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Explore a Career in Business Development in Tech - Discussion with Cristina Cordova, Business Development Manager at Stripe 

Cristina Cordova

Cristina Cordova, first Business Development hire at Stripe and former Head of Business Development at Pulse (acquired by LinkedIn), talks at length about a career in Business Development in Tech.

As part of Stripe, Cristina has led complex deals to rapidly expand Stripe’s business through partnerships with companies including Apple, Facebook, Freshbooks, GoDaddy, Intuit, OpenTable, Pinterest, Twitter, Volusion and Xero.

At Pulse, Cristina sourced and closed partnerships with hundreds of media organizations, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Los Angeles Times, Fox News, Reuters, Bloomberg & BBC News.

Cristina has a Bachelors in Political Science from Stanford University.

Listen to the discussion below!

Some of the areas that Cristina touches upon in this episode include:

1. What is business development and how is it different from Sales
2. Examples of projects she has worked on, such as getting Pulse app pre-loaded on Kindle Fire
3. How BD deals can vary from product partnerships to simple cross-marketing/distribution deals
4. Stages in a typical project
5. How outreach to potential partners can happen through investors' networks, company's network and your own network. 
6. How a small startup or a company looking for very specific deals, might look for a hire who is already very well networked
7. Why good BD people tend to be generalists
8. Interesting and challenging aspects of the job
9. How this can be a high-stakes job, with high highs and low lows
10. How this is a very external facing role, and so you need to be comfortable with working with people with a variety of different working styles
11. How a candidate's resume should ideally indicate whether they have worked with product or engineering in the past, prior deal experience and impact of those deals
12. Recommended resources
13. How you should join a company that has a negotiating style similar to yours and where you can learn from the people around you

Sanjana Tandon

Detailed transcript - note the transcript has been auto generated and might have errors!

LED  02:01

To kick things off, before we dive into the details of business development itself, we can do a very quick, rapid fire just to sort of show some of the really interesting and unique aspects of this job.


Cristina  02:13

Sounds good. Let's do it.


LED  02:15

My first question for you. What is the largest deal size that you've driven by yourself?


Cristina  02:23

Sure, by myself, I would say biggest deal probably brought up around a billion dollars in revenue to the company that I worked for. That would be dollars directly to the company as a result of that.


LED  02:38

That's a huge number, a billion dollars in annual revenue.


Cristina  02:43

That's right.


LED  02:44

Wow, that's a big responsibility. We'll definitely want to go into a little bit of how do you handle a partnership, which is clearly worth so much money, because you want to make sure that you don't make any mistakes. My second question for you as part of the rapid fire, what is the longest negotiation that you've sat in, in one sitting?


Cristina  03:06

Sure, I'd say the longest has probably been about three hours where I locked myself in a room with a partner to hammer out the final details of a pretty important agreement.


LED  03:18

Three hours is a long time. And why was it that long?


Cristina  03:23

There was a lot we disagreed on. We had to come together ultimately, at the end of the day, and we had actually a product launch that was coming up. We needed to get this done in a very finite period of time. So whereas you might spread that three hours across, like two or three week timeframe of different negotiation calls, we needed to get it done within a day or two, actually, in terms of the big components of the deal.  

LED  04:01

Would you call yourself a good negotiator?

Cristina  04:04

I would say I'm pretty good. But at the same time, everyone has their own different negotiating styles. So my style may not mesh very well with someone else's style, I try to be as reasonable and rational as possible when negotiating and that's generally my technique and trying to see it from the other person's side.


LED  04:24

How would you characterize your negotiation style?


Cristina  04:29

I would say generally friendly. I'm not going to be the person who comes across as like extremely aggressive but understanding what leverage I do have to operate and using that to my advantage, but trying to make something that's positive for both folks at the end of the day, I want the other person to walk out of the room and and generally feel good and not feel like they lost. I want people to walk out of the room and and feel like they want by then I can feel like I want at the end of the day, and then it's mutually beneficial to both parties. So that generally speaks to my negotiation style. And I try to also adopt to whatever style the other party works best in. For example, if someone's a very visual negotiator, and they don't want to just look at their computer when they're negotiating agreement and points, and I'll look at mine, they'll actually like, share a screen with them. And we'll go like line by line down a contract. And they can see the changes that I'm making that I'm proposing. Then we can decide whether or not we agree about them at the time.


