Bain vs. BCG for innovation and exits into tech?

Prospect in Consulting

I'm deciding between offers from Bain and BCG. I've been able to do a ton of reading about the two firms to get a general comparison (a lot thanks to this forum!) and have gotten to chat with people at both firms at this stage. I like the people at Bain better and could really see myself being happy working there.
However, I'm having trouble figuring out which firm is a better bet for me if I want to eventually exit either into tech (think Google or start up) or the space industry (think Blue Origin, SpaceX, etc. - my background would be a good fit).

I am under the impression that BCG is a lot more focused on innovation and offers the opportunity to work with startups through their Digital Ventures initiative, while Bain seems a lot more traditional (focused on finance/insurance/etc). This is honestly the only thing that keeps me from being certain about Bain, as I'm worried I'll end up working only on very traditional projects and that the exit opps for tech/space industry may not be as good as with BCG. It seems BCG is known as being very innovative and so that might make for an easier exit based on my interests.

Am I wrong in my assumptions? Any help and insights would be very appreciated!

Comments (28)

  • Intern in Other
Jun 25, 2020

also very interested in this discussion. how do you have offers right now?

  • Prospect in Consulting
Jun 25, 2020

happy to DM!
edit: forgot that's not possible as I'm anonymous. If you reply to this with your username, I can send you a DM with my specific situation if that's of any interest.

Jun 25, 2020

sure

  • Analyst 1 in Other
Jun 25, 2020

Both would do great, depends on where you believe you would fit better. While its true that BCG does have more innovation-type opportunities, Bain has more pure-play tech work. It also depends where your offers are due to Bain's staffing model, you will get lots of tech work if you're in SF, less so for other offices.

    • 3
Jun 25, 2020

Agree with this. Bain's projects are quite office specific - there are cases where consultants from one office are staffed on an engagement with another office but these are quite rare. Bain SF (and silicon valley) offices are a powerhouse for tech projects but it is next to impossible to get staffed on these if you are not in those offices. Bain NYC also has very sweet tech (mostly B2B) and FinTech projects but it is also a highly competitive office.

BCG has region-based staffing model which also cuts both ways. The advantage is that you can get on cool projects that might be based out of another office. However, super in-demand projects (like those with Big Tech) are fully staffed way before they hit the project list. To get on those, you'd have to network like crazy. Bain's staffing is not as cutthroat.

If I had to choose, Bain SF > Bain NYC > BCG > Bain Other Offices.

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  • Prospect in Consulting
Jun 26, 2020

Sounds like I really should have applied to the SF offices :) I figured the odds of getting an offer would be higher in the city where I'm doing my PhD (especially in times of COVID with slower recruting). Both Bain and BCG offers are for the same city, neither for SF or NYC but a large U.S. office. From your ranking it sounds like you think BCG may be a better bet? It's so tough, I just liked the people at Bain so much!

Jun 25, 2020

Go where you like the people best - it's the key for having a decent vs. a pretty bad time.

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    • 2
Jun 25, 2020

Exit ops are almost identical between the two. Sounds like you may have a background in something like aerospace engineering. If so, nobody at SpaceX is going to look at your resume and say, "He/She looks smart and has a good background, but they work at Bain. If they were at BCG I'd hire them." In the eyes of industry M=B=B pretty much. Choose based on culture fit, that matters so much more for your time there.

    • 4
Jun 25, 2020
Prospect in Consulting:

I like the people at Bain better and could really see myself being happy working there.

Say no more. Go with Bain.

    • 1
Jun 25, 2020

Would say 100% go with Bain if you like the people more as exits will be almost identical. The only consideration I'd have is if your BCG offer is for SF / LA / Seattle but your Bain offer is somewhere else. Bain Chicago, while an amazing opportunity, will do a fractional amount of tech work when compared to a BCG SF.

    • 2
Jun 25, 2020

BCG biases a little more toward operations whereas Bain biases a little more toward strategy, but you'll do great work at either firm.

In your position, I would choose Bain and not look back.

    • 2
Jun 30, 2020

Would you say that about tech specifically? Heard that they are rather similar but happy to get an additional perspective

Jun 30, 2020

What office will you be in?

BCG has invested heavily in tech 'function'. They have been building advanced analytics capabilities.

Bain does more work in the tech 'industry'. They do more work with the big tech companies on marketing, strategy, transactions, etc.

However, if you'll be working in Atlanta, Chicago, or Dallas, then you're not going to do much tech work with either firm, so it doesn't really matter.

If you'll be working in California, then Bain is the easy choice, imo.

    • 1
Jun 26, 2020

Probably just adding to an echo chamber here but, based on what you said, Bain is definitely the right choice.

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    • 1
Jun 26, 2020

This is anecdotal but I've met a lot of people who work for both firms. Of all the people that I've spoken to, whether it be friends or people I've networked with, I've seen significantly more people who have left for startups, and even in a lot of cases have launched a startup while still being employed, from BCG. Don't get me wrong, I still know people at Bain who have gone through similar tracks, but within my network it was way more common with the people at BCG.

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    • 1
Most Helpful
  • Prospect in Consulting
Jun 30, 2020

Thank you all for your opinions! They really helped me feel more confident in my choice. I'm going to go with Bain. Hopefully I'll find my way to the industry I eventually want to work in. I think deep down I was hoping to hear everyone say "Go with Bain", so that's probably what my gut wants me to do anyway :) Bain has been a lot more engaged with me through recruiting and has helped me meet 1:1 at least 15 Bainies at all levels (including a few partners) that I really liked talking to, so even if BCG might have some sort of an edge for my exit opps, I have to choose based on what I've personally experienced so far from both firms. I'm super excited!

    • 7
Jun 30, 2020

Congratulations on making the decision! I'm really glad you chose Bain as it was clear your heart was telling you to go that direction. I personally think the best way to make these decisions is to go with your gut since so many of the outcomes are hard to predict (and highly similar across the three). I had a similar decision and went with my gut and haven't looked back!

    • 1
Jun 30, 2020

Congrats and thanks for the update! Glad to hear that you ended up choosing Bain. Every single Bainie I've met have been the nicest people and I've heard amazing things about the office culture. You definitely made the right choice!

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    • 1
Jun 30, 2020

Congratulations on Bain! I wouldn't sweat the difference in exit opps. In fact, Bain might have BCG beat in this regard due to its incredibly tight-knit alumni network. I've worked with groups that are almost exclusively Bain alum. Best of luck!

    • 1
Jul 2, 2020
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