When most people consider joining a startup, their first question is, "Where do I fit in?" The first step in your journey toward finding your Dream Startup Job is to identify the role you're best suited for.
Whether you're a seasoned professional looking for your next adventure or a recent graduate looking to break into the startup ecosystem, understanding the most common functions within a startup must be at the core of your search.
In this post, we'll explore the key functions that all startups need to fuel growth and dive into the most common roles within each function.
Like most other businesses, startups are divided into functions, which are sections or groups within the startup that focus on certain types of work. There are typically several or many roles within each function, each with different responsibilities. Leaders of each function in a startup usually report to the founders or the C-suite, depending on the stage of the startup.
The most common functions within a startup are:
Let's take a closer look into each of these functions ...
The Product team at a startup bridges the gap between the technical, UX, and business aspects of a startup. They're ultimately responsible for driving innovation.
Product team members identify the customer need and the larger business objectives that a product or feature will fulfill. Ultimately, the Product team is responsible for deciding what a company should build, in what order, and how to build it.
The Product team is responsible for creating and owning product strategies, identifying goals, rallying the internal team, and leading discussions to move things forward. Product team members are expected to develop, own, and implement a product strategy and product roadmap for the startup.
The Design & User Experience (UX) team works with the Product team to build out and test the visual representations of a product, usually before they hand the product off to the Engineering team to build it out. Their focus is on creating a visually appealing and user-friendly product for customers.
The Design & User Experience (UX) team is responsible for conducting user research to understand the customer's needs and preferences. Then, they are tasked with wireframing, prototyping, organizing an information architecture, and designing the User Interface (UI). The team will conduct usability testing and build out visual branding before passing off to the Engineering team. As the Engineering team is building the product, the Design & User Experience team will collaborate with Engineering on A/B testing and provide design critiques.
The Engineering team builds and ships products based on the specs they receive from the Product team. Engineers are the people within a startup who are actually building the products that customers will ultimately use.
Since engineering roles require a high degree of technical skill, the Engineering function has the largest gap between supply and demand in the startup world. The success of a startup often hinges on building a talented engineering team, so startups are always on the lookout for highly skilled engineers.
The Engineering team is responsible for contributing to a product's design and architecture, writing code and scripts, implementing new features and functionalities, testing and quality assurance, security, and improving and optimizing the startup's product.
Specific responsibilities vary widely based on the individual engineering role.
As you'll see when browsing the open roles on Dream Startup Job, specific engineering roles vary based on the startup's industry and focus. However, several common engineering roles are found in many startups.
The Marketing & Growth team is focused on building awareness around the products the startup has created. Team members are tasked with defining the startup's brand and raising awareness in the marketplace.
The Marketing & Growth team is responsible for creating and filling the top of the marketing funnel by acquiring attention from new customers. Key activities performed by the function include market research, brand development, content creation, digital strategies, social media management, and email marketing.
The Sales & Business Development team builds on the awareness created by the Marketing & Growth team to get the startup's product into customers' hands. While the Marketing & Growth team is responsible for building brand awareness at the top of the funnel, the Sales & Business Development team operates further down on the marketing & sales funnel, focusing on converting marketing interest into revenue for the startup.
The Sales & Business Development team is responsible for developing and deploying a sales strategy typically spearheaded by the Sales Operations team. The Business Development roles are responsible for lead generation, prospecting, and outreach. The Account Executives (AE's) or Salespeople are responsible for delivering sales presentations and converting the leads generated by Business Development. After a sale, the customer is usually handed off to the Customer Success team for onboarding and account management.
After a sale, the customer is passed off to the Customer Success team, which is responsible for onboarding the customer and maintaining the relationship.
The Customer Success team is responsible for implementing and deploying the product for the customer and onboarding key users on the customer side. The team is in charge of ensuring that the product is adopted by educating and supporting customers. They collect customer feedback and advocate for the customer internally with the product and engineering teams. The Customer Success team is also responsible for managing renewals, upselling, and cross-selling.
The Data Science/Analysis team at a startup analyzes vast quantities of data to understand customer behavior and improve the startup's product offerings. They build out the infrastructure to improve the startup's understanding of customer demand, pricing, and overall market trends.
The Data Science/Analysis team is responsible for collecting, processing, and analyzing data to extract valuable insights that can help drive a startup's overall performance. They own a startup's data collection and integration and manage the databases that the startup will use to make informed decisions. They'll build models and algorithms that will allow the startup to conduct hypothesis testing and predictive modeling. They will also track important trends and build data visualization tools to share insights with other functions like Marketing, Product, and Sales.
The Operations team "wears the most hats" at a startup. They help the startup set goals and make key strategic decisions based on performance metrics delivered by the Data Science/Analysis team. At an early stage startup, the Operations function will generally run projects that will eventually belong to other functions as the startup is growing and scaling out those functions.
The Operations team is responsible for ensuring that the startup functions smoothly on a day-to-day basis. Their focus is always tied to the overall business objectives. The Operations team is in charge of managing the startup's office and facilities and communicating with vendors. If the startup is producing physical products, the Operations team will often take the lead on supply chain and inventory management, along with logistics and distribution. They lead process optimization and quality control and will provide a high-level compliance structure for the startup.
The Accounting & Finance team keeps track of how much money the company has and needs. They manage the startup's runway, which can make or break a startup, especially during the early stages. They monitor how much is being earned by each product, function, or department, and own the financial reporting processes.
The Accounting & Finance team at a startup is ultimately responsible for tracking and managing the financial health of the company. Their responsibilities include financial reporting, budgeting, forecasting, and cash flow management. The leaders of the Finance & Accounting team will spearhead the startup's fundraises and coordinate with auditors to ensure the company's financials are accurate and compliant. The team will also build out the financial system and risk management for the startup.
The People team at a startup leads everything related to human resources, employee experience, and recruiting. They set the pay bands for the open roles across the startup and find the most talented people to bring onto the team. They are ultimately tasked with hiring the best people and setting the startup's culture.
The People team is responsible for acquiring top talent. Once people are hired, they will lead the onboarding and orientation process, and ensure that new hires are set up for success in their role. They lead the startup's employee engagement strategy and develop the framework for performance management. They are in charge of administering employee benefits, training employees, and setting the startups' diversity equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
The Legal & Compliance team ensures that a startup is operating legally, in compliance with all regulations. They keep the company out of trouble, oversee all contracts, and help the Finance & Accounting team with compliance during financing rounds.
The Legal & Compliance team is responsible for drafting and reviewing contracts, managing the startup's intellectual property (IP), and developing and monitoring the firm's compliance systems. They will establish a corporate governance structure and work with regulators to ensure compliance across all products. The team also leads risk management, due diligence, and will step in if litigation arises.
We hope this post helps you better understand the most important functions within a startup and the most common roles within each function. In future posts, we'll take a closer look at each of the functions covered here by taking a deep dive into the skills required and the most common tools used within each function.
As you explore roles on Dream Startup Job, target your search for the role or roles you're most qualified for. Remember, we make it super easy to search by function. Just use the "refine by function" feature on the "Jobs" page to filter by the roles you're most suited for.