The Top Startups of 2018: 50 U.S. Companies That Are Becoming Talent Magnets

September 6, 2018

Who doesn’t love the romantic tale of an innovative startup company—the breathtaking vision, the pioneering courage, the all-or-nothing gamble?

Today, we’re excited to celebrate 50 such stories as we unveil our ranking of the 2018 LinkedIn Top Startups—the young U.S. companies that are generating excitement in the marketplace and, particularly, the workforce.

To build this list, we looked at billions of actions taken by LinkedIn members and examined four areas in particular—employee growth; interest in a company’s jobs; member engagement with the company and its workforce; and how successfully these startups have been drawing talent from the businesses on our 2018 Top Companies list. In addition, we only looked at startups that have at least 50 employees and that are privately held, headquartered in the U.S., and 7 years old or younger.

Without further ado, here are the top 10 (see the full list of 50 here):

Hats off to these winners, who are already shaking up their industries. Halo Top Creamery #2, for example, scooped its rivals, including Ben & Jerry’s and Häagen-Dazs, by becoming the best-selling pint of ice cream in U.S. grocery stores. Investment app Robinhood #6 has topped 5 million accounts and surpassed industry warhorse E-Trade. And this year’s top startup, ride-sharing upstart Lyft, increased its market share from 20% to 35% in 2017, rattling the problem-plagued Uber.

Top startups are shaking up tech—and a bunch of other industries

As you might expect, more than half the companies on our list are tech firms. But a lot of other fields are also enjoying the innovation and revolutionary perspectives that startups can bring to an industry. Startups are disrupting food and beverage (Halo Top #2), fashion (Allbirds #29, Outdoor Voices #43), entertainment (UnitedMasters #33), insurance (Root #18), hospitality (The Wing #36), cosmetics (Glossier #8), transportation/trucking (Bird #5, Convoy #32), retail (Away #30, Enjoy #38), and financial services (Robinhood #6, Ellevest #14, Affirm #24, Gemini Trust #25).

Other threads we found running through the startups tapestry include:

  • New York state of mind: In last year’s first-ever list, San Francisco was clearly the place to be. Seventeen companies on the list were headquartered in SF, and just six called the Big Apple home. This year 13 of the startups are based in New York City (12 in Manhattan, 1 in Brooklyn) versus 11 in San Francisco. But Silicon Valley—from San Jose in the south to San Francisco in the north—accounts for exactly half of this year’s startups, and 10 of the top 13 startups are in the Bay Area.
  • Automobiles that finally live up to the name: In the 19th century, the French conjured up the word automobile as a name for new-fangled horseless vehicles. But that half-Greek, half-Latin formulation meaning self mobile is only truly being realized in the 21st century. Four of this year’s startups—Aurora Innovation #9, Argo AI #17, Zoox #21, and Drive.ai #35—are developing software and/or hardware to make self-driving cars possible. And Zoox is going a step further by creating an entire all-electric driverless vehicle from the wheels up.
  • New kids on the block(chain): Cryptocurrencies and other blockchain applications are all the rage. Six of this year’s startups—Coinbase #3, Robinhood #6, Ripple #7, Gemini #25, ConsenSys #26, Axoni #47—have blockchain technology as part of their business.
  • The remotest Idea: Inc.com recently called work from home the “world’s smartest management strategy.” Everyone at InVision #19 works remotely. Employees have embraced this approach and have set up an informal housing exchange they’ve dubbed “Invbnb.” At Halo Top Creamery #2, everyone works either remotely or at a coworking space in L.A.’s Fairfax District. Cybersecurity startup CrowdStrike #49 has over 1,100 employees and nearly half work remotely. Aha! #23 gets this aha concept—it has 80 employees working in 71 different cities.
  • Extra! Extra!: On the perks-and-benefits front, startups continue to find new ways to surprise and delight. Manny Medina, the CEO at Seattle-based Outreach #15, spends an hour each morning fist-bumping every one of his 285 employees. At Bumble #39, the social networking platform on which women initiate conversations, employees can get free manicures and haircuts every other week. Technology delivery service Enjoy #38 lets employees choose their own hours—they just have to hit 40 by the end of the week.
  • Star-studded: For young startups, having a celebrity customer is a huge hit of oxygen. Outdoor Voices #43, a 5-year-old activewear retailer, has found fans in actor Natalie Portman and singer Harry Styles. Both Google co-founder Larry Page and actor Leonardo DiCaprio have rocked the eco-friendly wool sneakers sold by Allbirds #29. Leo likes them so much, in fact, he became an investor. UnitedMasters #33 counts rapper 2 Chainz among its clientele.

What startups can do to recruit top talent

In its most recent annual State of the Startups report, First Round Review determined that hiring good people is the biggest concern among startup founders. Yet despite this anxiety, most leaders don’t spend that much of their time on hiring—three out of four respondents in the survey said they spend less than 20% of their time on it. Spread thin for time, founders are primarily focused on product, management, and fundraising.

To allay these concerns about talent acquisition, startups can lean on the best practices of talent leaders who are veterans of young, fast-growing companies:

1. Standardize your interviews: Assign roles to each of your interviewers and ask each candidate a consistent set of questions.

2. Create an efficiency mindset: Keep an eye on how much time is spent on each hire and the efficiency of each part of your hiring funnel.

3. Give candidates a take-home assignment: Strong performance on a take-home challenge is likely to translate into on-the-job success.

4. Hold hiring managers accountable: A lot of companies hire by consensus, but when one person is on point, more care is likely to go into each hiring decision.

5. Track your best sources of hire: With limited resources, double-down on the channels that produce the best results.

Follow these tips and maybe your startup will appear on next year’s list.

You can also check out the 25 LinkedIn Top Startups in Canada, which debuted today. In the coming weeks, we’ll also be releasing our Top Startups for Germany, Australia, the United Kingdom, Brazil, India, and France. 

*Image from Halo Top Creamery

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