How to get a startup job

Published on Nov 18, 2015

Kim Pham of Frontline Ventures gives short tips on how to get a startup job.

PRESENTATION OUTLINE

HOW TO GET A STARTUP job

kim pham, frontline ventures  |  @kim617  |  kimpham.org

HOW I GOT INTO TECH

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My father is a software engineer - so tech is in my blood. I like to say I grew up on the Internet. (Check out the OG himself!)

So it's junior year of HS - and ambitious 16yo Kim just knew that she didn't want to work at Dunkies for the summer. So I cold-emailed a ton of companies in Boston - all of them rejected me - "LOL you're a child, you don't know anything."

But my resume landed in the hands of a Kraft-backed startup in the Back Bay - they digged my enthusiasm, my ballsiness, my Internet-stalking skills.

And the rest is history - I haven't worked at a company larger than 30 people since. I fell in love with early-stage startups - the autonomy, the ability to have your hands in the product, the flexibility.

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I then moved to New York to attend New York University, where I majored in Marketing and Computer Science. I started immediately working my freshman fall semester, and haven't stopped - these are a handful of the companies I've been lucky to work with.

(Most of these jobs I received through cold emails or warm intros.)

TECH@nyu

This passion + love for startups led me to become president of tech@nyu, NYC's largest student designer & developer org - 2000+ members in NYC tech community focused on learning technical skills & building cool shit.

It's during my time leading tech@nyu that I realized I'm really, really crazy about supporting the NYC tech community. And if I had to boil it down to the one question that dictated my future - it's...

HOW CAN I HELP ENTREPRENEURS?

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How can I help entrepreneurs?

I'm so inspired by the passionate creators I meet on the daily - that I thought, "How can I scale myself and my value-add to early-stage companies, already strapped for time and resources?"

joining frontline ventures

I found that answer in the Head of Platform position at Frontline, who I just joined in June.

I went "to the other side of the table" - found my home helping Frontline in investing and supporting high-risk, high-potential startups. Here, I am building out an internal "platform" for our companies to leverage each others' learnings, stories, and experiences. A lot of my work also includes giving structure and scale to our value-add to companies.

HOW DO I LAND A STARTUP JOB?

So yeah, that's my story thus far! Been working in early-stage tech for over 6 years now - here are my 5 high-level tips to getting into startups.

1. GET COFFEE WITH EVERYONE

1. GET COFFEE WITH EVERYONE.

Seriously, I attribute 90% of my success to the people I'm lucky enough to know & surround myself with. So seriously, stop everything you're doing & take as many coffee meetings as you can.

UGH @ "NETWORKING"

  • Master the cold email
  • Follow up + continue to stay in touch
  • Provide value in relationships - always pay it forward 
  • Seek mentors + like-minded peers
  • Get referrals - infinitely better than cold applications!
I really hate the term "networking" because it feels really stiff and formal and ungenuine. It conjures an image of false connections & people throwing business cards/resumes at disinterested people.

Instead-
Reach out to people proactively before you even have an "ask." Reach out not because I want a job necessarily, but because I want to hear their story, pick their brain, & see how you can be of help.

Other tips include...

2. know YOUR STORY

2. Know your story

You all just heard my story - think about yours. Make it concise, but compelling - what's your background, what brought you to tech, what particular sectors or products or industries you're excited about.

Don't be afraid to share that story and develop your personal brand - even if it seems untraditional.

Ex) Being featured on Hackers of NY as an atypical "hacker"

3. Keep an ear to the ground

3. Keep an ear to the ground.

Just given that we're working in technology, it's important to always stay in the loop of what's going on in the industry.

(LOL this is bad social etiquette, do not use your phone at dinner folks!)

STAY RELEVANT

  • Go to events: tech meetups, demo days, etc.
  • Subscribe to newsletters: Startup Digest, StrictlyVC, etc.
  • Live and breathe Twitter!
  • Engage with communities - Product Hunt, Hacker News, etc.
  • Keep up with VCs' and founders' blogs - thought leadership

4. KNOW THE PRODUCT

(AND THE PEOPLE)
4. Know the product + the people

When you've finally scored an interview (whether through referral, cold email, or online application), make sure you know the product and the people behind it very well.

SHOW YOUR VALUE

  • Evangelize the product
  • Do your research + be informed
  • Offer feedback - contribute even pre-hire
  • Ask questions!
Evangelize the product - know its' ins and outs.

Do your research on the founders, as well as your interviewee. Understand their backgrounds, so that your questions have some context.

Show that you are a valuable hire who can contribute to the team, even before you join. Identify 1-2 suggestions or pieces of feedback. Maybe offer some sales leads. Find out ways to add value before the interview even.

Even more impressive than having all the answers is knowing how ask the right questions. I found that was especially valuable in the VC world.

5. DON'T WAIT FOR OPPORTUNITY

FACT: I've never received a job through NYU's career center. I've also never gone through on-campus recruiting during all 4 years of being at NYU.

Yet, I've never gone unemployed or unpaid my entire 6 years working in tech.

Don't wait for doors to open - create your own opportunities. For jobs/internships while you're in school especially, leverage everything - I've found jobs through cold emails, warm introductions, LinkedIn, Twitter, pre-existing relationships, Facebook, etc.

I can go through more strategies individually, but my most successful strategy has been: find a couple companies that I really dig, pick apart their product, & email the appropriate person (using Interwebz stalking skills we all have) telling them the painpoints & how you can come onboard to help solve that problem. Always pitch it as providing value to the team.

5 TIPS TO GETTING A STARTUP JOB

  • Meet everyone for coffee
  • Develop your personal story
  • Keep an ear to the ground
  • When interviewing, know the product + the people
  • Don't wait for opportunity
I meet a lot of people everyday who ask me how to break into tech? They don't have the experience, the knowledge, the industry background, etc. and it's like, I was there too.

I was 16 with no skills, no idea what I was doing, didn't even know what TechCrunch was.

But through persistence, a whole lot of balls, and a bizarre desire to love what I do, I managed to get where I am today. I wake up everyday wanting to do what I do. That's fucking amazing.

holler!

Kimp@frontline.vc | @kim617 | kimpham.org
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