The Top Startups of 2020: 50 U.S. Companies That Are Rocking the Marketplace and Attracting Talent

September 23, 2020

It’s not as though startups don’t have enough challenges already — the mad scramble for talent, investors, and customers while competing with the deeply entrenched giants of the business world. So, what’s a global pandemic on top of all that?

Well, it should be enough to level just about any up-and-comer. But, surprisingly, numerous startups are actually thriving in the wake of COVID-19, providing consumers and other businesses with products and services that seem, in many cases, almost prescient.

We’re excited to celebrate 50 of the most successful with the LinkedIn Top Startups 2020 — the resilient, young U.S. companies that are rocking the marketplace and the workforce. 

To put this list together, LinkedIn looked at hundreds of millions of actions taken by members, paying special attention to four areas: employee growth; job seeker interest in a company; engagement with the company and with its workforce; and how successfully these young businesses having been drawing talent away from the organizations on the LinkedIn Top Companies list. Only startups that are privately held, are 7 years old or younger, are headquartered in the U.S., and have at least 50 employees were considered.

Without further ado, below are the top 10 U.S. startups for 2020 (you can see the full list of 50 here). You can also check out the Top Startups in Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Singapore, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

  • LinkedIn Top U.S. Startups of 2020: 1)Better.com 2)DoorDash 3)Robinhood 4)Samsara 5)Databricks 6)Outreach 7)Brooklinen 8)Attentive 9)Loom 10)Verkada

Things for Better.com couldn’t be much, well, better. A digital mortgage lender and the top startup on our list, Better.com has seen demand for refi applications and new loans soar due to the Federal Reserve dropping its interest rate to zero percent and the hunger for more space following the shift to remote work. The four-year-old business has onboarded more than 1,500 employees since March — and plans to bring on another 7,000 workers in the next 12 months.

Better.com is not alone in finding that COVID-19 is shaping its business. DoorDash (No. 2 on the list), the San Francisco–based food delivery business, has seen explosive demand for its services with sit-down dining banned in much of the country. DoorDash has doubled its workforce — for the second time in two years — and has expanded its service into pharmacy and grocery deliveries.  

As millions of workers were cloistered at home this spring and summer, many saw it as a chance to brush up their talents, skills, and knowledge, turning to MasterClass (No. 32) and its roster of celebrity teachers — Neil deGrasse Tyson on scientific thinking, Misty Copeland on ballet, and Stephen Curry on ballhandling and shooting, among many others. Customers are spending twice as much time with the service as they did at the beginning of the year.

Other nuggets we mined from the top startups list:

  • Silicon Valley is still driving innovation. Much has been said about tech companies and workers abandoning San Francisco in the wake of the pandemic, but the city is still the strong, pulsing heart of American entrepreneurial innovation. Two dozen of this year’s top startups are headquartered in the Bay Area, with 16 sitting in SF. Another nine startups have HQs in NYC, while Boston, Chicago, Austin, and Atlanta are each home to two of the top startups.
  • Nimble startups have pivoted during the pandemic. Curative (No. 17), the youngest company on the list, opened for business in January to develop tests for sepsis. Seeing the need and demand for COVID-19 testing in March, the company swiftly changed course and developed an oral-swab test for the novel coronavirus. The test can be self-administered, reducing the risk for healthcare workers and the need for personal protective equipment (PPE). Verdaka (No. 10) sells enterprise security systems. In response to COVID-19, Verdaka developed new features that can pinpoint when and where crowds are gathering. Their tools can also determine which parts of a building are experiencing heavy traffic and need more frequent cleaning. Brex (No. 14), a provider of B2B financial products, has added FDIC insurance to its product suite in light of the economic uncertainties triggered by the pandemic.
  • Community-minded startups have grabbed the chance to pitch in. Some of the top startups have also seen and seized opportunities to help their communities persevere against COVID-19. FIG (No. 25), a digital ad agency, partnered with CNN on a Facts First campaign to combat misinformation that spread along with the virus. Guild Education (No. 31), an educational benefits company that connects employees to learning opportunities, launched Next Chapter, an online tool that helps laid-off workers access training and identify job possibilities. Alto Pharmacy (No. 49), a digital drugstore, has used its courier fleet to collect donations of personal protective equipment (masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, etc.) and then deliver them to local hospitals.
  • They’re betting on bedding. Vicki Fulop and her husband, Rich, checked into a Las Vegas hotel in 2012 and Vicki fell in love with the linens. When they went to buy the same set of sheets, they were stunned by the $800 price tag. So, they started the direct-to-consumer Brooklinen (No. 7 and, yes, it’s based in Brooklyn), which offers luxury bedding and home accessories for prices that won’t disturb your slumber. The company had nearly $100 million in revenue last year. Sweet dreams.

The five steps startups can take to recruit the talent they need

Startups need a vision, a plan, and funding. But beyond that, they need talent. Because of the economic downturn and ensuing layoffs, there is more talent available right now than there has been in years. To land the kind of performers who will help make entrepreneurial dreams come true, startups can turn to these proven practices:

  1. Standardize your interviews. Assign roles and responsibilities to each of your interviewers and make sure you are asking candidates a consistent set of questions.
  2. Track efficiency. Monitor how much time gets spent for each hire and how each part of the hiring funnel performs.
  3. Give candidates a work assignment. Strong performance on a job audition that mirrors the work a candidate would be doing is the best predictor of future success.
  4. Hold hiring managers accountable. A hire-by-committee approach is both more time consuming and less accountable. When a single person is on point, more care will be given each decision.
  5. Keep tabs on your best sources of hire. With limited resources, put a focus on the channels that bring you early success.

Put these hiring tips to work for you and your startup could have a starring role in next year’s list.

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