Mike Perry, Twitter
What I Learned from Reaching out to the NYC Startup Community & Its Influencers
When one thinks of tech startups, generally SF is the first city to come to mind. Silicon Valley was the pioneer of the tech boom and still dominates the industry. However, in the previous years Boston has slowly crept up to SF in funding and startup volume. That being said, cities like NYC often get overlooked. As a BC student that has a strong alumni network located in Boston, it’s much easier to find folks in Boston that work for impactful startups. Yet, when I originally went to seek internships at startups in NYC, it was incredibly tough to find alumni connections that were doing big things in the NYC area. The NYC startup community is not that as well connected to BC as Boston or SF. At first, I figured it was also not very vast – but I have come to realize that this is just not true.
Meandering around NYC long enough and being immersed in a startup has made me realize how deep the tech community is in NYC. While we do not see this much at BC because of our location, there are many influencers in this tech community that are vastly experienced and knowledgeable.
That being said, I strongly encourage folks with internships in any city, whether it be the hub of the startup community, SF, or smaller communities like LA or NYC, to go out and network with folks in the community.
Now, I think networking is becoming a gross and overused word. By networking I do not mean attend a local startup soiree – though by all means do so if you want. Rather, I suggest you do your homework and find folks that work at innovative firms that catch your eye and reach out to them! At first, this seems a bit intimidating. Why would a CMO or VP want to speak to a college student? Well, as I have come to find out, many of them are willing to clear their schedule to do so.
How I Went About It
It all depends on how you frame your outreach and how you strategically go about finding folks to speak to. As I mentioned earlier, narrow it down to a list of firms that you love in your area. From there, search LinkedIn for folks in impactful position at these firms and examine their journey. If you think they have a compelling story to share, reach out to them. Some people would advise against seeking out VPs or higher up folks, but I have found that even Directors are willing to speak to you if you frame things appropriately.
Framing your email is important for making the most of your outreach. I prefer emailing folks over LinkedIn messaging, but that’s just me. The email naming scheme is pretty standard across most firms so if you do not have the folks email, it is is not difficult to guess it on a whim. Nonetheless, keep I like to keep my emails as brief as possible. People are busy and I am one of many inbound messages they get per day.
After starting my email with a very brief background about myself, I get to the point. This is key because this email is not about you, the sender. It’s about them. You want to hear their story, you want to hear about them. You don’t want this to be a boilerplate email. The recipient should feel good about wanting to speak with you.
In conclusion, make a personalized call to action: “I would love to grab coffee to chat more about your journey from the corporate world to a startup”. This approach shows interest in what they do and also demonstrates that you did your research rather than email blasting tons of people!
This seems like a lot of work. And to a degree, it is. You have to do your research and you have to write many intriguing emails. A template does not really cut it. But this pays off in more ways than one. Getting to know the local community helps you get a better feel for the various individuals that keep the startup world thriving. It helps you learn more about what others went through so you can better examine your career journey and better find a job post college that fits you. Most importantly, you get to meet awesome people. Whether these people could ever get you a job in the future, you never really know. But using your status as a college student grants you much easier access now than you will have to meeting folks in the future. Getting to meet these folks may be incredibly beneficial for you or maybe not. In the best-case scenario, you make a connection that can help guide you in your journey in various ways.
Proof This Summer That It’s Worked
Believe it or not, at the time I wrote this, I was reaching out to some people in the NYC community. Now two months later as I go to revise my work, the advice I was outlaying has paid dividends.
I met an impactful leader for a well-known startup at 8am one morning that told me that my outreach email was a model for what all interns should doing. Beyond the compliment, if I had never sent this email, I would never have had the opportunity to meet this truly amazing person who I learned so much from.
Finally, in early July I reached out to some folks at Flatiron Health. Doing so was the enabler for what landed me an internship for this upcoming school year. I always admired the work of Flatiron Health but never knew anyone from the firm. Going into the summer they were one of my biggest interests. Fortunately the woman who is now my boss was incredibly nice and willing to sit and chat with me. After hearing my background at Handy in growth marketing, she connected with someone on the team who was hiring for an internship spot. One thing led to another, and I fit the bill well enough to land an internship immediately following my summer gig at Handy.
Had I not done had this intrigue to meet startup leaders in my community, had I not done my research and actually put my plan into action to reach out to these people, I would have never gotten my current internship. I would have never met some amazing folks who might have potential future opportunities in store for me.
Having the credentials for the perfect internship only gets you part of the way. Meeting influential people in the community matters just as much.
But, as I have learned immensely, you must be willing to create opportunities for yourself. You must create room for future opportunities to happen, as they will not just come to you. Reaching out to meet folks and learn about what they do does just this.
Reach out to people and take advantage of the network of wisdom that surrounds you while you can.