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A startup is an entrepreneurial venture that meets a business need by developing or offering an innovative product or service. Startups exist in all industries but are especially prevalent in technology. Funding for a startup can be sourced in variety of ways, such as through ‘angel investors,’ venture capital firms, the founders themselves, or crowdfunding. 

There are three stages of a startup: early, expansion, and mature. The early stage is a newly developed company with little infrastructure, revenue, and staff. The office environment is small, and the opportunities will be very cross functional. At the expansion stage, a company has found their market fit and is starting to generate revenue. The team might be larger with more defined roles. The startup is at its most structured at the maturity stage with growing and defined roles, increased revenue, and established products and/or services. 

Skills to develop for success in this field

  • Analytical thinking 
  • Creativity and innovation 
  • Flexibility
  • Initiative
  • Project management
  • Resilience
  • Some technical skills may be required (Excel, programming languages, SEO, etc.)
  • Teamwork 

Online resources specific to the industry

  • Firsthand* is a comprehensive resource for information on what it is like to work within an industry, company or profession.  **Note: Registration using Northwestern email address is required for access.

    Log in to check out these resources for more specific information about about Startups:
    • Firsthand > Careers > Industries > All Industries > Business Administration > Entrepreneurship
    • Firsthand > Careers > Industries > All Industries > Finance > Venture Capital
Job posting and other career informational sites relevant to the field: 

Key information or knowledge for this field

  • Students interested in design should create a portfolio of prior work and projects.  
  • The hiring timeline varies as startups typically hire for immediate need versus recruiting in advance.  
  • Students should do extensive research on the company’s product and competitors, so that they can provide recommendations and discuss strategy in the interview process. 
  • Start-ups will likely not have a robust Human Resources department, if at all, so opportunities might not be as highly advertised. 
  • Hubs exist all over the U.S., but have exploded in Austin, Chicago, Denver, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. 
  • Because startups often grow rapidly and undergo frequent internal changes, many startups seek candidates that are willing to wear multiple hats. 
  • Failure is a normal part of the entrepreneurial process. Internship or job experience at a startup that has failed or no longer exists is still experience worth highlighting in application materials and in an interview setting.  
  • There is greater risk in working at a startup. However, if a startup starts to gain success, the internal opportunities for increased leadership and responsibilities can grow quickly in comparison to an established organization.  
  • One of the biggest allures to start-ups is early stock options in the company 
  • Students can start and advance their career in tech without a graduate degree. There are many alternatives to an advanced degree including coding boot camps and certificate programs.  

Relevant student groups and professional organizations

Northwestern Departments/Offices:

Northwestern Student Organizations: