Wisdom Shared From

78 Tech Trailblazers


Three weeks ago I graduated from the growth track at Tradecraft. It’s a three month program that prepares individuals for traction roles at high growth startups. (See my post How Twitter Changed My Life on my decision to join Tradecraft.)

One of my favorite aspects of the program was the five mentor sessions each week. I love meeting new people, learning about their backgrounds, and the decisions they’ve made that led to where they are today.

I also sent out cold emails to people with backgrounds I’d like to emulate. These cold emails resulted in over 50 coffee meetings. I also met dozens of people through attending the Brit + Co Re:Make Conference and Women 2.0 Conference.

My lack of fear sending cold emails stems from my background of journalism at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School. My teacher required we have three different sources for every story, meaning that I’d have to speak with dozens of people to get my quotes.

Since I’ve learned so much over the past three months from people I’ve met, I wanted to share a few takeaways. Here’s the outline:

  • On Growth (Josh Elman, Sean Ellis, Brian Balfour, Gustaf Alstromer, Zack Onisko, Melody McCloskey, Laura Klein, Ada Chen Rekhi, Ryan Delk, Arjun Naskar, Katelyn Watson, Aarthi Ramamurthy, Danny Moy, and Jordan Koene)
  • Share Feedback (Maya Grinberg, Cathy Vigrass, Randi Zuckerberg, and Krithika Muthukumar)
  • On Networking & Friendships (Brit Morin, Dave Morin, Julia Hartz, Hiten Shah, Alexander Tibbets, Amanda Pouchot, Perri Blake Gorman, and Frederik Hermann)
  • On Leadership (Xochi Birch, Dave Morin, Doug Landis, Sean Sheppard, Misha Chellam, Lisa Falzone, James Proud, Raz Roman, Tristan Pollock, and Erica Brescia)
  • On Investing & Fundraising (Dave Morin, Hunter Walk, Crystal McKellar, Victoria Ransom, Pascal Levy-Garboua, Amit Kumar, Jessica Mah, and Thomas Korte)
  • How to Approach Learning (Kathy Savitt, Irene Au, Xochi Birch, LJ Kwak, Graham Hunter, John Barrows, Jenna White, Sofia Pessanha, and Shawn Plunkett)
  • How Startups Evolve (Danielle Morrill, Roy Bahat, Gagan Biyani, Jack Mardack, Jocelyn Goldfein, Jenny Morrill, Lisa Falzone, John Eagan, Arjun Naskar, and Elena Grewal)
  • Advice on Finding a Job (Sam Shank, Jared Fliesler, Sheana O’Sullivan, Russell Klusas, Matt Ellsworth, Elli Sharef, and Lauren Vingiano)
  • Be Creative (Cathy Vigrass, Camille Ricketts, and David Nihill)
  • On Personal Development (Jared Fliesler, Libby Leffler, Chris Kim, Joshua Scott, Andrea Soto, and Santiago Merea)
  • On Being a Woman in Tech (Sheryl Sandberg, Lauren Kay, Mona Sabet, and Sofia Pessanha)

“If you’re offered a seat on a rocketship, don’t ask what seat.”

— Sheryl Sandberg


On Growth

Josh Elman
Partner, Greylock
  • The most valuable growth tactic at Twitter was calling people. We asked why they signed up, why they left, and what they are using it for now.
  • Find out what the people that keep returning are doing. A reverend started tweeting, and then the congregants felt closer to the church. A clown was using Twitter as a contact management system.
    Tweet this

Sean Ellis
Qualaroo, Founder & CEO
  • I ask users, would they be able to live without this product?
    Tweet this

Brian Balfour
HubSpot, VP of Growth
  • Focus, in any respect — whether it’s a growth strategy, product strategy, or life strategy. Pick something, work on it for a substantial period of time, and reflect on it.
  • I am always asking why, why, why.
    Tweet this
  • Best practices can be disproven at any time, and need to be changed.

