Biz Dev Guy @ Start-Up Fielding Questions

lubar's picture
Rank: King Kong | 1,679

The site has been good to me, so I would like to give back with my first worthy post (most others have been pretty mediocre).

Background: white male, non-target state school, economics major, 3.0 student, SAs were the F500 internship route. After graduating in 2011 I went to work a boutique principal investment fund (sub $500mm). Prefer not to say what asset class as it might give me away.

Made the jump to a startup late last year and have a love/hate relationship with it. I like it because my role is client facing and I meet with BSDs in the vertical I work in, and I hate it because sending thousands of emails, making tons of calls, and wearing a suit every couple of days for client meetings is not how an entitled 22 year old thought money is made.

Comp - it's a you eat what you kill mentality. I make $50k ish base with a bonus that is tied to the revenue I generate. My 'on-target' is about $100k. Being in a hot area (NYC, SanFran, Austin, Boston) means the money does not go far. Again, this is a new world as I thought that 'Boom, I work at a successful startup so why aren't I making sick commissions?' And, 'Why don't I live in a loft?'

Funding - the guy who runs the company (

Revenue - company broke $1M annual revenue shortly after I came on.

Questions .... comments?

Region: 
United States - West
United States - Northeast
United States - South

Comments (24)

Jan 21, 2013

So it sounds like the majority of your time is spent selling....do you think since you've been working there your sales skill shave improved dramatically from all the cold calls and presentations? Were you always comfortable in front of people?

Jan 21, 2013

How attractive do you see your role vs. your more technical colleagues? If you had a more technical background, would you still go with BD or would you prefer to be a developer?

Best Response
Jan 21, 2013
WallStreetOasis.com:

So it sounds like the majority of your time is spent selling....do you think since you've been working there your sales skill shave improved dramatically from all the cold calls and presentations? Were you always comfortable in front of people?

I was comfortable around people in my youth so talking to strangers was never really an issue for me. In sales you have to make an impression and you soon realize that people are pretty open to a pitch (getting them to close is a different story). And there were tons of times where I blew a pitch, messed up someone's name in an email, and gave the wrong information to a customer's question (in front of the CEO). While I have improved, I still have moments where I feel like Spider who stutters from Goodfellas.

dzar:

How attractive do you see your role vs. your more technical colleagues? If you had a more technical background, would you still go with BD or would you prefer to be a developer?

Sales gets stigmatized too much in my opinion. People view it as some dirty job, and I used to feel like a second class citizen explaining my role to my parents/friends. I guess I'm still a little insecure that I'm not an accountant, an i-banker, or a consultant as that's what everyone else seems to be. But in 2013 business gets done via the phone. It gets done through emails, and also in person. You might not believe it, but I've seen it first hand.

On the flip side, if you have a technical background and work at a startup you get paid more. You also have my respect as my father is in a technical field and has a hell of a mind for it. I never considered math/science/comp sci as a major, let alone a profession, so it's hard to say if I would take a technical role over a BD role. The grass is always greener, but having had been raised in a 'not-so-liberal' household ... the things I've gone through in my sales career in terms of set-backs are nothing compared to the mental drain of someone like my mother.

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Jan 21, 2013

You've been a quality WSOer for a long while, thanks for the post and glad things are going well for ya!

Jan 21, 2013

Interesting thread. How'd you go about finding this position? Do you know the founders or did you reach out independently? Also is there an opportunity for you to move into a higher leadership role should the company start to take off?

Jan 21, 2013

Comment: get equity quick....nobody remembers how important and difficult the first bit of sales are and it's easy for people to devalue the sales person's efforts, after the fact. People like to misremeber when it's to their benefit to do so and there is just a tendency for people (like, the people who should give you equity) to overestimate their contributions and underestimate yours, particularly in hindsight. You might have to take a cut in commission rate to get it though.

Also, thanks for writing about sales here, that is not done nearly often enough, even though it is a tough and rewarding job for those with the personality for it.

Question: How do you target clients? How do prospects react to your age (or are they all your age)?

