This forum helped me go from Blackstone to Facebook to YCombinator startup founder (rebrand.ly/getourchat). Ask me anything!

Wow does this forum brings back memories! WallStreetOasis was a welcome discovery my freshmen year in college and I checked it religiously back then - trying to gauge the relative prestige and status of different firms and sucking in all the hilarious and offensive terminology along with it. Honestly WSO was probably the thing (other than the school I was at) that first made me really think about finance. It guided what I knew about the right way to do things (along with the Vault rankings of course); what I knew about interviews - banking culture - exit ops - everything haha.

Anyway, my story is: I did a summer internship in S&T at Citi and a spring internship at Disney Corporate and leveraged those to get a full time offer at Blackstone (which was my dream job at the time) out of college. I got there after finishing my C.S. degree my senior year... and just hated it. An opening came up at Facebook in November after I graduated aaand I took it.

Quitting 6 months in did NOT go over well. I'm pretty sure I got thrown every insult and threat there was in the book, a choice few of which include:
- "You'll never get into HBS if I have anything to do with it."
- "Do you know how many kids we rejected to give you this job? THOUSANDS"
- "Of course we're enforcing garden leave. Facebook is a DIRECT COMPETITOR."
And of course I paid back my signing bonus... which pretty much emptied my savings. Lovely. Also my parents stopped talking to me. Fucking amazing.

Four years later it turns out joining Facebook back then was a fantastic choice LOL. And after having built products on News Feed, Messenger, and a few other teams, I decided it was finally time to leave and to build an idea my best friend and I had had years ago when we first met. We wanted to buck the trend of technology apps that focus on getting you to spend more and more time staring at phone screens, and focus on getting people to spend more time in the real world with the people they might not always hang out with.

Last month we were very lucky to get funding from YCombinator (an accelerator in the Bay area) - and that's the end of my story so far! Thanks for reading if you got this far and please ask me anything you're curious about.

Also - check out the app if you get a chance and give us feedback! Our current version is a location sharing app that lets you share your location with exactly who you want for exactly how long you want. Go ON to notify and share your location with selected contacts. When people in your contacts and network are ON and hanging out, you'll get notified with a party emoji!: rebrand.ly/getourchat

Comments (92)

Jun 25, 2017

This one's more for my curiosity and enjoyment, but how and who did you bring up you were quitting to? Was it sort of gradual, like a "I'm not sure if this is for me anymore," or did you just walk in one day and were like "I'm putting in my notice?" And even though you mentioned what you were called, how'd that conversation go?

Jun 25, 2017

Honestly - I gave them exactly two weeks notice.

I talked to the VP first who I was a bit closer to - he was the cooler guy at the office and still in his early 30s. He was pissed off and tried to convince me to not to - but didn't yell or anything. The two M.D.s on the other hand.... total silence for like 2-3 days (I think they were waiting for me to change my mind...) and then one berated me over the phone 2 offices away and the other never said a word to me until I was gone.

It's a bit hazy but that's kind of the memory that I have of it haha.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 25, 2017

Haha damn. How's the relationship with your parents now? And how do you plan on marketing your app?

Jun 26, 2017

Did you work directly in the PE division at Blackstone as an analyst? Interesting background to get into that if so! How did you meet your co-founder and what has the process at YCombinator been like so far?

Jun 25, 2017

I was in M&A haha. Blackstone's pretty small (~60 analysts across PE/Restructuring/M&A/Credit Fund/Real Estate a year when I was there) overall.

My co-founder and I met at Facebook 4 years and have been best friends/built things together ever since then. I think this is far and away the most important piece - ideas change, execution matters - but nothing matters more than the person/people you choose to co-found with. It's like marriage LOL.

Y-Combinator's been incredible so far. The process was pretty insane - they let about 3% of companies through to interview (....social is a very low hit category. I'd recommend picking something else should you apply haha eg.: http://blog.clearbit.com/what-type-of-companies-ge...) and were brutally harsh in our 10 minute interview with them. But in those 10 minutes they provided more value than probably any other people we met with by just straight pushing us. Now that we've started it's just the right balance of helpful advice and events and access to almost anyone - while letting us really get to work!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 26, 2017

What division in Blackstone were you in?

Jun 25, 2017

M&A haha - see above. I was focused on Technology which both made it a bit more interesting for me personally, and made sense when I wanted to move into Product Management.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 30, 2017
sometechfounder:

M&A haha - see above. I was focused on Technology which both made it a bit more interesting for me personally, and made sense when I wanted to move into Product Management.

M&A haha sounds like a fun group

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Jun 26, 2017

I would like to know more about how you managed to get funding from the accelerator. How was the experience and your steps?

Jun 25, 2017

The week we left Facebook together we applied to YCombinator via their standard interview process - not really hoping for much since social is kind of a crazy category to apply in (it's one of the few categories where you're basically saying you're better/smarter than the 10,000 similar things that came before you.... versus a category that's more IP protected like biotech or AI or some shizz).

The week before we were supposed to launch our product we heard back from them and moved our launch to interview.... for 10 minutes. No joke, they do 10 minutes per company with the partners with the strongest background in your area. We interviewed with one of the founders of Twitch - and boy did he tear us apart. Quotes include:
- "No I know what you're saying... I just think it's not good enough."
- "...ok like literally everyone's tried this. Are you saying you're better/smarter than all those people?"
- "But what does it really DO?"