Gustaf Alstromer
Airbnb, Growth Product Manager
  • It is better to have 100 users that love you, instead of 1,000 users who kind of love you. If you find people who love you, you can work backwards and find out why they love you.
  • Think of your product in terms of problems. It is easy to improve things that are already working than to start new things.
    Tweet this

Zack Onisko
Autodesk, Head of Growth & Marketing

What is going to move the needle the most in the shortest amount of time?
Tweet this


Melody McCloskey
StyleSeat, Co-founder & CEO
  • Advice from mentor Travis Kalanick, Uber CEO: When I was thinking about my first year of business, he asked about year two and three. How could we cut months to execute the vision?
    Tweet this

Laura Klein
Hint Health, VP of Product
  • Watch people use your product over and over again.
  • People focus heavily on quant. Know where people are coming out of the funnel, and also why.
    Tweet this

Ada Chen Rekhi
Survey Monkey, Product & Online Marketing
  • For growth connoisseurs, sign up for a bunch of startups and do nothing. See what happens and how the startups respond.
    Tweet this

Ryan Delk
Gumroad, Growth
  • Before when Gumroad sellers made over $1,000, I’d write them a handwritten “thank you” card. Now we send “thank you” baskets when sellers hit sales

amounts. Referrals are because people love Gumroad.
Tweet this


Arjun Naskar
Homejoy, Growth
  • Detroit is a loss for Uber. They keep it because people expect to use Uber when traveling.
    Tweet this
  • If you can afford to expand a company, do it. If not, find a way.
    Tweet this

Katelyn Watson
IfOnly, VP Marketing
  • Tweet at newspapers about a great article they wrote about your company. They’ll retweet it because it was their article. Then your page views will increase!
    Tweet this

Aarthi Ramamurthy
Lumoid, Founder & CEO
  • Without the customer, there is no product. Tweet this
  • Make a few micro changes at the same time to compare different customer responses.

Danny Moy
King, VP Partnerships & Business Operations
  • Specialize your product to the local market.
    Tweet this

Jordan Koene
Searchmetrics, Chief Evangelist
  • The smartest person in the room says, instead of developing new content, let’s remove content.
    Tweet this

Share Feedback

Maya Grinberg
Wealthfront, Director of Marketing
  • Maya was an early Wealthfront user (and joined when it was called KaChing). She loved the service, and would often send ideas. One day they reached out to her about joining the team.

Cathy Vigrass
Sosh, Business Development
  • Engage in conversations on Twitter with people you want to work with. Then they’ll recognize your name, and hopefully a coffee meetup will be next! Tweet this
  • Cathy tweeted at the Sosh founders a few times (without the aim for a job). One time she tweeted a photo of her wearing a Jawbone and a Misfit wearable device, and the CEO of Sosh responded about meeting up.

Randi Zuckerberg
Zuckerberg Media, CEO
DotComplicated, Editor
SiriusXM, Radio Host
  • Tell your boss if your work isn’t challenging. At Randi’s first job after Harvard, she primarily made photocopies for a year. She finally spoke with her boss, who never realized that she wasn’t being challenged enough.
    Tweet this

Krithika Muthukumar
Stripe, Product Marketing
  • Stripe is transparent. They -cc a list on every email. This allows them to get input faster and work evolves faster. Advice: get input often and early.
    Tweet this

On Networking & Friendships

Brit Morin
Brit + Co, CEO
  • The people who are tweeting at me, I see their faces and we’re building a relationship. Tweeting at people is the new cold call.
    Tweet this

Dave Morin
Path, Co-founder & CEO
Investor
  • While working at Apple, Dave would go into Steve Jobs’s office to chat. No one else would.
    Tweet this

Julia Hartz
Eventbrite, Co-founder & President
  • Humans need to connect offline to live a fulfilling life. Live experiences have increased in value.
    Tweet this

Hiten Shah
KISSmetrics, Co-founder
Crazy Egg, Co-founder
  • Networking is not about researching a person's background. It's about seeing what they are into now — on Twitter, blogs, etc.
    Tweet this