Jan 22, 2013
Solidarity:

You're going to have to give us a little bit more color on your industry, though the locations you've listed make me think SaaS

I'm at a non-technical start-up. There is no software. No cloud. The best way to explain it is an information service, where the data/info we provide to clients helps them make better informed decisions for what it is they do. Almost like consulting, just not as prestigious. In the background we have a group that finds this info, makes it look pretty, and we sell it.

Quaneaser:

Interesting thread. How'd you go about finding this position? Do you know the founders or did you reach out independently? Also is there an opportunity for you to move into a higher leadership role should the company start to take off?

I got the position through a recruiter that specializes in placements at startups. I did not know either of the founders. Being on a small sales team, two people, there is a lot of upside. I could manage a new vertical should we expand or I could manage a region and attend more conferences in my current one. At this firm, as I'm sure it is in many, the sky is the limit and sales solves everything.

SirTradesaLot:

Comment: get equity quick....nobody remembers how important and difficult the first bit of sales are and it's easy for people to devalue the sales person's efforts, after the fact. People like to misremeber when it's to their benefit to do so and there is just a tendency for people (like, the people who should give you equity) to overestimate their contributions and underestimate yours, particularly in hindsight. You might have to take a cut in commission rate to get it though.

Also, thanks for writing about sales here, that is not done nearly often enough, even though it is a tough and rewarding job for those with the personality for it.

Question: How do you target clients? How do prospects react to your age (or are they all your age)?

The equity issue might bug me if I don't get any after my first 6 months - one year, or right when series A might hit. Right now, from talking to people in the field, I am at industry average for pay. Perhaps that's why I'm getting no equity. I research this topic every couple of days, to better make my case during face time with the founders. I understand where they are coming from, and how capitalism works ... at the same time I know how easy it is to screw college kids.

I target clients through cold-emails: where I email everyone at the division our group provides a service to. Then after a few days I give them all a call. Or sometimes, after a few weeks I follow up with those who have not yet had a chance to respond to me. It's a systematic approach and not really randomized. The age issue never came up once, in fact no one asks your age in a pitch or during a call/email. My prospects (end-users) are in their 30s-50s. It can get to your head, convincing people who have years of experience in their field to change their ways.

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Jan 21, 2013
karypto:

The site has been good to me, so I would like to give back with my first worthy post (most others have been pretty mediocre).

Hahahahahaha

Jan 21, 2013

I wonder how much our own Andy Louis earns.

Jan 21, 2013
JamesHetfield:

I wonder how much our own Andy Louis earns.

ha, maybe ill start my own q&a one of these days..

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

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Jan 21, 2013
AndyLouis:
JamesHetfield:

I wonder how much our own Andy Louis earns.

ha, maybe ill start my own q&a one of these days..

The numbers won't matter buddy. I'd guess at least half the guys in here would be jealous of the way you are getting to live your life. I mean I wish I could do what you did -- travel, live around the world, and have a semi-stable job that pays the bills.

Jan 21, 2013

You're going to have to give us a little bit more color on your industry, though the locations you've listed make me think SaaS

Jan 22, 2013

Thanks for the Q&A karypto, especially since it is on a topic that isn't usually discussed on this site.

My question to you is: How did you decide to go into a Biz Dev role and what experience did you build up beforehand to obtain the job?

I'm a university engineering student and I'm very interested in doing what you do, so I'm wondering whether how useful it is for me to try and obtain extracurricular roles in sponsorship and biz dev, or if there is a more efficient use of my time.

Jan 22, 2013
don_pepe:

Thanks for the Q&A karypto, especially since it is on a topic that isn't usually discussed on this site.

My question to you is: How did you decide to go into a Biz Dev role and what experience did you build up beforehand to obtain the job?

I'm a university engineering student and I'm very interested in doing what you do, so I'm wondering whether how useful it is for me to try and obtain extracurricular roles in sponsorship and biz dev, or if there is a more efficient use of my time.