We walked out of that and basically agreed that we were totally fucked. We actually rode back in an hour-long Uber from Mountain View to SF in complete silence. That night we got a call at around 10PM (was in an Uber to a date....) telling us we got in from the CEO of YCombinator and that he was going to be our partner. I was in an Uber Pool and literally yelled / got asked by the other riders if we'd gotten into YC haha.

Now that it's started the value is pretty incredible. We were initially a bit skeptical because having been at Facebook the past 4 years - we had reasonable connections to good founders and VCs. YCs a very different experience though. Just the access honest explanations from phenomenal founders coupled with crazy access to people and ex-YC companies (DropBox, AirBnB, Reddit, etc.) has proven to be invaluable. We have no regrets on taking YC at all!

Happy to answer more specific questions if you have any.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 26, 2017

Pretty cool stuff here! Glad all is well, I was wondering what what you quit Blackstone? You did majority execution work and did you get to see all sides of the deal from pitching to close? Was this before the PJT days?

Jun 25, 2017

Yep this was before the PJT days when they still had M&A in-house! I did pretty much everything at the time because each coverage area of Blackstone was so small - there were like 4 analysts total on Tech and I think maybe 12 analysts in a single year at M&A at the time.

Unfortunately the flip side is that BX surprisingly doesn't have any of the operations infrastructure you'd typically get at a BB - like help on constructing the decks themselves / a design shop / software for formatting / etc..... so we had to do all of that by hand too...

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 26, 2017

Interesting stuff! Thanks for the insight, to my knowledge BX started as an M&A advisory boutique so I wonder why they still kept it small for that long.

I believe smaller shops are still like this and oftentimes stay smaller (<50 people). So I think some people bound to stay a places that get more exposure to the deal like the one you had. Do you think regional boutiques are emerging now and have their loyal clients they have to hand hold (specialization for example)? What do you think of EBs gaining some marketshare (league tables are irrelavant).

Sorry for the broad rapid questions haha

Jun 26, 2017
sometechfounder:

Wow does this forum brings back memories! WallStreetOasis was a welcome discovery my freshmen year in college and I checked it religiously back then - trying to gauge the relative prestige and status of different firms and sucking in all the hilarious and offensive terminology along with it. Honestly WSO was probably the thing (other than the school I was at) that first made me really think about finance. It guided what I knew about the right way to do things (along with the Vault rankings of course); what I knew about interviews - banking culture - exit ops - everything haha.

Anyway, my story is: I did a summer internship in S&T at Citi and a spring internship at Disney Corporate and leveraged those to get a full time offer at Blackstone (which was my dream job at the time) out of college. I got there after finishing my C.S. degree my senior year... and just hated it. An opening came up at Facebook in November after I graduated aaand I took it.

Quitting 6 months in did NOT go over well. I'm pretty sure I got thrown every insult and threat there was in the book, a choice few of which include:
- "You'll never get into HBS if I have anything to do with it."
- "Do you know how many kids we rejected to give you this job? THOUSANDS"
- "Of course we're enforcing garden leave. Facebook is a DIRECT COMPETITOR."
And of course I paid back my signing bonus... which pretty much emptied my savings. Lovely. Also my parents stopped talking to me. Fucking amazing.

Four years later it turns out joining Facebook back then was a fantastic choice LOL. And after having built products on News Feed, Messenger, and a few other teams, I decided it was finally time to leave and to build an idea my best friend and I had had years ago when we first met. We wanted to buck the trend of technology apps that focus on getting you to spend more and more time staring at phone screens, and focus on getting people to spend more time in the real world with the people they might not always hang out with.

Last month we were very lucky to get funding from YCombinator (an accelerator in the Bay area) - and that's the end of my story so far! Thanks for reading if you got this far and please ask me anything you're curious about.

Also - check out the app if you get a chance and give us feedback! Our current version is a chat app that automatically puts you in group chats with friends and friends-of-friends when you use it: rebrand.ly/getourchat

Can Facebook be overthrown?

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Jun 25, 2017

Hmmm - a difficult one to be sure.

I'm obviously coming from a biased tech perspective, but modern tech consensus seems to be that "network effects" ranks higher than almost anything else as a category of defensibility for a business. This is primarily because (in my opinion) things like synergy from overlapping business divisions, economies of scale, etc. eventually run out. Network effects, however, keep getting stronger with each new user - and kind of continue to do that indefinitely unless your tech product is artificially capped in some way.

So in that view, FB has the strongest network effects of any company on planet earth. A hard one to overthrow haha...

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 26, 2017

Do you believe that it was the idea's originality that got you access into YC or that they saw something else which was more important ?(team spirit, profitability plans etc)

Jun 25, 2017

Ah - definitely NOT the idea's originality. In fact, I'm pretty sure they told that to us explicitly after we got into YC - the idea did NOT get us in haha.

At the early seed stage I've heard over and over again that it's always the team. And not even that you're both individually great - but that you work well together and have a lotttt of tenacity together. The primary failure state of your company is if one, or both, or all of the founders give up... or die

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 26, 2017

Honestly, the only thing I'm taking away from this is that Blackstone is a horrible place to work.