Alexander Tibbets
IFTTT, Co-founder
  • Be a luncher. Networking helps with recruiting, building partnerships, getting VC funding, and having a network also means that you have people to go to when you have questions.
    Tweet this

Amanda Pouchot
Levo League, Co-founder
  • Amanda stressed the importance of having a supporter. She had two great supporters while working at McKinsey, who made intros for some of Levo League’s initial funding. The investors trusted Amanda’s supporters, and knew that she must be amazing since she had their support.
    Tweet this

Perri Blake Gorman
Archively, Founder & CEO
  • Introductions are great. Social proof is better.
    Tweet this
  • Front load all relationships.
  • Study who you want to be like.
  • If you don’t have something to offer a person, you can pay attention.
    Tweet this
  • Don’t apply for jobs on job boards. Use your network.

Frederik Hermann
Jawbone, Director of Growth
  • Build a brand identity around yourself. You are not attached to a company. Build your identity around your full name. Use the same picture across social media so people can recognize you.
    Tweet this

On Leadership

Xochi Birch
The Battery, Co-founder
Monkey Inferno, Co-founder
Bebo, Co-founder
  • Xochi was happy she didn’t reach success until her early 30s. By then she had already developed as a person, and the money didn’t go to her head. The day after she and Michael sold Bebo,
    they saw Forgetting Sarah Marshall in the middle of the day!

Dave Morin
Path, Co-founder & CEO
Investor
  • You’ve achieved success when you can deal with a challenge quickly.
    Tweet this

Doug Landis
Box, VP of Sales and Productivity
  • Give a meeting schedule, otherwise management will take it over. Provide a recap, purpose, plan, and outcome.
    Tweet this

Sean Sheppard
Tradecraft, Sales & BD Instructor
  • It’s Not About You. Your success is measured by the success of your people. Tweet this
  • MBWA (Management By Walking Around). Tweet this

Misha Chellam
Tradecraft, Co-founder

Lisa Falzone
Revel Systems, Co-founder & CEO
  • Read books about others who you want to emulate.
    Tweet this

James Proud
Hello, Founder & CEO
  • Be skeptical about everything.
    Tweet this
  • Delegate tasks.

Raz Roman
Two Tap, Co-founder & CEO
  • No one knows your company better than you do.
    Tweet this

Tristan Pollock
Storefront, Co-founder & COO
  • I’m constantly taking on and pulling off layers — just like a rattlesnake. I’m shifting responsibilities.
    Tweet this

Erica Brescia
BitNami, Co-founder & COO
  • Outsource anything that is not imperative to the business.
    Tweet this

On Investing & Fundraising

Dave Morin
Path, Co-founder & CEO
Investor
  • Tell everyone about what you’re interested in. Dave really likes drones, so he often tweets about them — and gets many inbound offers about investing in drone companies.
    Tweet this

Hunter Walk
Homebrew, Partner
  • It’s a seed period, not a seed round. Tweet this
  • Set a timeline for fundraising, just like a product or feature.
    Tweet this
  • Capital is a lagging indicator. Talent is a leading indicator.
    Tweet this

Crystal McKellar
Mithril Capital, Managing Director
  • When you raise a round, make sure you ask for the amount that you truly need so that you’re not back in the market seeking additional funding every six months. To be successful, CEO’s need to be focused on product and growing their businesses, not on raising money.

Victoria Ransom
Google, Director of Product
Wildfire Interactive, Founder & CEO (acquired by Google)
  • Before, Victoria advised entrepreneurs to bootstrap. In the current environment, she encourages to raise as much, as fast as you can — or else your competitors will!

