Investopedia / Sydney Saporito

What Is an Upstart?

An upstart is a person who has risen in social rank and/or economic status, but who has yet to be widely accepted by other individuals in the newly found social and economic class.

"Upstart" is also the name of an online money lending platform founded in 2012 that provides personal loans using non-traditional credit variables, including education and employment status instead of standard credit ratings. An upstart should also not be confused with a startup, which is a newly formed business venture.

Key Takeaways

  • An upstart refers to a person who has had a sudden rise to a new class or status but lacks the social skills and grace that would be appropriate to the new position.
  • Because there is an initial disconnect between the upstart and the social group that is joined, they may be rejected for apparent arrogance or misreading of certain norms of etiquette.
  • If the upstart involves a newly promoted employee who cannot fit in with others at the upper levels of a firm, it may ultimately lead to their dismissal.

Understanding Upstarts

An upstart is a person who has jumped up in social rank or economic class suddenly. For example, an individual could go from the proverbial rags to riches following an inheritance or following a lucky investment in the stock market. The upstart, who has quickly risen in economic status, has yet to learn the social skills necessary to be accepted by other people in their new class. Instead of being humbled by this and asking for instruction or attempting to learn, the upstart becomes arrogant and presumptuous, which turns off associates in the new social class. If the upstart is consistently rejected, they may become increasingly stubborn and opinionated as they are spurned.

As in the case of a person who has suddenly become wealthy, the upstart may respond by acting superior to others. Especially if the new position requires the upstart to manage or lead people, this change can be disastrous if the upstart does not have the skills needed to do well in the role, while still having an inflated attitude about being a leader.

Upstarts as Employees

While an upstart can make for a bad manager, they can make for an even worse employee. As an upstart gains money and position, they are less inclined to self-correct and work as a team player, and more inclined to view their own work more positively than they view others. This can cause a great deal of disharmony and bad feelings in the workplace, as the upstart’s manager and co-workers begin to resent the upstart.

If the upstart is unable to correct and restore healthy working relationships, then they will likely fail in the job, even if they have the technical skills to succeed.

Article Sources
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  1. Upstart. "About Upstart." Accessed Oct. 11, 2021.

  2. Upstart. "Investor FAQs," Select "Where Is the Company Incorporated?" Accessed Oct. 11, 2021.

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