LED  05:41

Then my last question for you is that you worked across a number of deals, what has been the biggest difference between the sizes of the companies that you worked with? In terms of the size of the company that you were at yourself, and then the size of the company that you are partnering with?


Cristina  06:01

At my last company, I was actually the first employee. And when the company was about 15 people or so we ended up doing a deal with Samsung, which is about I want to say like 300,000 employees, definitely over 100 billion in revenue. So that was a very unique deal. And a lot of late nights and time zones to try and get that one done.


LED  06:28

This is when you were at Pulse?


Cristina  06:29



LED  06:32

This is great, because it really illustrates just the level of impact and the scale of things that you're working on.A billion dollar deal size, working with companies like Samsung, which are gigantic. While you're, 15 odd people in one single company. That's big. I want to ask you what is business development. But very quickly, one thing which struck me about your profile, it seems that you have a background in political science, and then you've gotten into marketing and business development. So tell us a little bit about what attracted you to business development.


Cristina  07:06

I would say the thing that attracted me most about business development was actually my early days, I was interning for a technology company called tapulous, which was a mobile gaming company based in Palo Alto, and I was interning there in my entire senior year of college. And right before my senior year, I actually realized that I didn't want to become a lawyer and kind of go down the traditional political science path, and eventually decided that I want to try out startups because I felt like startups seemed so fast, moving technology forward. And it was the opposite of the things that I disliked about the legal industry, which was that it was slow moving, and you had to go to a good law school and then train as an associate, until you could get, the best and biggest cases. 

And I feel like I very much wanted to work on deals, but not necessarily from the perspective of lawyer, and much more from the perspective of someone who is doing the deal making as the business person. When I was at that startup, there was actually a business development function. And the person within that function hired me. And I wasn't necessarily doing a lot of business development at work, but I got a taste of it, maybe about 20% of my time, is what I kind of worked on when I was there. And I actually prepped a deck to sell our very first advertising units for the game that we were building. And it was custom ad units for a new Warner Brothers movie that was coming out. And it was maybe like a $500,000 deal or something in revenue. So relatively small, but I was working on every single slide. And I built that presentation from scratch. And it actually gave me the very first taste of, what could be possible, knowing that, I was in an intern, and had absolutely no business doing what I was doing. And that was the thing that really excited me. And it was going from, not having anything in terms of something to sell to having a product to sell. And by that I mean, really kind of inventing it on the fly with the product team and then hoping that we could like finish the product in time in order to actually go live with the partner. And then selling it to the advertiser and ultimately winning it. So it wasn't a sales process that was repeatable, like you would find at a traditional company that was later stage. If you were coming in as a salesperson. It was something where you were really just trying to figure out like could this even work? Would advertisers like this would people buy this? And that's how we figured it out from the early days. 

So I really liked that excitement of trying something new selling something where I didn't exactly know it was going to work, but tried to find mutual value between the company that I was working for and the company on the opposite side of the table.


LED  10:03

That makes sense. I mean, there's clearly a lot of excitement in the space. And if you're attracted to that ambiguity and sort of doing things on the fly, then it seems like a very good option. But I do want to just ask you one quick follow up that when you were interning at this company, you for some reason you were attracted to business development, and you decided to go work for that team. And then you really enjoyed it, your first deal was a great experience. But I guess what I'm asking is that why did you decide to apply?


Cristina  10:31

The role itself, the internship wasn't necessarily like a business development internship, to be clear, it was generalists to come in here as a non technical person at the startup, and do whatever is necessary to make the business successful like that. That was the internship. So I think in many ways, I had no idea what business development was, it was only until like, I met this person at this company. And he needed me to work on this particular deal, because, he had a bunch of other things to do. And that's where, I really was able to have the room to grow and explore and figure out what this deal could be. And then I realized, that's business development. And I had a better appreciation for what he did within the company. And then I eventually left that company and started as the first business development person at Pulse, which is my next company. So I had a good sense of what it was kind of going into it. 

