Andy Rachleff also is a former venture capitalist and president and CEO of Wealthfront, a successful investment management company in the Valley. He also teaches technology entrepreneurship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and when his students ask for advice on which startup to work for after graduation, he tells them the following:

Don't work for a startup.

One easily pictures the blank stare with which this response is received. But his reasoning is sound.

Rachleff says that early on in your career, you should be very strategic about which company you choose to work. A startup that's too early-stage is likely to fail or run out of funding, at which point your job disappears (a situation I've faced personally). Too established, and your equity stake won't be as substantial, plus it will likely feel more corporate than you're looking for.

The sweet spot, then, is a company on its way to becoming a rocket ship, but that isn't quite there yet. The success this business will experience, Rachleff says, is the stuff upon which a career is built.

He cites students who, in 2006 and 2007, considered rejecting offers at Facebook, since it was already at $50M in revenue. They thought it might be dull to be with a company that was already so established. But those students who did take such positions got to "write their own tickets" after Facebook, because people automatically assume that if you've worked for a hyper-successful company, you are too.

A few years ago, I was in just such a position. When I started working for Uber in 2013, it was hit or miss whether people even knew what Uber was. Fast forward a few years later, and Uber is a behemoth. Having it on my resume has been a boon; it has given me credibility I've leveraged over the course of my career. As Rachleff says, "Everyone wants to recruit or back people from successful companies because they know/think people carry the lessons of success with them."

So wouldn't it be nice if there were a list of just such companies? We're talking about mid-sized startups that are highly likely to succeed, probably recruiting like crazy, and at just the right part of rocket-ship-ness - the launchpad.

It turns out there is. Rachleff and his company, Wealthfront, makes it every year.

The list is built by surveying partners at 14 of the most established venture capital firms in the country, including Sequoia, Benchmark, and Kleiner Perkins. To qualify, a company must have a run rate of $20M to $300M, be slated to grow over 50% over the next 3-4 years, and have "compelling unit economics." (That last one was added this year to exclude companies selling products at extremely low margins to stimulate quick revenue, a strategy that calls into question long-term viability).

The list for 2017 includes names you'll know, including Warby Parker, Buzzfeed, GitHub, Rent the Runway, and Hootsuite. It's also got a plethora of ones you may not, like YapStone, Rubrik, and Looker.

As expected, the majority of the companies on the list are based in San Francisco (61%). New York comes in second, with 10% of the list, followed by Boston and Southern California (LA and San Diego).

It's true that your chances of a gigantic payout are smaller at a mid-sized company. But Rachleff argues that there's something more important than that kind of money: wisdom. "If you're part of a company that's the leader in a market for which you have a passion, you're more likely to develop a unique insight that could lead to a great company of your own," he says.

Here's the full list. I hope it helps you have an Uber successful new year.

Published on: Dec 31, 2016