Pascal Levy-Garboua
SixDoors, Co-founder & CEO
  • I invest in what I know. My goal is to learn more about something I like.
    Tweet this

Amit Kumar
Cardspring, Co-founder (acquired by Twitter)
  • Fundraising is necessary, but not important. Fundraising is oxygen. You need it to live, but that’s not the point of living.
    Tweet this
  • The day you get money from the guy who doesn’t owe you anything is the day you know you have something. Tweet this

Jessica Mah
inDinero, Co-founder & CEO
  • Use a whiteboard to generate ways to make money. Ideas don’t just come to you.
    Tweet this

Thomas Korte
AngelPad, Founder
  • If an investor says it sounds interesting — they absolutely hate you!
    Tweet this

How to Approach Learning

Kathy Savitt
Yahoo!, CMO
  • Never refuse knowledge. Someone is giving you a free gift. Few things in life are free. They are giving you the truth that’s important enough to waste their breath. Tweet this
  • Don’t hand over your mental real estate. Kathy would ask Marissa Mayer what she thinks about article X about herself. Her response: “I don’t read them. Margaret Thatcher said it put her off balance so she never read them.”

Irene Au
Khosla Ventures, Operating Partner
  • What are you curious about? As long as you are growing and learning, you will be thriving. The kiss of death is when you are no longer learning.
    Tweet this

Xochi Birch
The Battery, Co-founder
Monkey Inferno, Co-founder
Bebo, Co-founder
  • You learn more from mistakes than you do from successes.
    Tweet this

John Barrows
jbarrows LLC, Owner

LJ Kwak
Director of Sales & Product at Getting More Inc.
  • My big requirement is to work with someone worldclass, so I’ll really learn a lot.
    During LJ’s last semester of business school, she took Wharton’s most desired course — negotiation with Stuart Diamond. Now she’s working with him.

Graham Hunter
Tradecraft, Growth Instructor
  • (Graham’s response when asking him a question) I don’t know — you tell me!
    Tweet this

Jenna White
HotelTonight, Florida General Manager
  • Have direction on what you want to learn in a position.

Sofia Pessanha
Unbabel, Co-founder & CMO
  • Learning is what you get when you don’t get what you want.
    Tweet this

Shawn Plunkett
Tradecraft, Personal Development Coach
  • Appreciative inquiry process: Identify what works well right now. Imagine where you want yourself and team to be in the future. Innovate a way to get to what you imagine.

How Startups Evolve

Danielle Morrill
Mattermark, Co-founder & CEO
  • I wanted to call BS on what's BS. It's fun to make everyone angry, because then you find out what's important to them.
  • You can’t write about rumors and gossip — but you can write about data.
    Tweet this

Roy Bahat
Head of Bloomberg Beta
  • Process is like salt. A little bit goes a long way. I say, have as little process as necessary and then add more. You want the process to emerge with the complexity of a company.
    Tweet this

Gagan Biyani
Sprig, Co-founder & CEO
  • Sprig started with ordering through Eventbrite, a physical map to pinpoint orders, and manually texting customers and drivers about orders.
    Tweet this

Jack Mardack
Chartcube, Head of Growth
  • Jack was Eventbrite’s first Head of Marketing. He noticed events being indexed, which led to the creation of the directory. They allowed custom vanity URLs.

Jocelyn Goldfein
Former Facebook Engineering Director
  • The Facebook web to mobile transition took a year. It wasn’t a coding issue, it was challenging because of the culture change.
    Tweet this

Jenny Morrill
Move Loot, Co-founder & CMO
  • Prioritize. Jenny wishes they improved upon some of the more basic tasks at the beginning, such as having high quality photos.

Lisa Falzone
Revel Systems, Co-founder & CEO
  • Interviewing people is a way to get an idea. Don’t just wait for an idea to come — go after it.
    Tweet this

John Eagan
Pinterest, Growth Engineer
  • Pinterest tried to re-engage non-active users with a sound notification. Surprisingly, it had no effect.
    Tweet this

Arjun Naskar
Homejoy, Growth
  • NYC was the fifth city Homejoy expanded to. Their cleaning caddies fit through San Francisco's BART, but we learned the hard way that they didn’t fit through NYC’s subway!
    Tweet this

Elena Grewal
Airbnb, Data Scientist
  • People are afraid about writing anything negative, so Airbnb recently launched double blind reviews, to test if people would submit more reviews. You can only read your guest/host’s review after you have written yours. As a result of the change, review rates have skyrocketed because people wanted to know what other people wrote about them.

