According to the OEDC, young firms across the world are creating almost half of new jobs and – having watched the monumental success of early stage ventures like Resolve Biosciences and Vizgen – more and more of us are being drawn by the unique opportunities that working at a startup presents.

But with the well-known cliches of long working hours, tight budgets, and potentially risky prospects, what is it that attracts people to work for a startup over more well-established organisations? Having worked with some the most innovative life science startups, here are some of the numerous benefits that these young firms have to offer.



1. Skill up fast and accelerate your career

Being an early hire of a growing company often means joining a small team with big ambitions and plenty of work to get there. As such, individuals’ roles and responsibilities are likely to be more varied and will be constantly evolving, forcing you to grow and adapt with them. There may also be expectations to take on challenges and projects that may not have been under your original remit. It’s a unique opportunity to be exposed to areas of work and opportunities for learning that you may not be offered in a more established firm, where bigger teams mean that individuals’ responsibilities are usually more segmented and rigid. Unlike in a structured corporate environment, you are not tied to a single job description; you can grow your responsibility at pace, wear numerous hats and learn every step of the way.

In addition, the size of the team at this early stage means that employees are often working closely alongside the founders and leaders of the firm, with direct access to their experience and input. An Application Specialist I recently placed at a spatial biology startup put it this way: “Working in a startup means that the collaboration and communication between different teams is vital. In previous companies, I’d just speak with colleagues in the same job role, my manager and any staff working in my area. Here, I speak with people from different teams at all levels as peers.”

Many of the start-ups we partner with have headcounts of just 10, some as large as 50. So, if you’re keen to roll up your sleeves and dive headfirst into expanding your skills, a startup could be the perfect place.


2. Make a tangible impact

Another advantage of working at a startup is having direct visibility of the impact of your work, and the associated feelings of accomplishment and team camaraderie. In such a small team, every job really matters, and the organisational hierarchy is much flatter, meaning individual efforts rarely go unnoticed. Far from a small cog in a big corporate machine, your role and the roles of your colleagues in the company’s progress are both tangible to you and clear to others, which can be hugely motivating. In an article for ‘Working Knowledge’, Rebecca Liebman (CEO and co-founder, LearnLux) said, “At a startup, every job matters and you can see almost daily that you are creating something that wasn’t there before.” Such proximity to the results of your efforts is rare and provides a unique level of job satisfaction.

A candidate I placed in a startup recently shared with me that, “As there are fewer members of staff it feels like a tight knit community, which is great. It’s much easier to work when you know everybody’s face and name.”


3. Be part of a passionate team

In the life science space, hundreds of start-ups are innovating new products and therapies to improve the lives of patients across the globe. Whilst larger organisations such as 10x Genomics and NanoString are making a huge difference in this space, the smaller ventures offer a unique environment for working closely alongside innovators. Such a mission-oriented environment is crucial for taking an idea and crafting it into a sustainable business, and the need for a similarly mission-oriented, passionate and motivated team to do so often gives way to organisational cultures steeped in camaraderie, friendship and purpose through shared ambition. As such, they can be highly enjoyable, collaborative working environments for those who value dynamism, passion and a strong ethos in their work.

A candidate I supported recently said, “It feels like a real team effort as that drive to make a difference is present in everybody. Processes are constantly being developed, so all ideas from everyone are welcomed and encouraged, and there is no such thing as a silly idea.”


4. Be rewarded in different ways

Whilst larger firms attract employees with generous salaries and benefits packages, startups attract people who are bought into their long-term mission and who are excited to help them get there. Your salary may be lower than a larger corporation could offer you, however, this doesn’t mean that working for a startup comes without rewards.

Many early ventures offer employees equity, which can be hugely lucrative if the company does well. But even if they don’t, the value of the experience and learning opportunities a startup can provide you with can be invaluable to your career and potentially skyrocket your earning potential in the long-run. You are likely to be given greater responsibility and opportunities for progression far earlier than in other, less fast-paced environments which, again, puts you in good stead for future opportunities and financial reward.



Just as they pose unique challenges and risks, startups can be hugely rewarding and enjoyable places to work for those suited to an agile and mission-oriented environment. If you’re looking for a new role in genomics or hiring to an early venture, we’d love to help. Get in touch at