Photo: Megan Towe
With Facebook going public and producing 1,000 millionaires, the rest of us are left wondering:Why didn’t I get that job?
Getting an early job at a startup isn’t easy, especially if it’s generating a lot of buzz.
We searched for inspiring stories from early startup employees and found creative ways people landed jobs.
The all seemed to do a few things right:
- They knew the products well
- They made themselves stand out, not just their resumes
- They knew the right people and had great timing
- They were proactive and persistent
Tristan Walker sent 8 emails to Foursquare's cofounders, Naveen and Dennis, and booked a last minute flight from LA to New York to meet them
Megan Towe reached out to an investor and was diligent about following up. He helped her get a job as LiveIntent's 9th employee one month later.
Sahil Lavingia became the #2 employee at Pinterest when cofounder Ben Silbermann noticed his work on HackerNews.
Pinterest found Lavingia and used him to outsource its mobile work. Then he was hired full-time as its second employee.
Lavingia explains how it all happened:
When I moved to the U.S. I wanted to build a brand for myself, so I started blogging, tweeting, and using Hacker News. That got me attention from startups in the Valley, including Pinterest. Pinterest sent me an email in August 2010. At the time it was very small. I think it had less than 5,000 users.
I met up with the two founders to chat for a couple hours about what they were doing, what they wanted to accomplish and to hear their story. I left thinking, 'Holy shit, I definitely want to get up here.'
My goal was to get a four year degree and then join an early phase startup and maybe found one of my own. That was a 7 year plan. Then I thought, 'Wait a minute, I have the ability to skip three years of this process; I might as well do it.'
I wasn't that dead-set on Pinterest and I had a few other offers. There were some Y Combinator companies I was considering and Flipboard. I picked Pinterest because it was the earliest company. My goal was to figure out if I could found a startup or not and I felt joining the earliest company was the best way to learn.
I stayed at Pinterest for one year and left in August, 2011.
Adam Besvinick attended Gumroad office hours at South By Southwest and kept following up with the founder until he got an internship.
Adam Besvinick scored an internship with Gumroad, a company founded by #2 Pinterest employee, Sahil Lavingia, by attending office hours at South by Southwest.
After the conference, the former Lowercase Capital associate and business school student blitzed Lavingia with emails, phone calls and relevant articles to demonstrate what he could bring to the table.
Lavingia hired him as an intern. Now that three-person startup has raised $8 million, Besvinick might have a shot at becoming Gumroad employee #4.
Chris Putnam got hired by Facebook in 2006 when he hacked the site and made thousands of profiles look like MySpace.
Chris Putnam was hired when he and some friends hacked Facebook in 2006 at their college, Georgia Southern.
Facebook had just come to their campus, and they wanted to see if it had security holes. Putnam created a viral worm that spread silently from profile to profile; the worm called home to his server and asked it for instructions. After it was on a few thousand profile pages, Putnam flipped the switch and made all of the pages look like MySpace profiles.
Before long, Facebook called Putnam and asked for an explanation. By the end of the conversation, Putnam was offered a job interview.
Putnam explains the hack and his hiring at the 8:30 mark in the Fast Company video, below:
Spencer Bryan created a task on TaskRabbit and requested a meeting with one of the startup's employees.
TaskRabbit allows the public to post errands they need run, like picking up laundry or buying chips for a party. Local users can complete the tasks and get paid for them.
Spencer Bryan cleverly used the platform to get noticed as a prospective employee. A first-year at Tuck, he created a task on the platform asking for one of TaskRabbit's employees to meet him in person.
TaskRabbit's Director, Brian Rothenberg, appreciated the creative approach. The meeting turned into an interview and one week later Bryan had a job offer.
When Square denied him an interview, Avi Lichtschein took it upon himself to sign up 10 merchants in one day on the east coast.
Avi Lichtschein wasn't one of Square's earliest employees--he just joined the startup this year. But his story about getting hired is inspiring.
Lichtschein applied for a job at Square the traditional way but was denied an interview. Crushed but not deterred, he took some advice from early Foursquare employee, Tristan Walker.
Walker wrote that people who want to work for startups should be so enamoured with a product that they'll work for free.
So that's just what Lichtschein did. He realised Square needed a broader presence on the east coast. so he spent his own money acquiring card readers and signed up 10 merchants in one day.
It led to a conversation with one of Square's cofounders about its program for college students, Square U. Lichtschein writes on his blog:
On February 29th I was contacted by Square. They asked me why I wanted to work there and were impressed by the fact that I had truly made an effort to get noticed and be a part of the team, and in the midst of our conversation they offered me a job! I was thrilled! I officially started working for Square on March 9th, 2012 and feel tremendously fortunate to be a part of the team (an added bonus is that the Square U program that I'm in is full of awesome people and that both of my bosses are very cool).
Zach Sims was GroupMe's first hire. He met the founders through another job at AOL and hung out with them repeatedly.
Tim Devane cold emailed his alumni network until Fred Wilson finally introduced him to John Borthwick. He joined Bitly as employee #10.
Tim Devane, Director of Business Development and Sales at Bitly, cold emailed his alumni network after he graduated until he got power VCs Fred Wilson, Andy Weissman and Strauss Zelnick to introduce him to Betaworks founder, John Borthwick. He was employee number 10 at one of Betawork's companies, Bitly.
Devane writes some advice about the startup job search process:
'There's no shame in emailing any and every contact you come across. That's why you got them right? Email early in the day, email often and absolutely do not hesitate to follow up in the same fashion. My goal was to email until I heard back and always respond to emails as quickly as possible.'
Bonus: Alice Lee skipped 4 classes in college to create a mini website that served as an Instagram resume. She didn't end up getting hired, but she got a lot of attention in the tech blogosphere.
Alice Lee is a UPenn student who loves tech startups. Her love of photography and tech made her eager to work for Instagram in February, just months before it was acquired by Facebook for $1 billion.
She created an amazing website/resume to showcase her passion for the service. While it didn't get her the job, her resume/site Dear Instagram went viral. It was posted on numerous sites, including Business Insider, and it was passed around by investors like Chris Sacca who tweeted, 'I've never met @byalicelee. But when I see hustle like this, I am sure I will eventually.'
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