Between the Coasts Startup Guide


Eric Ong

In a recent panel in Chicago, well-known tech founder and investor Peter Thiel riled up the Chicago tech community and said that the best tech talent mostly move to the coasts. I don’t necessarily agree but its largely a statement that most in the tech world hold as true. Others like Steve Case, founder of AOL and Revolution, strongly disagreed with Thiel. In Recode, Case explained,

"These companies didn’t end up outside of Silicon Valley or New York by accident. They made deliberate decisions to start and grow their businesses in places that provided unique cultures, local expertise and supportive policies. And contrary to Thiel’s remarks, it’s a trend that I fully expect to continue."

I believe that entrepreneurs now have many viable options outside of Silicon Valley and NY and will deliberately choose to build tech startups in Austin, Boulder, Chicago, Minneapolis, etc. Over the past year, I’ve been looking for those startups that might have been overlooked by the Valley and New York, but just as good if not better than their coastal peers. Through this process, I have realized there was not a good place for people to look for some of these startups. Resources such as AngelList, Inc 5000 Fastest Growing Companies list have done a better job helping but still requires major sifting through. The most helpful resource I’ve seen so far has been Sam Altman’s Breakout List – the list is great but mostly has companies that come from the coasts.

Between the Coasts Startup Guide is an easy and discernible list of fast growing startups in cities that aren’t traditionally known as tech hubs. This list is for folks that aren’t in SF or NY that may want to join high growth startups but don’t know where to look. The list is focused on mostly startups with employees between 50-250 that have not been acquired. As a result, some high growth companies such as Uptake (disclosure: Lightbank is an investor) and Avant will not be on the list because it has 500+ employees. I kept the list under those requirements because the list would be too exhaustive if it included seed stage and late stage companies, but also it is a fundamentally a different experience between joining a company that is 400 employees versus 100 employee company. Many believe that there is no better place to learn how startups work from a company that is growing between 100-250 people because it is constantly going through so many changes. I categorize startups between 50-150 and 150-250 differently because the processes and strategies within a startup at 100 employees are fundamentally different than at 200 employees.

Note: This is not an end all be all list – just a compiled list of companies that I have come across over the last couple of years that I think folks should look at if they want to work for a fast growing tech company outside the traditional tech hubs. Let me know what you think! Also have a more comprehensive table with some more cities that might be a little be easier to parse through.

List version / Table version