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Jun 25, 2017

I think in the grand scheme if things it's not really bad for IBD (at least from what I've heard from friends lol). The group I was in definitely wasn't a good fit for me though - the dangers of taking a full time offer in a place I never interned I suppose.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 26, 2017

BX doesn't have IBD anymore they spun it off into PJT Partners.

Jun 30, 2017
newyorkermonkey:

Honestly, the only thing I'm taking away from this is that Blackstone is a horrible place to work.

I can't imagine any of my superiors reacting like that. Makes me think it might be business-unit specific.

Jun 26, 2017

Interesting you mention that BX sucks. I originally intended to use my firm for credibility to back my entrepreneurial vision, but now that you mention how bad the reception at BX was, I'm now flummoxed. Still, congrats!
Btw, if Sam's anywhere around you guys, tell him I still resent that fucker for treating my startup like it was some shitty app. IMO, YC's way biased towards consumer tech, which was not what we had intended.

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."

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Jun 25, 2017

LOL haha well let me know if I can help. And will do? Though he's not really as involved any more - there's a different CEO at YC now.

Interesting that you say that - in recent years I would actually say YC's been aggressively biased against consumer tech: http://blog.clearbit.com/what-type-of-companies-ge...
...Which in general seems pretty right. In the last 5 years or so since Snap/Instagram, probably 90% of the value in consumer tech has accrued to the head. In fact, I'd be hard pressed to find anything that has massive staying power in consumer tech that's launched past around 2012. Which is obviously why I'm doing it? Well my reasons for choosing it are our specialty and belief I suppose haha

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 26, 2017

Agree, I may have been a bit rusty on the YC selection process - this was quite some years ago. But it seems the YC guys now focus more on the usual "banker metrics" - traction, critical mass stage, (insert lots of startup jargon) - instead of the fundamentals of the product. Plus, an increased focus on B2C over B2B.

Disclaimer:- I'm basing my conclusion on very few datapoints of one of my friends who was recently invited to pitch at YC. He spoke with other founders who were asked pretty much the same set of questions on their metrics.

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."

Jun 26, 2017

What made you not like working at Blackstone? Also, did you find it difficult to recall/use your technical talent in CS after working in finance for 6 months? What are your thoughts on the "talent war" between Silicon Valley and Wall Street - obviously you chose the valley in the end but is finance becoming decreasingly attractive field for others as well? Thanks in advance!!

Jun 25, 2017

Re: Blackstone - On the good side, my peers (the people in my class) were amazing. I'm still really good friends with several of them even though it took some of them a bit to come to terms with my decision to leave. On the bad side... honestly it was kind of like hazing (I was in a fraternity at college). I don't by any means claim this was unique to BX - but there were MDs there who would throw your life into complete disarray just to fuck with you. As in - claim there was an emergency meeting that you needed to work all night to finish the deck for.... and then there wasn't a real meeting. Or even something scheduled. And he'd stop returning your calls. Like I said - not the worst story I've heard by far, but I had a bit of optionality due to my CS degree so I just took it an ran haha

Re: Technical Ability - I actually think I learned more after I left college than in college. Technology's funny that way - new languages, coding patterns, frameworks, etc. evolve at a pace that at least my college education in CS couldn't keep up with. A good example is today, to run my company - I've had to be very proficient in Swift/iOS and at least passable in Javascript (our backend are servers on Heroku running Node.js) - neither of which I learned in school (Swift wasn't even released when I was in college). So tl;dr - it's never been about recalling our using my previous technical talent - it's always been about powering through learning whatever I need to technically to build what we're building. Oddly that's more an exercise in self confidence and pure grit than anything about innate abilities.

Re: Talent War - I have mixed feelings haha. I really do believe that many of my brightest peers are in finance - and some of their experiences in banking and PE have given them tremendous business acumen and the ability to break down any business in the world to it's foundational pieces brilliantly. That's a skill I admire and a path I chose not to take. On the flip side being in tech puts you on the very cutting edge of what's driving society forward today and let's you build something from nothing - something that never existed before. So at the lowest level it's a question of life style, personal lean, etc. At the mid level it's a question of what you believe in more. At the highest level for me it's the question of what impact you really want your life to have - and who you want to be for your kids and grand kids. Sounds cheesy for sure - but I think most people (my college self included) never really get past the lowest tier. Tech was initially much more about life style and personal lean for me - about the immediate comforts. There I do think it wins pretty universally but that's just funneling pretty smart people who will go wherever the tide's high (metaphorically). I think you have to decide for yourself what really matters to you, versus what happens to be the hot thing today.

Caveat - all my personal opinions and claims across the board here lol.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 26, 2017

Thanks for the response man! Btw I'm going into freshman yr next year so really want to gather perspectives. Last questions, do you think you would be financially more successful had you stuck with finance? Ik pay shouldn't be the only determinant of career but interested in your thoughts on earning potential in Valley vs on the Street. Also, did u personally find finance or tech more challenging (intellectually/technically and generally)?

Jun 26, 2017

Do you have any tips for breaking into the tech space? Specifically in startups. I am very interested in potentially working at a tech company/startup and then leveraging that experience towards a career in venture capital (on the partner track)

Jun 27, 2017
sometechfounder:

Re: Talent War - I have mixed feelings haha. I really do believe that many of my brightest peers are in finance - and some of their experiences in banking and PE have given them tremendous business acumen and the ability to break down any business in the world to it's foundational pieces brilliantly. That's a skill I admire and a path I chose not to take. On the flip side being in tech puts you on the very cutting edge of what's driving society forward today and let's you build something from nothing - something that never existed before.

