A lot of people have been asking me how to get into BD recently. Similar to Venture Capital, I don’t think there is a boilerplate prescription for getting into BD. There are definitely things you can do to put yourself in a favorable position like networking, blogging, and gaining an understanding of what BD actually means. That’s all great, but I’m here to tell you that I think getting a job in BD is about putting yourself in a position to capitalize when a “right time, right place opportunity” presents itself by working your ass off.
I think it’d be useful to outline how I got into business development by re-telling my startup journey. More than anything else, I want people who read this to realize that getting a good “BD job” doesn’t happen overnight. At least for me it didn’t. It came after a year of sacrifice, hard work, putting myself out there, and a ton of learning…
I left my first job at SFX Baseball and a brand new 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment overlooking the Chicago skyline to do an internship at a startup called CollegeOnly. It was started by a Princeton classmate named Josh Weinstein who I didn’t know all that well in school. I got the gig by reaching out to Josh cold and convincing him and his other co-founder to take a chance on me over the phone in a parking lot during my lunch break. When I got the nod from Josh, I moved back with Mom and Dad to Newtown, PA. My commute to NYC would be a cool 2.5 hours each way.
At CollegeOnly, I started off doing “community management.” I had no idea what that was when I joined, but was just happy to be there and soak up as much information as I could. My wages started as reimbursement for lunch and travel. I became well acquainted with exspensify.
I told my friends I was coming back to NYC “to work” for Josh at his cool new startup. I left out the part that it was just an internship unless prodded because I was a bit self-conscious about it. After all, the captain of the Princeton football team is supposed to be doing something prestigious like working at Goldman Sachs after graduation, not clutching to lunch receipts for dear life so he could pay for train fare next week.
After one week, and about 25 hours of commuting I decided going back and forth everyday was a royal waste of time. I got a membership at the Princeton Club ($150 a year!) so I’d have a place to shower. From week 2 on, I started packing a huge gym bag full of clothes and embraced life as a vagabond. I remember my friend told me I looked like I was carrying a camping bag around New York City. For the next, couple months I slept in the office, at my cousins in Hoboken, and at friends often showering at the gym of the Princeton Club. Scrapping baby!
My time during the early days of CollegeOnly was spent doing whatever needed to get done. This ranged from learning what twitter was to detailing product specs and organizing focus groups. I spent my spare time networking as much as I could. I’d go to events, cold email people to buy them lunch or coffee in exchange for their insight, and tried to get to know anyone who was involved in the startup scene. Slowly but surely I built a nice little network predicated on the tenet of providing value to anyone I met without expecting anything in return. Big ups to Keith Ferrazzi.
Somewhere 1-2 months into my internship I became a full-time employee and started getting paid a very small, but livable wage. I wanted to move to New York, but still was strapped for cash. I decided to get a bartending job at McFadden’s at night.
Part of my job was getting my friends to come to the bar. They all came time after time. I couldn’t be more grateful for their support. But at times, I felt embarrassed. “Why do you have a 2nd job”…“Did you hear Scott is bartending.” Statements like these don’t exactly engender pride. Whatever I thought. This is what I need to do and last time I checked the people who make a dent in this world don’t let other peoples’ expectations sway their decision making.
After about 4 months at CollegeOnly, it became clear that it was not going to be successful. The company pivoted to a new product called YouAre.TV that was essentially producing online game shows where viewers could become contestants from their webcam.
Josh had taken notice of my proclivity for networking and decided that I should spearhead business development for the company. In this case, BD meant getting sponsors for the shows. I was excited about the new role. It’s important to reiterate that I did not start with this role. I created it over the fortitude of 4 months working for peanuts, networking my brains out, and instilling confidence in my employer that I could preform this role.
In conjunction with the company transition, I was able to move into a sublet with some college buddies. I finally had saved enough between YouAre.TV and bartending to make the move.
I spent the next 4 months doing BD for YouAre.TV. It was extremely challenging because we didn’t have a working product and our viewership was in the double digits. Not exactly an extremely attractive opportunity for sponsors. Still, I learned a lot about knocking on doors, networking, and the challenging aspects of BD. I was able to get a few sponsors due to personal relationships, but it’s never fun when the value chain is one-sided.
I also was exercising my BD muscles with my nights and weekends project. I was working on a birchbox clone that centered around delivering healthy food options to your door monthly with two friends. This was an awesome experience to cut my teeth. I reached out to over 50 brands and secured over 1,000 free samples before I decided to shelve the project for reasons described here.
After 8 months at YouAre.TV I decided it was time for a new challenge. I learned a ton, had built a great network, and was ready to go out on my own…or so I foolishly thought….
In part 2, I will talk about going the challenges of going out on my own and how I ended up at SinglePlatform.