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MAANG alumni in growing tech startups
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10.6% Surge in Demand for AI Professionals over Mainstream Software jobs in H1 2023
Startups in the technology industry have experienced a significant increase in recent years, driven by innovation, disruptive ideas, and the desire to revolutionize various sectors. According to Dealroom, approximately $540 billion was invested in tech companies globally in 2022, and this number is expected to exceed in 2023.
One factor contributing to the success of these startups is the growing presence of MAANG alumni cohort. MAANG, which stands for Meta (formerly Facebook), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google, represents some of the most influential and successful companies in the technology world. For instance, innovators like Bipul Sinha, a former Google employee, have brought successes like Rubrik, a cloud data management company. Additionally, Cameron Adams, previously of Google, co-founded Canva, an influential online design platform. Jessica Livingston, formerly at Amazon, co-founded Y-Combinator, a pioneering startup incubator that has helped launch over 2,000 companies, including Airbnb, Dropbox, and Stripe. Even Apple has seen its alumni thrive in the startup world, such as Tony Fadell, known as the "father of the iPod," who co-founded the successful home automation company, Nest Labs.
Tech startups with a strong presence of MAANG alumni are also at the forefront of generative-AI (GenAI) innovation in the industry. According to a recent article from Business Insider, venture capitalists have already invested $2.3 billion into generative-AI startups this year.  Former Googlers alone have raised hundreds of millions of dollars in the first three months of 2023. This trend showcases the influential role of MAANG alumni in driving advancements and investments in GenAI startups. The knowledge, experience, and connections that MAANG alumni bring to the table often serve as catalysts for startups, propelling them to achieve greater success in the competitive technology industry.
The Influence of MAANG Alumni
The growth of MAANG alumni in startups is impressive and contributes to the success of emerging companies. These alumni bring valuable experience, knowledge, and insights gained from industry giants. With a deep understanding of the industry and a culture of innovation, they give startups a competitive edge in building and scaling products.
The Networking Benefits
MAANG alumni frequently have extensive networks and connections within the technology industry. This allows startups to utilize valuable resources, form partnerships, and attract potential investors. Their expertise and reputation also serve as a magnet, attracting talented individuals to these startups, which further enhances their ability to expand and succeed
In this article, we will explore the top 5 mid-sized tech startups with a headcount of 100-400 that have the fastest-growing cohort of MAANG alumni with a comparative analysis based on key data points such as:
1. % Growth of MAANG alumni in the last 2 years: The percentage growth of former MAANG employees specifically refers to the increase in the number of employees who have previously worked at Meta (Facebook), Amazon, Apple, Netflix, or Google in the last 2 years. This metric is important because it highlights the influence and contribution of experienced professionals from these renowned tech companies.
2. % of workforce growth in last 2 years (Overall, Engineering, and Sales): The percentage headcount growth in the past 2 years is an important measure for tech startups as it shows the company's workforce expansion. A higher growth rate indicates that the startup is scaling and hiring more employees, which reflects increased demand for their products or services. The percentage of engineering and sales headcount growth is significant as it provides insights into the areas of the company experiencing the most growth. A higher percentage of engineering headcount growth suggests investment in product development and innovation, while a higher percentage of sales headcount growth indicates a focus on expanding the customer base and generating revenue.

