Starred: How Foursquare's Biz-Dev Guru Convinced Dennis Crowley To Give Him A Chance (And A Job)

Welcome to another edition of Starred, where we take you deep inside the inboxes of our favorite CEOs, entrepreneurs, and VCs. Think that first message Jack Dorsey ever sent to Biz Stone describing his crazy idea for a 140-character blogging platform--the emails you've had starred in your inbox for years, saved almost solely for nostalgia. Joining us today, Tristan Walker, business development director at Foursquare. Walker was featured last night on CNN's latest installment of its "Black in America" series, which focused on race in Silicon Valley. Here's an email dug out of the archives that served as an inspiration for the Starred series--and shows how Walker made the leap from grad student to Foursquare. 

Two years ago I sent my very first email to [Foursquare founders] Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai. (Wow, I was such a nerd! Ha.) Naveen sent a reminder to Team Foursquare [recently], and I thought I’d share it on my blog. Man, how times have changed:

Hey Dennis and Naveen

How’s it going? Hope all is well!

My name is Tristan Walker and Im a first year student (going into mysecond year) at Stanford Business School (originally from New York).Im a huge fan of what you both have built and excited about what youguys have planned for FourSquare. It is an awesome , awesome service.

I would love to chat with you guys at some point, if you’re available,about FourSquare. This year, I’m looking to help out and workextremely hard for a startup with guys I can learn a ton from. Dennis,with your experience at Google and the Dodgeball product, and Naveen,with your experience at Sun and engineering in general, I know I couldlearn a great deal from you both!

Before business school, I was an oil trader on Wall Street for abouttwo years and hated it! Moved out to the Bay/Stanford to pursue mypassion for entrepreneurship and the startup world. This past spring Ihad the opportunity to work for Twitter as an intern and learned aton. Solidified my commitment to working at a startup that I’mpassionate about, and FourSquare is one of those startups that Ibelieve in.

I know you guys are probably getting inundated with internship-typerequests, but thought it’d be worth a shot! I can assure you Im humbleand Im hungry! Let me know if you’d be interested in chatting further.I definitely look forward to hearing from you.

Stay awesome!
Tristan
@tristanwalker

---------------------
tristan j. walker |  mba class of 2010
stanford graduate school of business

A few things to note here:

•I spelled foursquare as “FourSquare,” with a capital F and capital S. TWICE! (So taboo these days, ha.) Talk about green…and who says, “Stay awesome!” (Hilarity!)
•I sent this email after really thinking hard about this post from Jenn Van Grove at Mashable. (Thanks, Jenn!) After reading, I IMMEDIATELY started to think about the potential for merchants and brands to start interacting with customers in ways that have never been done before. I read that post in May of 2009--I believe and signed up that same day.
•After using foursquare everyday for about two months, I knew I had to work for the company. On July 16th, I scoured the Internets, found Dennis's and Naveen’s emails (#crazytristan), and shot them an email right away. This was before they even had @foursquare.com email addresses (and well before our Series A round). 
•This is the first of 8 emails I sent Dennis and Naveen. They both must have thought I was crazy. On the 8th email, Dennis replied:

You know what, I just may take you up on some of this, are you ever in nyc?

-dennis

You could tell he was a bit annoyed (sorry Dennis! Oh well…ha). I thought on it for a little bit, and replied back with something along the lines of…

hey dennis, yeh I was planning on being in ny tomorrow. [Note: I was in L.A. at the time! And no, I definitely had zero plans to be in NYC.] how about we meet up live at your offices?

-tristan

Then i booked my flight that night, flew out the following morning, hung out with him and Naveen for a week, and one month later I was full-time at good ol' foursquare.

Which brings me to my last point. A lot of folks ask me how I've been able to secure some pretty cool spots at awesome companies. My answer is always the same: Be so enamored with the product that you would work for the company even if they didn't hire you. More importantly, find where the needs are within the organization and be willing to do whatever it takes to help them fill the need. (Work for free even!) MOST importantly, make sure that you're filling a need that the organization doesn't have the resources to fill on its own. If a company is not willing to let a hungry, passionate, smart, unpaid advocate of the product help the organization fill its need (when it doesn't have the resources to do so itself), then you probably shouldn't be working at the company anyway. They’re just being arrogant.

Dennis and Naveen made pretty clear that their passion was with product (and they're the best in the world at it). I knew I could help them (without much guidance and hand holding) to think through the business opportunities and potential for foursquare. And I did it for free--for 30 days, at least :). I gained their trust, which was most important.

The past two years for me have been nothing short of amazing. Dennis and Naveen didn't have to, but they gave me a shot and really changed my life. I owe those guys a ton. I'm truly appreciative of it all. Now, back to work…

Join us next Monday for another edition of Starred, or check out past editions:
Starred: The Email That Launched Airbnb
Starred: When Reddit Cofounder Alexis Ohanian First Pitched His Brotastic Startup
Starred: LinkedIn Cofounder Allen Blue Reveals First Ever LinkedIn Invite
Starred: How Box Cofounder Aaron Levie Enticed VCs Like Mark Cuban To Battle Microsoft, Google

[iImage: Flickr user TechCrunch]

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3 Comments

  • Earl Cole

    Actually, wearing the red suit could be quite helpful... it shows "Hey people, I come bearing gifts... wrapped in my resume!".  Anyway, big fan of the Starred series.  Thanks for the great insight.

    Earl

  • Earl Cole

    Stay Awesome! Ha! Hey, Tristan.  I say your determination and smarts surely helped you get the gig... but a whole lot of luck and stars being aligned surely helped as well.  I think some people call it "timing".  Anyway, I think you have done a great job and Dennis and Naveen made a great decision in hiring you. I remember writing such letters during my final year of school.  I actually wrote a letter to the head of McCann-Erickson Advertising (Seattle) telling him I was going to be their first intern by creating their initial internship program... yes, and working for free. I told him I wouldn't need a chair cause I planned on standing up the entire time during business hours. I got the gig.  All this led to me starting my own innovative video advertising company, Particle 5. Just goes to show you that you never know what that little extra effort will bring you.  If the there's no open door for you, try sneaking in through the window... or the basement, or the chimney, minus the red suit.

    Earl Cole
    CEO/Co-Founder, Particle 5

  • brett

    Great story! Truly inspiring. For any entrepreneurs, its so important to pitch
    your product (yourself) in the right frame to potential companies or investors. I
    just wrote an article on how to best pitch your ideas to potential
    investors (companies, angels and VC’s). Check it out: http://venturekings.wordpress....