Biz Dev typically has two parts at a start-up: in the early revenue stages it's a sales role while in later stages where millions are pouring in every month: you could potentially see something along the lines of corporate development. So if you are in BD at facebook, you work on things like the Instagram acquisition. Let me say it one more time, this is extremely rare. If you are interested in BD at a start-up, you are essentially in sales. If you want to dream up grand ideas and 'strategize' realize that in my current role this takes up maybe 1% of my time. Most 'high-level' work is reserved for those higher up the food chain.

I decided to go in to startup first and foremost because I did not want to work in F500. My internships in college were this route. While a great experience, I could not see myself being a manager at 35 with a picket-fence lifestyle. Also, it helped that the start-up bug bit me my sophomore year, and at 19 in college I started three of my own ventures ... and lost about $4k of my own money. All three failed ... the other two I started after those losses are 'kind of alive'. So this was a good talking point during interviews at various firms I interviewed at.

The most efficient use of your time is to get internship experience in college. Several internships to put it best. In technical or non-technical fields. Just know that your junior year internship is the most critical, as that's what you might do for the next few years of your life.

Also talk to random people, men and women. Doesn't matter. Talk to professors, talk to bartenders. Just talk and built rapport. If your school has an entrepreneurship club ... join it.

One thing to note, taking a path that's out of the norm means stigmatism from others. You have to have thick skin to be able to push that aside.

Jan 22, 2013

Thanks for writing this:

1) I've seen a couple of ex-consultants and even some ex-investment bankers go into "business development" at various startups, with DropBox coming to mind. Do these guys also fall in the domain of "corporate development", or is there something within the BD world that they can do that some kid out of college can't?

2) How clearly defined is the compensation trajectory for the role? In other words, let's say the business takes off ... what does your position look like in 5 years?

3) What are your options if the startup fails?

4) Is there any possibility of you negotiating for equity at this point?

Jan 22, 2013
Culcet:

Thanks for writing this:

1) I've seen a couple of ex-consultants and even some ex-investment bankers go into "business development" at various startups (DropBox) comes to mind. Do these guys also fall in the domain of "corporate development", or is there something within the BD world that they can do that some kid out of college can't?

2) How clearly defined is the compensation trajectory for the role? In other words, let's say the business takes off ... what does your position look like in 5 years?

3) What are your options if the startup fails?

4) Is there any possibility of you negotiating for equity at this point?

1) For a firm like DropBox a new term like 'product evangelist' comes to mind. Which is similar to BD. Reading the job description page, it seems like you are more of someone who monitors sales in excel while simultaneously focusing on getting new contracts. A little bit more prestigious to pure BD at a start-up, hence the i-bankers jumping ship.

https://www.dropbox.com/position?jvi=o2O0Vfwv,Job

2) Compensation is always negotiable. Personally, I feel that I am underpaid. Then again ... don't we all. Talk to people in the industry and you will get an understanding that the high earners are the ones building the product and the ones selling it. Funny you should mention 5 years, because one of my sales mentors clears $500k at an established firm and has been in sales for 5 years. He would not disclose his equity. Please note; he is an exception.

3) I might teach English in Asia. Then do an MBA. Or I could hop to another start-up. Depends how burned out I am or how bad I want a lifestyle of debauchery.

4) It is, and I want equity. The thing is, most equity pieces usually vest over x years. So I would have to be with the firm for 2,3,5 years. I'm still learning about equity, this is just what I'm seeing in the market. Let me know if you see or know otherwise. I have yet to close a deal, so maybe after some revenue generation will I bring up equity to the lead founder who got fired from a prestigious job (equivalent of Google) then struggled to support his wife and two kids as it took him over a year to generate revenue.

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Jan 22, 2013

i'm also doing biz dev at a start up so i was happy to see this post. when you say "established firm", is this an established startup or a corporation that your sales mentor works for?

Jan 22, 2013
suo1528:

i'm also doing biz dev at a start up so i was happy to see this post. when you say "established firm", is this an established startup or a corporation that your sales mentor works for?