This is one of the more elegant comparisons of the working in the two industries I've seen. Appreciate the balanced perspective.

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7,548 questions across 469 investment banks. The WSO Investment Banking Interview Prep Course has everything you'll ever need to start your career on Wall Street. Technical, Behavioral and Networking Courses + 2 Bonus Modules. Learn more.

Jun 26, 2017

Curious to understand where your parent's reaction came from. If you knew coding well enough to work at FB and then start an app, why would your parents care if you left banking?

Jun 26, 2017
iBankedUp:

Curious to understand where your parent's reaction came from. If you knew coding well enough to work at FB and then start an app, why would your parents care if you left banking?

Seconded, I was quite surprised when I read that they cut of ties after you left Blackstone.

Jun 25, 2017

I think it was more that it was one of the few decisions in my life that they 100% opposed... and I still went through with it. So they kind of felt like I was wholesale ignoring their advice and feedback.

Before Facebook I also wasn't exactly the most dedicated millennial you'd find haha - I went through a lot of different "passions" that didn't last particularly long.

Now though our relationship is really quite good - they trust that I know more about what I'm doing and the choices I'm making than they do since those choices, while probably odd and abhorrent to them at the time - have worked out well for my happiness and well being. And they also recognize that just maybe the employment landscape has shifted a lot in the past few decades...

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 26, 2017

Simple, because OP may be Asian or East European. Money-grubby parents often look down at entrepreneurial kids - especially if they've failed. Speaking from personal experiences vis-a-vis experiences of cofounders' relationships with their parents. Asian parents prize stability over risk-taking.

GoldenCinderblock: "I keep spending all my money on exotic fish so my armor sucks. Is it possible to romance multiple females? I got with the blue chick so far but I am also interested in the electronic chick and the face mask chick."

Jun 26, 2017

Congrats on the YCombinator acceptance. I know it is insanely competitive.

Good luck with your startup... I honestly wish I was working at one now.

Jun 25, 2017

Thanks!! You can if you want - insert lots of inspirational and only kind of BS startup quotes

Haha but in all seriousness - you just have to get started and you'll get where you want to go.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 26, 2017

Were you essentially working on startups with your cofounder for all 4 years at Facebook until they became stable enough from a revenue generating perspective to leave FB? I imagine you went through quite a few failures before finding a winner so what was that process like?

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Jun 25, 2017

Hmm - kind of haha. At the beginning we were just kind of two peons in a different company that was a little nicer on average. We were on the business side - which had been a bit neglected comparatively and honestly didn't have as good tech as the consumer side at the time (much more the focus on Facebook overall).

We became best friends at the time from a mutual fuck-the-police and a focus-on-what-matters approach to our otherwise humdrum jobs and... decided to build a product ourselves that we thought the market needed. Let me say at this point that I do NOT recommend doing this haha - but basically we shipped the product to ad clients without really asking anyone... and it blew up a bit revenue-wise. Enough that Mark Z's reports were notified - and we were quite sure we were getting fired. At any other company I'm still convinced we would've been - but Facebook decided we'd actually done a good thing and... immediately promoted both of us to manage engineering teams instead so we could do more of what we were doing, but in a way with mentorship and proper resourcing.

We were already close and a thing like that really brought us together in a kind of flight-or-fight way. Around then we'd already started talking about leaving Facebook to found a company together, but the opportunities Facebook threw our way were a bit too opportunistic to turn down. Enough so that when our learning curves finally flattened out - it'd been 4 years. So basically we knew a couple things:
- We were great friends
- We had complimentary skill sets and built good products together
- We really cared about this space

From THERE is when the failures really start haha - i.e. after we quit. At Facebook with a reasonable drive and nice smartness it's not too difficult to succeed repeatedly (+luck as always). Out on your own it's straight failure - and I would say we're still in the process of finding a winner haha. Honestly the process of finding winners never really stops in tech - if you look at companies like DropBox for example: they've been continually redefining their product as crushing competition weighs down yearly... but they're also worth $10B lol.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 26, 2017

This is awesome man, I am a bit 'jelly'. I love reading about successful pitches/vc/accelerator interviews and hearing more about the process.

Any advice for someone that has an 'idea' for a start up that would require somewhere north of 900k+ to get running?
--It's kind of just a hypothetical for my start-up, I won a scholarship for it at a competition my junior year but haven't done so much as even think about it since. Market: Staffing.

Jun 25, 2017

Ah interesting. Hmm - well the interesting thing I've found about fundraising/Silicon Valley are two semi-truths that layer together:
- The people who matter at startups and big tech firms across the Bay Area collectively number... like 2000-5000 people. It's really a tiny community when you think about it. Which means...
- Reputation goes really far and it's often feast or famine. So 900K+ isn't by any means a crazy amount to seed at (I once had a conversation with an unnamed VP at Facebook before I left where I was expressing how I didn't want to take money from anyone before product market fit in case I lost it all... and he told me the absolute max investment I could ask from him was comparatively the cost of a sandwich to me on a % of net worth basis....".

