How do you move from SEM to VC to Mobile Startup? We asked Eric Friedman of Foursquare

Eric Friedman has had a diverse career that’s taken him from ad and SEM agencies to a venture capital firm and most recently to a mobile startup (Foursquare) where he leads the revenue operations team. Below Eric talks about why he made these career moves and shares his thoughts on why one might choose a startup career. –John

You started your career working at digital agencies, moved over to the VC world, and now are at a mobile startup (Foursquare) which you joined as the first business development team member. Did you have a long term career goal of working at a startup or did it just happen organically? I’d love to hear about how you thought about your various job changes.

From SEM to VC to Mobile Startup Foursquare - Eric Friedman

Mad Men (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I knew early on that I wanted to work at a startup. But I also wanted to understand what it was like to work at a bigger company. That’s what led me to work at an agency, which was my first “real” job after I graduated from college.

What I soon realized is that traditional advertising was not measurable so I immediately gravitated towards digital. I soon left the larger agency and joined an early stage search marketing firm – effectively moving even further down the funnel into measurable advertising. I thought search engine marketing was the best possible solution for a marketer and worked to build up the company according to that vision.When the agency was sold to a large agency holding company (IPG), I contemplated for my next move.

I didn’t know what startup I wanted to work with/for and found myself constantly blogging about early stage companies. Since I was so interested in these types of companies it ended up being a perfect fit for where I landed – venture capital firm Union Square Ventures.

I spent the next two years looking at early stage companies, talking with their founders, and learning as much as possible about building teams and building businesses. During that time I met the Foursquare team and recognized that talking to a real customer/potential customer in their place of business was further down the funnel than any advertising I had seen to date – including search.

Interested in working with Eric at Foursquare? Click here to see their current job postings.

I wanted to help build the business from the inside and left Union Square Ventures to take the first role on the business development team. Then about 2 years ago I started our revenue team. In that new role I became responsible for building out scalable products/offerings. I have spent the last few years building and scaling a team as well as the engine that runs it.

It has been an amazing time thus far and I encourage anyone who is exploring a startup career to follow something that is really interesting to them. It may be tough to see the light at the end of the tunnel at first but if you are really working on something that you enjoy it’s a better path than something that might pay more.

Plus, you’ll be happier in the long run! 🙂

You’ve taught a Skillshare class about how to get a startup job. What compelled you to create this course?

I was lost for awhile trying to get a job at a startup and it’s clear others are too. I taught this course to help those who may have been in a similar position to me when they started their startup job hunt. My good friend started Skillshare a few years ago and it is a great platform for someone like me who enjoys helping people, so that’s why we decided to use it to handle course registration and logistics.

The course was geared towards providing actionable advice for startup job hunters. I worked closely with my co-teacher Christina Cacioppo who did a great job complementing the course. We focused on outreach, communication, and overall awareness about what someone was getting into should they decide to work for a startup.

95% of the jobs out there are with more established organizations while maybe 5% are with startups. Placement firms, alumni groups, and recruiters are trying to optimize people and resumes for the 95%.  If you’re looking for a startup job it’s critical to understand that startups use very different processes than established organizations to find and evaluate talent.

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