Inside the Silicon Valley bubble, it's easy to get conceited. Technology happens here, and anyone who wants to do anything important in technology needs to come here. Except as any good technologist knows, innovation isn't about where you are. It's about breaking free from the status quo.
In a recent blog post, Rachleff says aspiring tech workers should be wary of the hype surrounding startups. Instead, he says the best career move you can make is to hook up with a mid-size company that's growing quickly. Their success, he says, becomes your success.It's in that spirit that we bring you this final installment of our trilogy on companies you wish you worked for. All of the companies on this list (except one) were selected by veteran Silicon Valley venture capitalist and Stanford Graduate School of Business instructor Andy Rachleff, who in both of those roles and as CEO of Wealthfront helps young tech stars manage their money and careers.
In our first two installments, we highlighted companies in San Francisco and Silicon Valley that Rachleff says best exhibit the kind of momentum that job seekers could ride to career success.
As the private companies on this list show, Rachleff doesn't believe Northern California has exclusive rights to that momentum. The first nine on this list are his picks; the last is ours to make an even 10.
"The odds are that your startup is going to fail. Why take that chance early in your career?" Rachleff asks. "If you’re willing to take three years to work for a company with momentum, then your experience at the midsize company will allow you to do something more amazing in the future."
Above: 37signals — Chicago, Illinois
"Emulate drug dealers." "Meetings are toxic." "Planning is guessing." These are among the mantras for running a successful business proposed by 37signals' co-founders Jason Fried (pictured above) and David Heinemeier Hansson in their bestseller Rework, which should give you some idea of how working for them might be a little different than your typical 9-to-5 (though the two also don't believe that success is a function of working longer hours).
37signals' business centers on three collaboration web apps — Basecamp, Highrise, and Campfire. But the Chicago-based company, whose sole investor is Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has in its 13 years helped to cement a certain minimalist, practical yet pleasing approach to web design that has heavily influenced the medium as a whole. 37signals also happened to invent a little something called Ruby on Rails, one of the world's most popular web development platforms.
Photo: CreativeMornings Chicago/Flickr
Acronis — Woburn, Massachusetts
Acronis, headquartered in unglamorous Woburn, Massachusetts, doesn't do the most sexy work, but sex appeal isn't really what you're looking for when it comes to data protection. Acronis makes backup and recovery software for home users, businesses, and the public sector. The company has grown since its founding in 2001 to 175,000 customers in more than 90 countries, according to Acronis' figures. Though not a company with a trendy public face, Acronis looks like the kind of place where serious geeks get the chance to do serious work.
Criteo — New York, Paris, Tokyo, Milan, et al.
Criteo is a major player in the lucrative online business of ad retargeting. Using Criteo's platform, e-commerce sites can store a cookie in a user's browser that records what they searched for. When the now "cookied" user goes elsewhere on the web, they can be targeted with display ads based on what they have been looking for. Founded in Paris in 2005, Criteo has offices in commercial hubs around the world, from Tokyo to New York to Milan.
The company is led by CEO Jean-Baptiste Rudelle (pictured above).
Etsy — New York, New York
Since its founding in New York seven years ago, the name Etsy has become synonymous with a certain artisanal aesthetic that has enjoyed surprising staying power in hipster neighborhoods across the country. But looks alone don't explain Etsy's success. The company's growth and lasting popularity have more to do with the long-tail effect made possible by the internet. Independent artisans with a very particular style can reach a worldwide niche audience with equally specific tastes. Etsy markets itself not simply as a storefront for handcrafts but as a platform that enables individuals to become entrepreneurs. All that said, you can see in the picture of its offices above that working at Etsy promises to be, well, very Etsy.
Gilt Groupe — New York, New York
Gilt Groupe has quickly made a name for itself since launching in 2007 by figuring out how to do luxury online. The key? Creating a sense of exclusivity through members-only sales while making luxury fashion and other products more accessible to everyone by selling them at a discount. Gilt hasn't hurt itself either by pioneering deluxe packaging as part of the online shopping experience. Valued at $1 billion, the New York company last week started a search for a new CEO last week as it pursues a possible IPO.
Photo: Gilt Groupe
Next 1 Interactive — Weston, Florida
Based in the Miami suburb of Weston, Florida, Next 1 Interactive makes content for people who like to fantasize about where they want to travel next and where they want to live. Its vacation and real-estate-focused offerings cross platforms from mobile to web to video-on-demand to cable, reaching more than 9 million homes via Time Warner, Cox, Comcast & Cable One, according to the company.
Image: Next 1 Interactive
An old-timer in web years, OANDA was founded in 1995 to provide an internet-based platform to exchange foreign currencies. The company has grown along with the web and its capacity to make commerce seamlessly global — according to the company, up to 20 percent of the world's online foreign currency spot trades happen across its servers. With a development office in Toronto, OANDA says of itself: "It's not a Web upstart, not a bank. It's a technology company."
Restaurant.com — Arlington Heights, Illinois
With a name like Restaurant.com, it's not entirely surprising that this company in the Chicago suburb of Arlington Heights, Illinois, was founded during the dotcom peak, 1999. What is surprising is that, unlike most of its peers from the same era, it's still around. Restaurant.com specializes in selling gift cards for discounted meals at local restaurants across the U.S. The company pitches itself as a boon for customers, who can use the site or mobile app to find exactly the kind of meal they're looking for, and also restaurants, that can set the terms of their discounts and get their tables filled.
Spotify — New York, New York
Spotify isn't the only online music service for streaming millions of tracks to your computer or phone. But the saga of its delayed entry into the U.S. probably made it the best known, also thanks in no small part to the company's charismatic co-founder Daniel Ek, pictured on the right with fellow founder Martin Lorentzon. Backed by billionaire Facebook instigator Sean Parker, among others, Spotify landed in New York last year and has grown to 150 employees.
Ek said recently that New York has served the company well by keeping the pressure and pace of Silicon Valley at a distance. He told PandoDaily: "I had this discussion not too long ago with Mark Zuckerberg, and I’m not even sure he agrees anymore that we need to be in the Valley.… The truly great companies that I admire and have a consistency and philosophy that's ingrained by looking more long term at things."
Tumblr — New York, New York
Tumblr wasn't on Andy Rachleff's list, but the hugely popular blogging platform did make Time Out New York's list of best places to work in New York City. The shout-out from New York's nightlife guide is fitting: Tumblr's much-photographed young founder David Karp has become an icon of fashionable geekdom in a city eager to prove its tech scene doesn't need Northern California. The company's 106 employees have to manage nearly 64 million new posts a day. Needless to say, they're hiring.
Photo: Pixel y Dixel/Flickr