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  • Writer's pictureJoyce Alves Rodrigues

What is the difference between a startup and a Corporate Company?

Understand the differences between a corporate organization and a startup and how they can impact your career choices

Choosing the right culture can make a big difference when managing your career.

Ever wondered what is the difference between a startup and a Corporate Company? Are you a recent graduate looking for job opportunities and do not know which one to focus your searches on? Are you already working in one of the two, looking for a change, but afraid of the culture shock and what to expect?

Thinking that maybe the culture and workplace are probably not that different? They are! 

Let's start with the definitions: a startup is a company in the first stages of its development that wants to scale up quickly. Startups are often young, innovative, collaborative, focused on growth, while corporations are often established, slow-moving, hierarchical and focused on productivity.

But there could be exceptions to the rules, of course! Some Corporate Companies operate more like startups and can offer more flexibility and influence on decisions, while some larger startups can provide more stability and structure. Make sure to do some research about the company culture and ask questions during the interview process to understand how they operate.

Here are some common characteristics of each:

  • Corporation

Brand recognition: well established companies will, very likely, have a well known brand. It is great to tell people where you work and they know about the company. It also adds brand value to your CV!

Specific roles: corporate positions usually have clear roles and well defined tasks. You know what the expectations for the role are and when they need to be completed. If you think it can be stressful not having clear goals, tasks and a timeframe when tasks need to be completed, then this would be a perfect fit for you!

Established processes: Corporate organizations have usually well defined processes, which makes it a lot more difficult to get things done or influenced in a big company. They are put in place to create clarity and uniformity, but can also create quite a lot of bureaucracy.

Careful communication: there is less transparency in a large corporation when it comes to sharing information with the employees and the outside world. Often there is a specialized department supervising it. 

Risk averse: Corporate or larger organizations are afraid to take risks. In big companies, there are often experts who help with the decision making. Many people are involved in the decisions and the decision process is often quite long and as logical as possible.

More job safety and stability: you are not depending on financial rounds and negotiations and short time success.

  • Startup

Grow your skills and take more responsibility: you will gain skills that you never thought you could have across various departments and positions. Generally speaking, the smaller the startup , the more frequently you will be picking up new responsibilities because there are fewer people to do the job. At startups you are encouraged to manage your own time and tasks. With the flexibility of working in a startup in teams that are not hierarchical, you have the opportunity to advance quickly. Prepare to be part of the decision making process when it comes to product development, strategies and best practices!

Fast paced environment: the work can differ from day-to-day and your roles and tasks can change entirely from one week to the next. You are encouraged to manage your tasks and your time .The reason is because some processes are being done for the very first time. You will be given responsibility for getting tasks done and deciding on how they get done. This fast-paced, dynamic environment can be extremely exciting and provides many opportunities to learn!

Transparency in communication and proactivity: communication between the employees and the founders/management is open and transparent. Short and simple. Feedback is appreciated as a means to validate assumptions and understand the customers and improve processes. If you have a new idea, for example, it is not only appreciated, but also considered an asset. If you are the person that just doesn't wait to be told what to do, but instead uses your initiative to work on what needs to be done, then a startup could be suitable for you!


As important as finding the right position for you in a company it is to make sure you fit into the company culture. Just like people, businesses have a personality, which is called the company culture. You are more likely to succeed if you believe in your company's mission and share a similar approach to work as your colleagues.

To understand in which company you want to work for, you really need to ask yourself some questions:

  • Are you looking to get involved with all aspects of your job and build something?

  • Do you want to work for passion or job compensation and safety?

  • Do you prefer to take a visible role with lots of responsibility or a less visible role with defined tasks?

  • Do you like to be part of the decision making process and take risks or do you prefer that people decide for you what to do?

A corporate job might give you more stability, it's a great place to get structured and get on the job-training with a very structured onboarding process. A startup, which values communication and creativity, will give you more overall experience in how to build a company and embrace change and will give you the chance to grow your skills!

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