With those two in mind I'd definitely focus primarily on getting a phenomenal co-founder that you have high confidence across a couple areas in decreasing priority order:
- You trust this person a lot.
- You two will stick it through for a couple years no matter what. It's like getting married.
- You two can absolutely, 100% execute against this idea in its minimal form as fast as possible. Do you really need $900K to test the waters? Launch as early as possible haha.
If you can say those three things about your cofounder - investors at a $900K seed won't be running to you, but they'll at least listen and you'll have a reasonable chance of raising from someone.

Happy to answer anything if there are any more specific questions!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 26, 2017

Odd question here - what were the hours like at FB?

Great thread by the way, thank you.

Jun 25, 2017

Highly variable across roles I would say? In my 4 years there I worked in pretty much every capacity from Sales to Engineering to Design to Product Management.

  • Sales is typically business-y with 9-5 or 10-6 hours but a spike for client pitches and things.
  • Engineering is work-when-you-want (no... really). Like work-from-home Wednesdays... I think one of my engineers worked-from-Brazil for the entire month of December once. But it comes with a few strings - you're on-call probably around a weekend every 2 months where if Facebook goes down... it's on you. Also, performance is production-oriented but like task-heavy. Which is kind of always either too monotonously easy or too crazy frustratingly difficult haha. So hours-wise it's really aggressive some times, really chilled out other times - but highly variant on average.
  • Design is kind of like engineering workloads/flexibility but with a lot more in-person reviews and debate about the right way to do things.
  • Product is... flexible. Meaning that you can always be working and it's easy to get organizationally overwhelmed with small things (like responding to the dozens of channels you get pinged on immediately across Messenger, Facebook, Email, Groups, Slack, Tasks, +5 more internal tools). Or you can learn to chill out and prioritize. I'd say a bit more than sales but definitely less than engineering and design? You do have to organize your workload around big reviews though - which can be excruciating or really helpful depending on your reporting chain haha.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 26, 2017

lol....how many times per minute do you laugh or giggle when you're awake, hahaha?

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Jun 27, 2017

it's easy on the way to the bank, Dick lol

Jun 25, 2017

I am fairly happy and energetic in person - I think that tends to help with the some times crippling despair of starting a company LOL. So I generally view it as a positive trait!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jul 27, 2017

Congrats on your success.

Jun 25, 2017

So kind of hilariously - I remember feeling the same way when I was in college. I started as an Econ major to be honest partially because I thought it was easier. Then once I realized I was interested in tech - I thought that maybe if I did Tech/TMT banking I could transition to like a corp dev role in Tech/TMT... and the way that banking sells it is that you can kind of "skip" levels and go in higher than an analyst/associate if you have a strong banking background...

So I have kind of my own perspective on this, and a perspective on the industry itself.

My personal belief is that a major part of the appeal in IBD/consulting (for me especially) was optionality - you maintain a lot of open paths after it. I realized 2 somewhat generalizable things after doing it for a while:
1) Life's too short to do shit you don't like doing every day
2) People who specialize earlier find outsized success later, though you may take a hit monetarily before you catch up
3) Something about just jump on the rocket ship instead of asking which seat you get? Catching trends/a wave is definitely helpful but probably of tertiary prioritization

For the industry I think Computer Science is never not helpful - but (especially in finance) - it's the combination of a technical base + soft skills like negotiation, leadership, etc. that really make a person a rock star. Funnily so - it's becoming exactly the same in technology too. I wouldn't go as far to say that engineering has become commoditized - but at a lot of the best technology companies it's never about what we can do (because you have enough resources to do pretty much everything) - it's about what we should do and why. So something inspiration about that combination of execution and vision haha.

I think our start-up's probably not too relevant in this discussion because at a super early stage software company (we're just founders + 2 interns) - you really only need engineering until you hit like 8-10. Then design - and only then maybe other roles as needed (community management, content strategy, product marketing, data science, etc.) - and it always depends on what the founders can't handle. I happen to have at least won't-get-fucked level ability in fundraising/finance so our first hire in this category would probably be a CFO.... which we wouldn't need until some serious fundraising hits. So probably like >$10M in fundraising which would be somewhere around series B and at the earliest maybeeeee the 20th employee but probably later. Fingers crossed I ever have that problem!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 27, 2017

How do you feel about Snapchat's new "Snap Map" feature? Seems be competing with you guys.

Jun 25, 2017

Oh trust me - we're really quite upset with that. But that's kind of the business we're in - the incumbents in tech (especially some ways in social) have a lotttt of staying power. Mostly because network effects are such a crazy strong defensible moat.

The defining part of starting a company emotionally is much higher ups (your company becomes an embodiment of you much more than when you work for someone else) and much much lower downs. So we're rolling with the punches lol. Also pick someone you really want to be in the trenches with to co-found... because otherwise you might actually want to kill each other haha.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 27, 2017

This is a fantastic story, well done & congrats.

Will check it out when I can.

Quick question. I am currently within Finance/trading with a degree in Engineering. Self teaching Python. While I love trading I won't do it for life.

How crucial is the CS degree vs. self teaching.

Which languages do you work with the most/recommend picking up? I'm really enjoying the ease of python in the first instance, I'll soon be applying that within the workplace in a new role to build some analytical tools.

Jun 25, 2017

I think the CS degree vs. self teaching is kind of a personal bias question - some people are better in forced classroom environments and some are better taking things at their own pace.