The firm he works in is a micro-cap public company.

Jan 22, 2013

Thanks for writing back man. Good stuff.

Just some quick follow up questions:

1) How exactly do people find such positions?

2) Can you elaborate some more on the guy that clears 500k?

Jan 22, 2013
Culcet:

Thanks for writing back man. Good stuff.

Just some quick follow up questions:

1) How exactly do people find such positions?

2) Can you elaborate some more on the guy that clears 500k?

Not sure if you are asking me, but since I'm doing the same thing I might as well offer some insight on how you can find a role like this. I personally found mine through a connection who was leaving her former employer to join this start up. The company wasn't really looking for anyone publicly because we were in stealth mode, most of the people here were from referrals. I joined the company about three months before launch, when they started building the Biz Dev team. Just from a google search I found www.startuphire.com and www.startuply.com. Not sure how solid the job listings are, but those sites could be a start. It has been awesome so far, btw. Really cool to help work on something, see it launch, and then help it grow. My role may be in BD, but we work with units across the whole company, and I collaborate with our product and programmer guys every day with ideas or suggestions from clients. And not sure why people shit on sales on here. If you don't like being around people, I guess that's one thing, but I think being directly responsible for the growth of a company is pretty awesome. plus, you get to interact with people and get out of the office.

I would also like to know about the guy making 500k haha.

Jan 22, 2013
Culcet:

Thanks for writing back man. Good stuff.

Just some quick follow up questions:

1) How exactly do people find such positions?

2) Can you elaborate some more on the guy that clears 500k?

1) Referals get you interviews. I spent months on startup job sites and linked in and got nowhere. In my opinion the best thing you can do is to get a recruiter who believes in you. I worked with mine for over 9 months to get my gig. He stuck with me. And I appreciate someone giving me a shot. Just note you still have to do the work to get visibility into the field. Applying on job sites won't cut it. Go to startup job fairs or Meetups. It's not easy, but it is possible.

2) Sure. He works in financial information services. Imagine a tall WASPy looking 30 year old. He has the hair of a lax bro and the voice a white versioned Morgan Friedman. Seems dreamy?

No homo. The benefit from our occasional conversations is the mental attitude he teaches. He told me there are days he wants to quit. Days he feels that what he does is BS. However after 5 years in the game, longevity is on your side. He has a Rolodex, and people do business with him. He showed me the people aspect of the field and taught me it's ok to want to throw in the towel. He didn't, and it speaks for itself. He also said most people on his team top out at $250k or so. Like I said, he's an exception.

Jan 23, 2013
karypto:
Culcet:

Thanks for writing back man. Good stuff.

Just some quick follow up questions:

1) How exactly do people find such positions?

2) Can you elaborate some more on the guy that clears 500k?

1) Referals get you interviews. I spent months on startup job sites and linked in and got nowhere. In my opinion the best thing you can do is to get a recruiter who believes in you. I worked with mine for over 9 months to get my gig. He stuck with me. And I appreciate someone giving me a shot. Just note you still have to do the work to get visibility into the field. Applying on job sites won't cut it. Go to startup job fairs or Meetups. It's not easy, but it is possible.

2) Sure. He works in financial information services. Imagine a tall WASPy looking 30 year old. He has the hair of a lax bro and the voice a white versioned Morgan Friedman. Seems dreamy?

No homo. The benefit from our occasional conversations is the mental attitude he teaches. He told me there are days he wants to quit. Days he feels that what he does is BS. However after 5 years in the game, longevity is on your side. He has a Rolodex, and people do business with him. He showed me the people aspect of the field and taught me it's ok to want to throw in the towel. He didn't, and it speaks for itself. He also said most people on his team top out at $250k or so. Like I said, he's an exception.

How senior is this guy if he is only 30? He may be outperforming the rest of his team who top out at 250k (which I personally would be very happy with at 30), but aren't there people more senior than him who must be making more than him (>500k)? He's still pretty young.

Jan 22, 2013
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Jan 23, 2013