Dear X: We met for breakfast last week, when you told me you feel unfulfilled with your job. You want to work in the startup arena, either for a promising young company or for a VC, but at anything that will get you a foot in the door. I promised that I would write a blogpost for you with my thoughts, and here they are: 1)Get Educated on Startups; 2) Network; 3) Publish; 4)Dive Deep; and 5) #GiveFirst
Get Educated on Startups
Remember I asked you early on if you knew who Eric Ries is? That’s sort of my Rorschach test to see how knowledgeable people are about startups. You’re not really in love with startups if you haven’t immersed in the literature. Eric Ries’ book “The Lean Startup” boils do the essence of modern entrepreneurship theory, and by not knowing who Eric is, it tells me that this is either a new interest for you or one you haven’t taken seriously. So dive in. There is a massive amount of information out online, go find it! If I had to start at just one place, I’d subscribe to the Mattermark Daily, which is a digest of the best information being published on the web. One good article will lead to another. If you’re not hooked and finding yourself spending an hour or two happily every day, this career is probably not for you. If it is, being fluent in the language is essential. (Bonus resource: The Twenty Minute VC Podcast.)
The harder you work, the luckier you’ll get. And it’s all about knowing people and being in the right place at the right time. Since you work in Boston, you can go to multiple startup events every night after work. (And if you do it right, you can probably drink free beer all year long.)
Best resources in Boston are highlighted in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Boston Tech, but a few minutes on Google can quickly get you similar results for any major startup city, from Palo Alto to London. Check out (and follow) the local media, the calendar of local events, and the collected Twitter feeds of the local mover and shakers. Then go and find them. And those friends working for a startup? You’re buying the beer and picking their brains.
If you think of your favorite 6 VCs as role models, I’ll bet 4 of them blog. Hell, Mark Suster has written, podcasted, vlogged and Snapchatted his way to creating his personal brand. If it works for them, it will work for you. Harry Stebbings could get hired by a number of premier VC firms right now, and he’s only just turned 20. Be like Harry. Or Alex. Don’t know what to write about? How about reviewing something new that you found on Product Hunt? Or liveblogging a DemoDay? If it interests you, it should interest somebody. Make sure the end result is as good as you can do–quality trumps quantity.
While you may not have an idea of what you want to do yet, try to narrow it down. What areas of business do you like? SaaS? Fintech? VR? Blockchain? If you want to go to the Olympics, you focus on one event. Same focus should apply to get started in a career. Pick something.
This is the Techstars motto. Nothing beats paying it forward. Volunteer to help out at events. Cruise an accelerator and see if there’s a company that wants some free help on a project. Make some deposits in the karma bank. It will get you noticed, and gain you fans.
Go get ’em!