My recommendation would, regardless of what you're more comfortable at - to get really good at self teaching. Technology environments, stacks, libraries, languages etc. - move at a pace I don't think college curriculum's can really handle well. As an example you can look at Computer Science at the major schools and track how often they change languages... so I'd definitely bias to making sure:
1) You actually like Computer Science - this is the basis of self teaching for me. This doesn't mean you have to love algorithms or machine learning or theoretical CS. I love building things - the reason why I like CS is more like why I liked legos growing up haha.
2) You find a way to make sure you can sustainably learn. Some people have a penchant for abuse and raw grit - they just force themselves to learn. Some people need a semi-forced class environment like a Coursera or a Kant Academy. Whatever it is - figuring out how to insure you're learning constantly outside of what people make you learn (work/classrooms) is incredibly helpful.

Language-wise I'm not always super comfortable giving recommendations because of the fluid nature of tech. I would say I've found Javascript to be probably be the most flexible language (albeit some times excruciatingly painful). By flexible I mean you can use it across a lot of areas of technology: it's critical for web development, scales well for server code via node.js, and you can build apps simultaneously on Android/iOS using React. The one issue with it is it's primarily a web development language so those three things are in order of depth. I.e. for my company I still develop our iOS app in native Swift not because we couldn't use React, but just because I've found native Swift to be better documented and flexible with more libraries. So as a general recommendation Javascript covers a lot - but it's really use-case to use-case and it's better to learn the fundamentals of how to pick up new languages than to focus too much on one!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Best Response
Jun 27, 2017

This guy fucks.

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Jun 25, 2017

Aaaand this is now the highest voted response. Well done. I will say Silicon Valley on HBO is a surprisingly accurate portrayal of the Valley...

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 28, 2017

Damn, you literally cross everything that I wanna be! Hahaha. 2 quick questions for you:

1- What do you learn in finance that are beneficial in tech/ startups and vice versa?
2- As you mentioned earlier, good team/ co-founders are important. What is your suggestion of assembling such team if you're not in Silicon Valley or not even in finance, (where Wall St money attracts best talent)?

Jun 25, 2017

Aw - thanks haha!

1) Silicon Valley would prefer not admit this but finance actually teaches quite rigorous analytical skills and attention to detail. The former is much more valuable than you would think (data science/statistics/experimentation is critical to tech companies to understand what's actually going on) primarily because the best analysts are able to combine data with qualitative understanding. Finance actually teaches this quite well because nothing's ever totally cut-and-dry - which is the same in tech.

2) Hmm this one's hard. Honestly the best thing to do is to make a list of the best engineers you know (assuming you want to do software) and literally go one-by-one chasing them down until each and every person says no. And I mean every single one - you'd be surprised at how unhappy that one guy who seems to be in a super cushy job doing quant trading or at Google is - and how into a cool idea he would be!

Best of luck!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 28, 2017

Thanks for doing this! I'm sure everyone on this forum really appreciates you giving back to the community in this AMA.

As for my question, its in related to breaking in to large tech companies, such as Facebook or Google. As an IB intern right now, I definitely see myself doing IB immediately ft, but I've played with the idea of moving to a tech company in the near future, but also thought of jumping to PE after the classic IB stint.

What roles are available to people with IB or PE backgrounds that have very limited or no coding experience, besides corporate development? And would it be easier moving to large tech companies straight after IB compared to doing IB, then PE, then leaving? Thanks!

Jun 25, 2017

For sure! This forum gave me a lot when I was a truly clueless college kid so it's nice being able to give back a little.

Hmmm - so I would say this varies company-to-company and role-to-role a lot. For truly mature companies (Google, Microsoft, Apple) I think unfortunately it's pretty limited to Corporate Development or corporate finance roles. I wouldn't generally recommend taking one of those roles because in my personal experience they play a bit of second-fiddle role? I.e. Google is at its core an engineering company - Apple a design company - etc. So at Google engineering usually has final say, at Apple it's design, etc. If you're going to go to one of those, I'd find some way to get into those roles instead.

The younger "large" tech companies are where it get's interesting. This category currently are companies like AirBNB, Uber, Snapchat, Dropbox, and maybeeee Facebook though they've almost fully matured by now (Facebook circa 2014 was more of a young "large" tech company). These tech companies are actually probably the best places to work if you want a ton of growth opportunities and an accelerated learning curve without the disastrous black swan outcomes of true startups (i.e. what I'm doing right now LOL) where the entire thing goes to 0. The defining traits here are that these companies all know recruiting is incredibly important, but don't have the massive well-oiled recruiting machines that Google/Microsoft/Apple/Facebook have in place - and also kind of are mid-flight in defining their culture. So - they basically just need a ton of really smart, scrappy people who are willing to play jack-of-all-trades like at a really early start-up, but without as much risk of straight 0s in equity and with at least a base of really good people to learn from (at startups it's typically only the founders + founding team who are super strong). In these companies I've definitely seen my friends from IBD or consulting backgrounds (more consulting typically) move either across the company from Corp Dev to Product Management - or into critical roles like General Manager roles at Uber (on-the-ground deployments, i.e. Uber's bread and butter).

Funnily enough I don't think I've ever seen anyone move from PE into non-Corp Dev tech - I guess you're probably more locked in at that point? I.e. it's harder to make the argument that your skills are transferable? That's just a guess though on a limited sample size.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jun 28, 2017

Thank you so much for the in-depth response, cleared a lot of things up for me! Best of luck in your start-up endeavors man.