Company profiles
Across the tech industry, many startups worldwide have experienced significant growth and success in the past two years. However, the following five mid-sized startups are particularly notable for their high growth of MAANG alumni in their workforce, indicating strong growth trajectories:
  • CRESTA:
    • Description: Cresta leverages artificial intelligence to help sales and service agents improve the quality of their customer service.
    • Founding year: 2017
    • Headquarters: San Francisco, United States
    • Funding: Total $151M raised from 17 different investors, latest was a series C funding from Tiger Global Management. Some of the other leading Investors include a16z, Sequoia Capital and Greylock.
    • Workforce Signals: They recently appointed former Google exec Ping Wu as CEO to propel Generative AI offerings.
  • Retool:
    • Description: Retool is a provider of a tool development platform intended to help build custom business tools without having any programming language knowledge.
    • Founding year: 2017
    • Headquarters: San Francisco, United States.
    • Funding: Total $141M raised from 16 different investors, latest was a series C funding from Sequoia Capital.
    • Workforce Signals: Around 80% of the retool workforce is composed of Engineering, Sales and Product functions.
  • Pinecone:
    • Description: Pinecone develops a vector database that makes it easy to connect company data with generative AI models.
    • Founding year: 2019
    • Headquarters: New York, United States.
    • Funding: Total $138M raised from 5 different investors, latest was a series B funding from a16z. Some of the other leading Investors include Menlo Ventures and Wing Venture Capital.
    • Workforce Signals: They recently appointed ex-Cisco exec Chuck Fontana as VP of Business Development.
  • Cohere:
    • Description: Cohere is a platform that gives developers and businesses access to NLP, powered by the innovative generation of large language models.
    • Founding year: 2019
    • Headquarters: Toronto, Canada.
    • Funding: Total $435M raised from 20 different investors, latest was a Corporate round from SAP. Some of the leading Investors include Inovia Capital, Tiger Global Management, and Index Ventures.
    • Workforce Signals: From Q2’2023 to Q3’2023 end, Cohere increased their total workforce by more than 60%.
  • Hugging face:
    • Description: Hugging Face is an open-source and platform provider of machine learning technologies.
    • Founding year: 2016
    • Headquarters: Brooklyn, United States.
    • Funding: Total $435M raised from 20 different investors, latest was a Corporate round from SAP. Some of the leading Investors include InoviaFunding: Total $395M raised from 35 different investors, latest was a Series D funding from Salesforce Ventures. Some of the leading Investors include Lux Capital, Addition, and Betaworks. Capital, Tiger Global Management, and Index Ventures.
    • Workforce Signals: Over 80% of the Engineering team are AI and ML Engineers.
Comparative analysis of workforce growth
After conducting a comprehensive analysis of workforce growth in five leading mid-sized tech startups, significant insights concerning the correlation between company size, engineering and sales, and the influence of MAANG alumni have emerged.
The most explosive growth was experienced by Cohere with a staggering 546% increase in headcount over the last two years. Contributing factors to this phenomenal growth include a corporate funding round from SAP, as well as a strategic emphasis on NLP technology. Interestingly, Cohere also experienced a 273% growth in engineering and a 500% growth in sales, highlighting a balanced yet aggressive growth strategy. A noteworthy point is the relatively lower increase of 138% among MAANG alumni, which may suggest that Cohere is diversifying its talent pool beyond this specific cohort.

Retool demonstrates a robust growth trajectory, registering a 178% increase in total workforce, driven by capital injections from successful funding rounds. A symmetrical increase in their engineering (200%) and sales (182%) teams carves out a clear trend; Retool understands the value of product enhancement and market presence. Furthermore, a 192% rise in MAANG alumni may hint at their successful hiring strategies to attract top talent.

Pinecone emerged as a powerhouse in engineering and sales growth, with an increase of 356% and 600% respectively, indicating their strong commitment to product development, innovation, and broadening their customer base. While they have experienced a moderate total workforce growth of 164%, the concentration of growth in the functional areas of engineering and sales could validate their strategic focus on these domains. Surprisingly, Pinecone demonstrated a lower increase in MAANG alumni at 145%, potentially indicating a broader talent acquisition strategy.

Hugging Face delivered a commendable 147% growth in total headcount and with 200% and 100% hike across engineering and sales teams. The balanced approach can be associated with the $395M funding that led to increased talent acquisition and product development. Despite their considerable headcount increase, the intake of MAANG alumni saw a comparatively modest increase of 124%.

Finally, Cresta also demonstrated substantial growth with a 64% increase in total headcount and a steady increase in engineering and sales teams, with 102% and 108% respectively. Their strategic focus seems to be on MAANG alumni, as indicated by the significant 274% increase over the last two years.

Overall, the data highlights the strong connection between the expansion of engineering and sales teams, revenue generation, and the overall size of the company. It also reveals the strategic benefit of hiring MAANG alumni, showcasing their impact on the growth of these organizations. These trends and trajectories provide valuable insights into the strategic decisions these startups are making and offer a distinct perspective for understanding the rapidly changing tech startup landscape. By utilizing these insights, these startups can adjust their strategies to align with the evolving dynamics and scale efficiently.
Discover and invest in high-growth startups across industries with Aura - a powerful workforce insights platform. Aura enables VC firms, angel investors, and private equity funds to easily identify startups with a growing presence of MAANG alumni, significant growth in engineering and sales teams, and valuable insights about their workforce. By accessing comprehensive data and analytics, investors can make informed investment decisions and align with their investment strategies. Market research firms, consulting companies, and industry analysts can also leverage Aura's insights to uncover emerging players and deliver valuable market trends to their clients. Stay ahead of the competition and unlock the potential of the startup landscape with Aura.
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Dishanth Umamaheshwara
Associate Product Manager, AURA

Note: All information mentioned in this report comes from publicly available data; if you believe the information on your company is incorrect, please reach out to us at:
aura@bain.com
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