Startup Job Titles for Generalists

Emily Burke (Strategy Analyst, Insight Timer), Tim Atkins (COO, CancerAid), Lee Lubner, Tim Rossanis (GM, Head of Growth - Retail & New Verticals A/NZ, Uber)

Want to get your ‘foot in the door’ at a startup, but you’re (a) looking for a career change, or (b) worried your skill set doesn’t match up with a role? 

Here are some job titles worth looking at (in brackets are other titles along similar lines): 

  • Operations (Biz Ops, Ops)
  • Chief of Staff 
  • Strategy
  • Business Development (Enterprise Sales)
  • Customer Success (Account Manager, Customer Relationship Manager)
  • Product (Product Manager, Product Owner)
  • Financial performance management

Operations (similar titles: Biz Ops, Ops)

Your job is to make sure the wheels run on time - often it’s a ‘fixer’ type role. 

The earlier stage you are, the wider the breadth of the role, for example:

  • Early stage company example scope: HR processes (i.e. onboarding, employment contracts), liaising with the legal team, setting up OKRs, payroll, cashflow projections, invoicing, administering the company employee share plan, scoping out the Use of Funds for a capital raise, building revenue/COGS models.
  • Late stage company example scope: documenting and improving the efficiency of a particular department, setting up new teams, creating reporting lines, setting up new processes, ensuring organisational efficiency and transparency across departments.

Chief of Staff

Will often be the Chief of Staff to a particular person or C-level group. The CoS’s role is to act as an extension of that person/group, solving problems and taking on responsibilities that will help free up the executive person/group to work on other stuff.  Their job is often to make the executive’s life easier.

Jobs might include: ‘fighting fires’ on a day to day basis, analysing metrics, tracking action items from meetings, setting up meetings, working behind the scenes to ensure things prioritised by the CEO are getting done, feeding info back to the executive, acting as a sounding board, setting up new organisational or reporting processes, ensuring projects are executed, helping decision making processes.


Emily Burke (Strategy Analyst, Insight Timer)

This can mean anything - you will need to understand what it would entail in the particular startup you’re investigating. Your responsibilities could include:

  • Managing investor relations/fundraising and M&A (e.g. to help the business expand into adjacent markets through an acquisition)
  • Designing the business strategy for new revenue streams (e.g. defining the customer problem to be solved, sizing the market, researching acquisition channels, helping the Product Team with their roadmap) 
  • Designing implementation plans with operations teams (e.g. the go-to-market strategy for launch of the startup in a new city or customer segment) 
  • Designing and managing high-risk long-term bets that the CEO or Product Teams don’t need to be managing (e.g. innovative technologies, patent applications)
  • Producing actionable insights for the rest of the business (e.g. by analysing market information, competitors, consumer behaviours)

In my opinion, most early stage startups don’t need strategy teams. The CEO should be setting business strategy, and everyone else should be executing. However, when a startup starts to mature, it can make sense to have a strategy team supporting expansion.

Business Development (similar tiles: Sales, Enterprise)

Tim Rossannis (GM, Head of Growth - Retail & New Verticals A/NZ, Uber)

Your entry point depends on (1) the stage of the company (see the start-up lifecycle chart) and (2) your experience in B2B sales. The earlier the stage and the more experience you have, the higher your entry point within the org chart.

  • Earlier stage companies: more of a focus on understanding the customer’s business problems and commercial drivers, building your product’s value proposition, finding product-market fit, and educating prospects. More failures than successes.
  • Later stage companies: still solving clients’ problems and understanding commercial drivers, but the company will have product-market fit, so the role is more about scaling the already working selling model. If the company is moving into new B2B products/business lines, you go back to the basics again.

You naturally end up being the glue between operations, strategy, marketing, product, and the market. You have to pull cross-functional teams together to solve a customer problem, which makes it a good way to get a broad general understanding of the business. 

Customer Success (similar titles: Customer / Relationship Managers, Account Manager)

In a B2B setting, you might manage customer relationships, implementations, customer feedback or requests, ensuring product standards are met. You will likely have a close working relationship with the customer.

Given start-ups are growth-focused, and ‘churn’ is always a risk, you may be encouraged to think of new strategies to (1) ensure customers are ‘sticky’ (2) look for new revenue streams with each customer, or (3) convert your loving customers into more loving customers. 

In a B2C setting, given a product may have 1000s of users, your role is more about creating and answering support tickets and ensuring the customer has a delightful experience. This may also be referred to as Customer Experience (CX) and requires pattern recognition & implementation of scalable solutions.

Product Manager (similar titles: Product Owner)

A product manager is responsible for the development of a product or products. They are often called the ‘CEO of the Product’ as they own the business strategy behind a product, its functional requirements, and the launch of features. PMs set the product vision, research and understand customer needs, scope out features and requirements, and come up with a product roadmap.

Given Product Management is becoming increasingly popular, consider up-skilling before applying for a role (for example, a PM course by General Assembly).

What have we missed? Please hit 'Contribute to the Guide' to give your perspective and help others into their first role.

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