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Established vs. Startup Biotechs

So you've decided to go into industry... Here are some cultural differences between established and startup biotechs

When it comes to the differences between established and startup biotechnology culture, there are many. For those of you just finishing up your Ph.D. research and who are starting to think about jobs in this industry, listen up, as this may apply to you.

For the most part, startup and established biotech companies have more differences than commonalities—including pay structure, equity, volatility versus stability, and the range of job opportunities available. Let’s take a quick look.

Pay structure

Startups aren’t always known for the paychecks they provide. In lieu of income stability and an impressive benefits package, many startups appeal to employees by offering flexibility and unique workplace culture. Conversely, established companies are more likely to have the standard bimonthly paycheck system and offer their employees a generous salary with comprehensive benefits. 


In terms of equity, it’s pretty straightforward: if you get in early at a startup, chances are you’ll have more equity in the company. But the chances of gaining equity at an established company? Slim at best.

Volatility vs. stability

Because of the often unknown nature of startups, employees have the opportunity to wear many hats—which presents better learning opportunities, but also means more responsibility. Startups are generally more volatile, too, as many businesses across all industries experience a rough takeoff. On the other hand, established companies will typically provide more stability—although this isn’t always guaranteed. Mergers and buyouts can occur across the board but tend to be more common among less-established biotechs.

Range of job opportunities available

While, as noted above, startups usually offer their employees the opportunity to serve in many roles, this learning opportunity usually correlates with longer workdays. Established companies oftentimes provide more structured positions set in routine with regular working hours.

What’s your take? It seems that startups will appeal to more risk-taking scientists with an appetite for adventure and variety, while established companies will appeal to scientists seeking a stable, steady position.