Advice on Finding a Job

Sam Shank
Hotel Tonight, Co-founder & CEO
  • Take a risk, even in a downturn in the economy.
    Tweet this

Jared Fliesler
General Partner, Matrix Partners
  • It doesn’t matter if a company is hiring. If you want to work there, reach out to the founders and CEO. Offer to clean the floor or help in any capacity.
    Tweet this
  • Be visible. Work on what the CEO cares about. Your job is to make your boss’s job easier. Tweet this

Sheana O’Sullivan
Tile, Head of Business Development
  • When you are no longer learning from those who you are working with, it is time to change roles.
    Tweet this

Russell Klusas
Tradecraft, Co-founder
  • If you want to be an expert at growth, you need to study under a growth expert.
    Tweet this

Matt Ellsworth
Former Storefront, VP of Growth
  • Create content around a subject area where you want to work.
    Tweet this

Elli Sharef
HireArt, Co-founder
  • Do not focus on the specific job, company, title, or salary. They don’t matter. What matters is who will teach you when you start learning. Interview your boss. Tweet this

Lauren Vingiano
Product/Business Development at Canary
  • If you find someone and you believe in their mission — it doesn’t matter what your role is. I followed that advice, and it’s been fabulous.
    Tweet this

Be Creative

Cathy Vigrass
Sosh, Business Development
  • Cathy waited in line for the opening of Apple in London, and her photo was in the papers. So when she sent her thank you card after interviewing at Apple, she included the image!

Camille Ricketts
First Round Capital, Editor
  • The most effective pieces of marketing shows you how life could be.
    Tweet this

David Nihill
FunnyBizz, Founder
  • Add comedy to presentations to make them more memorable.
    Tweet this

On Personal Development

Jared Fliesler
General Partner, Matrix Partners
  • If you’re not drowning, you’re not working hard enough. You just have to know when to get out of the pool.
    Tweet this

Libby Leffler
Facebook, Strategic Partnerships Manager
  • People have to know you well to give you good/useful advice.
    Tweet this
  • Always ask for feedback.
    Tweet this

Chris Kim
August, Head of Product
  • Don’t think of those above or below you too much. It is so easy for success to come and go.
    Tweet this

Joshua Scott
Shyp, Co-founder & CPO
  • Be humble, do your best, and go the extra mile to support the people who hired you.
    Tweet this

Andrea Soto
Mastercard, Chief of Staff,
President of Operations & Technology
  • Every time I would fail, it made me competitive. It made me valuable. It made me successful.
    Tweet this

Santiago Merea
The Orange Chef Co., Founder & CEO
  • Keep a journal. It will be fun to look back on after a year.
    Tweet this

On Being a Woman in Tech

Lauren Kay
The Dating Ring, Founder & CEO
  • There was a study done that showed it is easiest for attractive men to get funding, then unattractive men, then unattractive women, and lastly, attractive women.

Most investors are male, and not all — but some — do treat female founders differently from male founders. When most seed fundraising is based on initial gut instincts, these subconscious biases against women can make fundraising a lot harder.

Lauren had to turn down funding because of inappropriate behavior.


Mona Sabet
VIBLIO, Co-founder
  • Women get more and better promotions within three years if they are active in 2–3 women’s groups. Tweet this
    But if women aren’t active in any groups, or if they are involved in ten groups — then it’s not likely they’ll be promoted.

Sofia Pessanha
Unbabel, Co-founder & CMO
  • The problem isn’t about men vs. women — it’s about business vs. tech.
    Tweet this

Thank you to everyone who answered my cold emails, and met with me to share your stories and answer my questions. The list goes on for people I’d like to meet, but unfortunately time is limited.


Feel free to reach out on Twitter: @inaherlihy.