Startup vs. Corporate: Which Is Right For You?

Knowing which work culture you thrive in is an important discovery that can impact your career trajectory and work satisfaction. Work cultures can affect job security, the field of work, work-life balance, and more. Two of the most popular work cultures and workplaces are startups and corporate. To determine which is more suitable for you, we explore the finer details and differences between the two below.


What Is a Startup? 

A startup is a relatively new company with an innovative business model that may be self-funded (i.e. bootstrapped) or funded by external sources (i.e. investors). A startup’s business model is designed to be repeatable and scalable, creating an irreplaceable demand for its product or service. They are more focused on growth, collaborations, and establishing a network to quickly scale. Some examples of tech startup companies are:


1) Plaid: Founded in 2013, Plaid is a fintech company that believes in “democratizing financial services through technology.” It emphasizes creating consumer and developer-friendly tools and infrastructure that support access to various financial institutions. Its employee experience is based on encouraging and empowering employee voices with training and development activities that nurture their skills.


2) ThoughtSpot: Founded in 2012, ThoughtSpot uses AI-driven technology to sort through data and help businesses make informed decisions. With workplace transparency, diversity, and inclusion, they have a global outreach and create a welcoming space for employees to deliver high-quality output.


3) Coda: With its first software launched in 2019, Coda lets consumers create customizable and collaborative documents that facilitate hybrid work while enhancing productivity. Internally, Coda implements a hybrid work model that encourages flexible work hours, creativity in the workspace, and collaboration among employees.


What Is a Corporation?

 On the other hand, a corporation is an established company or companies that fall under one legal entity. While their business models are also based on repeatable and scalable models, they are more focused on successfully executing these models and productivity for profit. Corporations tend to have a significant employee headcount, formalized structures, and standard operating processes. Some examples of corporations are:


1) Dell EMC: Founded in 1979, Dell sells products such as data storage, information security, and virtualization. With a work culture defined by core company values that include building strong customer relations and working as a team to accomplish goals.


2) Cisco Systems: Founded in 1984, Cisco provides networking hardware and software, and telecommunications equipment, among other products. The work culture revolves around customer-centricity and innovation.


3) Microsoft: Founded in 1975, this is one of the largest technology corporations. Microsoft sells computer software products, electronics, services, and more. Its work culture leans slightly individualistic instead of collaborative and has recently taken active strides to become more diverse and inclusive.


Differences Between Startups and Corporate

Startup and corporate working cultures differ from each other in many ways. Some of which include:


1) Culture:

Startup culture is fast-paced and informal compared to corporate culture. Since startups are smaller and newer organizations, they have less rigid structures and greater freedom. Startups can quickly adapt to changes in the market while following a decentralized hierarchical structure. Furthermore, startups encourage employees to work on projects they are passionate about, consider employee innovation and creativity, and support independent initiatives that grow the organization.

Conversely, corporations have more established cultures, with concrete roles and business models that are governed by company guidelines and procedures. There is less room for innovation and collaboration. Responsibilities and culture are geared towards results, leaving little room for innovation and more space for increasing effectiveness and productivity.


2) Work-Life Balance:

Work-life balance can be tricky to establish for those who work in a startup company since roles and responsibilities are rapidly created. Additionally, the work is ever-changing and growth periods demand high attention which leads to erratic working hours. Within corporations, employee roles are clearly defined, providing an organized and more stable working environment.


3) Responsibilities:

Startups are growing and evolving entities that commonly require employees to wear different hats. Constant brainstorming, adapting different ideas, innovating, and providing inputs are all expected responsibilities of a startup team member. This increases employee responsibilities, but also provides them with the flexibility to participate in a myriad of tasks that provide learning opportunities.

Corporations are a more suitable choice for individuals who desire a more well-defined role. To ensure predictability and stability in responsibilities, corporations implement a model that focuses on responsibilities for each employee and limits inter-departmental overlapping. . Employees in a corporation tend to work within functional teams (i.e. marketing, procurement, etc) that distribute responsibilities. A corporate employee’s responsibilities won’t change from week-to-week.


 4) Job Stability, Risks, and Benefits:

Startups are generally more prone to limited benefits for employees, budget reductions, and failure. The startup workspace is a riskier environment that does not guarantee job stability. Until a startup establishes itself and has a steady stream of both funding and profit, employees may receive non-competitive salaries and benefits packages. However, since a startup can also scale very quickly, employees can also grow in role and larger salary much faster than they could with a traditional corporation. 

Due to their established, profit-driven, and hierarchical nature, corporate positions tend to provide competitive salaries and benefits, and provide better job security. While corporate cultures provide more job security for employees, they lack the quick, high-growth potential.



There are exceptions to how startups and corporate organizations operate, but generally speaking, this is what can be expected. One way to gather insight on the work culture and job expectations of a particular position is to reach out directly to the company, as well as ask relevant questions during the application and interview processes.

Determining the most suitable work culture for you depends on the skills and experience required for the job, along with personal preferences and expectations from the work. Job satisfaction comes from various sources, and making an informed decision regarding the work environment will lead to increased motivation and productivity. Therefore, be sure to do adequate research into which style is best for you, before making your next career transition. 

Are you looking to make a career move or hire new top-tier talent? If so, contact us today at to set up a consultation with one of our senior account managers.



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