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January 13, 2023 - 7 minutes

Where to Work: Startup vs. Company 

Work for a startup or an established company? This age-old question is answered in our latest blog post. 

Juliette Carreiro - Tech Writer

You’ve almost completed your studies and are looking at employment options. There’s a lot and you might be thinking that it’s impossible to know what you want. Or maybe you’ve been in the corporate world for a while and are looking for a change. This blog article will help you determine the right place for you. 

First, let’s define both. 

Startup: definition and examples

Startup” is a word that’s frequently thrown around, but what does it mean? Strictly speaking, it’s a company that’s in its first stages of development, founded by one or more entrepreneurs. They are started to meet a specific market need with the aim of rapidly expanding as the product succeeds in the market. 

It’s important to remember that 95% of startups fail and 42% of those fail because there is no actual market need for the product or service. Focused on rapid upward growth, startups are fast-moving, constantly changing, and volatile.

Here’s a few kinds of startups: 

  • Scalable startups: these are typically tech startups that employ the best candidates to secure international and investor funding, turning them into successes. Examples would be Google, Uber, or Facebook. 

  • Small business startups: these smaller organizations are founded by regular people, such as hairdressers or bakers, looking to meet local needs.

  • Lifestyle startups: health influencers, fitness instructors, or other lifestyle enthusiasts can offer their services through a small startup. 

  • Buyable startups: these startups create a product or service with the goal of being sold to a larger company once they’ve gained traction. 

  • Big business startups: larger companies might start startups to continue meeting client demands as the market evolves.

Companies: definition and characteristics

Companies are more established organizations, with hundreds or even thousands of employees and years of experience in their field. This means that companies tend to move slower, have established hierarchies and business plans, and brand recognition. 

Here are some key characteristics of established companies

  • Clear boundaries: as an organization that’s been functioning for a long time, established companies have better work/life balance and there’s a staff that’s big enough to meet needs. This means that you won’t be expected to work multiple jobs or strange hours. 

  • Defined goals and metrics: instead of trying to find their place in the market, these companies already have experience and decided goals under their belt. This helps them focus on precisely what is needed, instead of trying to anticipate market needs.

Does that clear it up a bit? We hope so. The biggest difference to keep in mind when considering a startup is that everything is up in the air and it’s all hands on deck. If something needs to be done, it needs to be done. And this could give you valuable experience in a wide range of areas, a positive, or cause you lots of stress, a negative.

Although we can’t make the decision for you, we can help you weigh your options, considering each factor. And even though we can list out a few advantages and disadvantages, a lot of these factors depend on you personally. Check out the pros, cons, and key things to consider of both startups and established companies below. 

Pros of working for a startup

Access to equity 

We know that startups have the reputation of being low on funds, but there’s another side to that: many companies offer equity shares in the company to their first employees, something that could become extremely beneficial later on. 


Given that startups can be made up of teams from across the world, flexibility is something most offer. If that’s important to you, a startup may be your best bet. Business needs are always changing in a startup and your responsibilities and hours could as well. 

Leadership opportunities

Startups start out small and that means there’s more work to take on and chances for leadership. They typically have lots of people covering multiple roles, especially at the very beginning; if you are looking to shine, a startup is full of opportunities. 

Fast growth 

Startups are known for their hectic schedules due to their need to secure funding and prove their product or service is needed within a limited period of time. This means that if your startup is successful and you’re one of the founding employees, your growth trajectory will be a lot faster and more straightforward than in a corporate scheme.

Cons of working for a startup

Changing salary 

It’s not all butterflies and rainbows at startups: 95% of startups fail. This means that your salary, benefits, and altogether job stability will vary considerably depending on the company’s success. Joining a startup is a risk and you need to make sure you can handle being without a job within a short period of time. 

No mentors 

Startups are usually small and built from the ground up, meaning there’s little or no upper management to learn from and use as mentors. If you’re just starting out and are looking for clear direction and guidance as you begin your career, you may feel a bit lost without a mentor or growth structure.

Other things to consider about working for a startup

As we mentioned, there are some factors that we can’t group into “pro” or “con.” The following are aspects that need to be considered on a personal level to see what side they fall into: 

Smaller teams
Startups don’t have to have just 10 employees; some have 50 or more. But when compared to working in a large company with maybe thousands of employees, they can feel much smaller and at a startup, you’d almost certainly be working on a smaller team or even individually. If you like the structure of a large team, a startup may not be for you. 

Wide range of tasks

In a startup, it’s all hands on deck. And even if you’re hired for a certain role, you could be asked to take on different tasks that fall outside what you expected. For some, this could be a fantastic opportunity to get experience in a wide range of tasks but for others could be frustrating and overwhelming. 

Pros of working for an established company


One thing that corporations can offer you is stability and this can be very valuable for those looking to make a more permanent career switch. When you join a startup, you’re aware that the job may not last; on the other hand, established companies usually know what role needs to be filled and why. This means that you’ll have more job security. 


Some people need strict hours and growth plans in order to be successful and that’s totally normal. Established companies usually have clear and outlined policies such as working hours, vacation policies, onboarding, promotion plans, and more. If you work better with structure, a startup may be too uncertain for you. 

Brand recognition 

At the end of the day, what’s on your resume matters. And if you have a well-known company on your resume, it will catch the attention of future recruiters and employers. This doesn’t mean that startups won’t look impressive, but brand recognition is big, especially in the tech industry. 

Cons of working for an established company


Larger and established companies also have more structure when it comes to leadership and promotions; it might be hard to feel like you will play a significant role. This also means there’s a predetermined process for changes, new developments, and anything else that falls outside of what the company’s been doing for years.

Slower growth 

You’ve probably guessed this, but growth in corporations isn’t quick. Even if you’re the best employee, there’s usually a set plan for promotions and pay raises that is based on your time in the company and performance reviews. If you’re looking to shoot up the corporate ladder quickly and gain leadership experience, an established company probably isn’t for you.  

Other things to consider about working for an established company

Specialized role 

Again, this depends on the person. Larger companies will hire employees for specific roles and your duties and responsibilities will be pre-defined. For those that are sure of what they want to do, this is great and gives you tons of experience in a particular area. However, for those that are unsure or want to try new things, they might feel a little bored. 

The company culture is already set

In a startup, you’re able to help mold the culture to what you think is right. In established companies, the culture is already decided and enforced by a large number of people. Before joining a company, get a feel for the culture and decide if it’s going to be a good fit for you. 

We hope this article helped you clear up some of your doubts about working for a startup or established company; at Ironhack, we’re here to help you meet your goals and make the right choice for you. Are you looking for a change? Check out our bootcamps today and kickstart your tech career.

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