Jun 29, 2017

You can never ask for validation from people who aren't willing to take the same chances you are. They don't really understand risk. You take real risk. Congrats.

Jun 29, 2017

Thanks for doing this AMA @sometechfounder ! I'm interested in Product Management as a potential career path and had a few questions:

  1. As a Product Manager at Facebook, what were your day to day responsibilities?
  2. Was the PM role more tech focused or was it intertwined with the business side as well?
  3. What is the typical educational/work experience needed to be a PM at FB (or a comparable tech company)?
Jun 25, 2017

Happy to!

Re #1: It's definitely more varied than other roles because PM is the jack-of-all trades role - but I'd say typically everything is anything to lead and help your team build. A lot of the time this involves meetings with different parties (engineering, design, other PMs, leaders at the company, product marketing, legal, etc.) to help everyone reach joint consensus on issues and/or decide what to actually build for people. Some times it involves reviews with leadership where you make your case for new initiatives. I think the most surprising part for my role in Product was how everyone defaults to you for decision making. Honestly, at first it kind of felt weird - as any other junior employee I'd say you mostly look to others for guidance. In product (at least at Facebook) it's more of thrown-in-the-fire type of learning experience haha. The amazing part is that you actually have real responsibility and real accountability (some people don't like this though) - and can really track your direct impact. The scary part is, of course - when everyone in the room looks to you by default to be the final say - they're trusting that you're listening and weighing people's opinions and being fair. Nothing forces anyone to work for/with you in tech (especially for high optionality roles like engineering or design) and so trust is really the binding ethos.

Re #2: Hmm - I would re-word this as consumer-focused, business-focused, or tech-focused haha. Definitely varies product-to-product. Almost a full half of the company at Facebook is on advertising products - so those are all at least somewhat business-focused (what advertisers want, how to measure it, taking their feedback and building new business units). I'd say that most other products are consumer-focused with a minority being truly tech focused. Consumer-focused products are totally user-centric - where it's honestly much more qualitative and sense-heavy. You spend a lot of time trying to figure out what people really want versus what people just say they want (i.e. probably very few people would say they'd love to stalk all the opposite gender people they're into on the internet.... but they ALL want that. A lot a lot. $400B a lot.). Tech-heavy roles are mostly isolated to areas of the company like infrastructure/data centers (almost no "Product" Managers - they have "Technical Product Managers" instead... which is a very different more project-management role. The major distinction is if you're tasked with purely organizational work or with strategic and organizational work.). The areas on consumer/business products where there are tech-heavy roles are the ranking and algorithmic teams - like News Feed Ranking, Ads Ranking/Delivery, etc.

Re #3: Ah the most variable question of all haha. Each company has their own culture and own preference for PMs - Google used to be notorious for requiring every PM to go through a coding interview (useless in my opinion, but that was part of their culture). Facebook has seen, through actual real data, that C.S. gives people a boost for the first 6 months or so, but has no correlation with performance a year or so out. So Facebook consciously does about a 33/33/33 split of C.S./Eng or technical non C.S./completely non-technical. They've seen that the defining trait of really strong Product Managers is execution ability combined with an openness to understanding people problems - neither of which is particularly correlated with a strong math/science background. Work experience in my time at Facebook really only influences where you come in compensation/leveling-wise - the only awkward timing happens if you end up too far into your career with no Product/tech experience. I.e. if you're like <30 you can transition into the entry-level PM roles at most mature tech companies. Much more experience than that and it's kind of an awkward spot to justify roles in tech (#businessschool anyone? tl;dr I think business school is actually negatively correlated with strong Product Management performance.... though I'm probably just biased by small sample size haha).

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 29, 2017

@sometechfounder These answers were very helpful and insightful. Much appreciated, thanks!

Jun 29, 2017

Thanks for this amazing AMA. I really loved the new set of insights I gained from reading this, (i) so I wanted to ask if there are any forums/resources similar to WSO for the tech space (i.e. focus on career & industry knowledge) that would help people with M&A/PE backgrounds interested in transitioning into the tech industry?
(ii) Also,, how does FB (or "younger large tech companies" in general) view MBAs? Is there an upside in pursuing an MBA for M&A/PE people in comparison to simply applying for roles directly?

Jun 25, 2017

Hmm - I don't think there are any forums (at least one's I'm aware of) that cater to tech the same way WSO does for finance. There are a ton of good articles on Medium, a16z, First Round Review, etc. though. Maybe someone should go... build that haha.

Re: I think mixed overall. At Facebook young Product Managers with MBAs were a rarity - I think there were probably a couple in each class year for the young PMs but no more than 2-3 out of 20. There's probably some slight upside to doing an MBA since it allows for a full rebranding if you've made it as far as PE roles - though that skews heavily towards Stanford. Generally I think an MBA's not super useful to either the actual skills of being a PM or for recruiting haha.

Hope that helps!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jun 29, 2017

Thank you, much appreciated!

Jun 29, 2017

Are you for real? This is a sick story.

Jun 30, 2017

Wow this is probably one of the best threads I've seen on this site. Thank you for your insight - I read every response.

I'm not nearly as motivated or driven as you are, but I look up to people like you. I'd be happy with a 150k job working 9-5 in a low CoL city lol.

Great stuff!

