique off of New York’s Madison Avenue for exclusive events and appointments.
Databricks : is helping companies like Salesforce, Viacom and Shell accelerate innovation by unifying analytics across engineering teams, data scientists and business partners. The company was founded by the creators of the open-source processing engine Apache Spark and is committed to continuing that open tradition. Databricks believes “that no computing platform will win in the big data space unless it is fully open.
Skuid : is a champion of the better user experience, believing that low adoption rates of business software traces back to bad UX. Based in Chattanooga, Tenn., Skuid’s platform lets businesses build analytics apps with a drag-and-drop interface instead of coding. It scored a $25 million investment this year from Iconiq, the family wealth manager of tech titans like Mark Zuckerberg.
Glint : attempts to go beyond the employee-happiness survey of old. One of its newest products, Narrative Intelligence, uses AI to analyze employee comments and provide a visual map of what employees care about. HR execs rejoice: No more reading through thousands of survey comments.
Docker : is an open-source platform that allows developers and system administrators to build, ship and run distributed applications. Its container-as-a-service platform packages software into standardized units for easier access by teams and clients, which can speed up software shipments as much as 7x for companies, according to Docker.
Credit Karma : built a profitable business providing free credit reports, credit monitoring services, and — in the wake of the Equifax breach — free ID monitoring. Its services have attracted 75 million users to date, including almost half of all American millennials, according to the company. This year the fintech startup topped $500 million in revenue and opened new offices in Charlotte and Los Angeles.
Casper : Direct-to-consumer mattress maker Casper has gone beyond its flagship single product. It introduced products like a humidity fighting duvet, an adjustable bed frame and a dog bed. Casper has also gone offline in a big way this year, launching a roving “bedmobile,” retail pop-ups and a Target partnership that puts its products in stores across the U.S.
Elastic : believes that good things come from connecting the dots — lots and lots of them. The company builds open-source data software for easier search, logging, security and analytics in real-time. Elastic’s products have been downloaded more than 150 million times and its community has grown to more than 100,000 developers across 100 countries.