Jun 30, 2017

this is some good shit, shows the American Dream is still alive at full force if you're willing to buck up n shut up- and work your ass off. You better check back in at a later date so we can see how successful this venture will be for you.

Jun 30, 2017

Tell us about your current company! Is the company named SpotMap or OurChat?

Jun 25, 2017

The company is SpotMap and we build apps to connect you with people around you! OurChat is our latest iteration and the app that we're currently pushing on the hardest given it's stronger retention metrics.

You should check it out and give feedback if you have any - feel free to DM me!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

Jul 2, 2017

Thanks for contributing this - wonderful insight. I noticed your comment about your Facebook colleague comparing a potential investment to the relative cost of a sandwich. Antonio Garcia Martinez in his book Chaos Monkeys seems to suggest there was a sense of resentment at Facebook post-IPO between early employees with significant equity holdings (though not significant talent) and later employees with less equity but perhaps more talent. I.e subordinates with a significantly higher net worth than their direct manager solely as a result of being in the right place at the right time and rewarded for the risk they took. Was this your experience/ is Martinez observation accurate and what impact did this have among colleagues?

Jul 9, 2017

Which organization is the most egotistical: Blackstone,FB,YC?...where do they fall if you had to rank them?

"Not me. Im in my prime"

Jun 25, 2017

Lol - I would definitely say Blackstone is the most egotistical.... then Facebook, and then YCombinator?

The way I would justify this ranking is in how not self-conceited I found both the people and the culture at those organizations. I think that the direct counter to growing self-conceit is generally admission of wrongness (which I also think is a very healthy part of all strong organizations). Blackstone far-and-away was the place least likely to admit wrong or failure - and this attitude prevailed in a disproportionately strong way the farther up the organization you went.

Facebook on average has had to do a large number of things that turned out to be crazy wrong some times - and it's only through admission of those mistakes and learning from those mistakes that the company has survived until now. Prime examples of wrongness include initial attitudes about mobile pre-IPO that had to be corrected, the initial implementation of News Feed, selling Page Likes, etc.

However YCombinator takes the cake for sure in this regard - YCombinator, as a seed stage accelerator, is wrong far more often than they're right (even though they vaguely seem to be right the most often out of all seed stage accelerators... but on an absolute basis this is still far lower than 50%). Hence, in my experience, they're nearly ego-less - because of the need to admit wrongness twice a year, on greater than 50% of decisions made.

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jul 9, 2017

If you were to hit it big with this company would you retire at an early age, or keep working?

Jun 25, 2017

Ah I think this actually highlights a particularly interesting difference between finance and technology.

Generally I found most, but not all of my co-workers in finance worked to accumulate wealth. The faster the accumulation, the earlier the retirement age.... but then what? Will you then chase what you really want? Or will you layabout on a beach? Neither seemed particularly logical to me IF that's your primary reason for being in finance. You should chase what you really want now if you have something in that category - if your goal is to layabout on a beach maybe it's the right call, but for most people aggressive and ambitious enough to make it there, I think they'll find themselves imminently bored (or at least I would).

That, I suppose, has indirectly answered your question. I love taking beautiful vacations as much as the next guy, but as I've gotten a bit more experienced (at the ripe age I'm at haha) I've found that the spectrum of life for me is much more fluid. When I was at Facebook I had a lot of freedom - and so my job was mostly whatever I felt motivated to do. By the end there was little of a superior commanding me to do things and a lot of me working together with my managers and peers to jointly agree and guide technology products forward.

Today of course, I literally do almost exactly whatever I want to do each and every day. There are times when I'm tired obviously, or stressed, or angry/sad/frustrated - but a big part of starting a company for me was believing in putting something that is a representation of what I believe out in the world (and seeing if that's valuable). That comes with bearing the responsibility that any failures or missteps are also wholly your fault (there's no managers to blame or bureaucracy or anything else anymore really) - which is the major difference between starting a company for me and working at Facebook.

So all of that's a long-winded way of saying, I think if I hit it big I'd take a few weeks or maybe a month off - and then start building something else I really believe in. Over the course of my admittedly short career, I've found that the difference between "working" and "retiring" (which I've defined as just having the freedom to do whatever I want to do every hour of every day) has entirely blurred - and I find myself very lucky to be able to live life like that now!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Jul 12, 2017

what did you hate so much about Blackstone? was it the company you disliked? or the job itself? care to elaborate?

Jun 25, 2017

For sure! I actually wouldn't say I hated Blackstone - if anything I'm somewhat grateful that I discovered early on in my career that M&A/PE was likely the worst fit culturally and fit-wise for me (even within finance). On that note, I actually quite liked the internships I did in trading and corp dev - though to be fair I did corp dev at Disney and that place is overflowing with well deserved Koolaid and happiness.

On Blackstone - honestly it was mostly the people I worked for. My peers were amazing (many of whom are still among the smartest people I know) - and I'm still quite close with a large number of them. The work was a bit meh - especially since I'd experienced the other areas of finance above where comparatively I found trading to be more intellectually engaging and corp dev to be more fun (which likely varies a lot company-to-company and was mostly due to me being at Disney).

Hopefully that helps!

Founder at a tech startup you've never heard of but just might hear about some day: rebrand.ly/getspotwso

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Apr 30, 2018

Hi how did you get your position at facebook? How much networking did you do ? Is it a product manager role ? Thanks in advance!