And business development isn't necessarily always a crucial role for every technology company. So as a result of my prior experience at tapulous, I was able to kind of segue into that role. And, having been someone who was fresh out of college, have more experience than, probably your average person coming out of college with a role that was fairly unique and not necessarily a standard role that someone would apply for or get into straight out of school.


LED  12:10

You definitely got lucky because this person in your company needed someone to help him out on this deal. And you were available. And that really exposed you to this completely different area, which you otherwise may not have been exposed to. But yes, it does illustrate a really important point about how it's important to sort of put yourself out there and meet as many people as possible, because you never know who needs what and what might interest you even a little bit. And you might find something very different from what you're aware of, until at that point of time.


Cristina  12:40

Definitely. And I think it also emphasizes the notion of taking risks, I had a job during my senior year of college, that was a paid job, which I needed, because I very much needed that money to support myself while I was in school. And I decided to apply to this like, tech startup internship to full well, knowing that I was not going to get paid. And for the first three months, it was actually an unpaid internship. And, I took that risk, because I knew that a lot of startups don't have tons of money to throw around on interns, and so this would very much potentially give me the experience that I needed to be able to make that career transition. So it was a risk I took and then three months later, they started paying me and everything was fine. But it was a calculated risk ultimately.


LED  13:33

So what did you evaluate, to make you believe that this was a risk worth taking?


Cristina  13:58

I had a friend who had actually interned there previously. And she told me about her experience there, she had a really great one got to work on a number of different projects, which is very interesting to me, as someone who's very early in their career, didn't know necessarily what they wanted to do. And I felt like this would be an opportunity that would expose me to a bunch of different opportunities. One was business development, others were community and marketing and customer support all those things. So I got a lot of exposure, and I knew I would get that going into it. And then the other thing was just the ability to get to work with a kind of a well funded technology company, they had a fair number of well known investors. So that was interesting to me in terms of having some level of credibility attached to it. And some safety net especially because, I did in a lot of ways need that job for the money after a certain period of time. So that's what I was thinking about kind of going into it. The last thing I would also add to it was that the company was doing mobile in a day, that was very early for mobile, the company had actually built the first version of their game before the app store had even existed. So if you think about how revolutionary apps are into your, your daily life, I felt like this was a company that at the time, was very popular and building a ton of apps that millions of people used. And so as a result of that, I felt like it was a good that in terms of a strategic area for technology, and obviously, mobile paid off. And a lot of what I learned there was very useful at Pulse, which was a very mobile heavy company, in terms of its focus as well.


LED  15:50

Okay, then coming to the main question, what is business development?


Cristina  16:16

I think business development means different things to different people. And I'm totally open to that. At different companies, I think you'll find that business development is effectively a different word for sales. But I think at the companies that we generally work with, and by we I mean, companies like Google and Apple and Stripe, and companies like Dropbox, when you're talking about business development, or strategic partnerships, which is kind of a another word for in a lot of ways that the same thing, I think what you're talking about there is really the pursuit of strategic opportunities for long term value for a company. So I think you can look at that and a few ways I can go with what it's not, which is, from a sales perspective. It's not this notion of selling a product to a customer, on a repeatable basis. So if you were at Google, for example, selling AdWords to a big company, whether that's like Macy's or target, or whoever it might be, that might be strategic, but it's a repeatable sale. And it's a product that has long been out there. So the way that I look at business development versus sales is that sales is generally selling what's on the truck, what's already kind of going out to the customer. And that business development is really focused about what's going to be on the truck a year from now. So business development is out there trying to figure out what are the next products, that might be a great opportunity to become a product that is sold repeatedly, three years down the line. And as a result that requires much more work to figure out, what is the ecosystem at play? What is the new market for that particular product or that service? And how can you cultivate the partnerships and commercial relationships to ensure that those products and those services are successful at the end of the day. So as a result, it's much earlier stage. And it's a lot more risky, in that you will likely do a number of deals that do not pay off, I've never met a business development person who only did great deals, you're going to do a lot of deals that turn out to be complete failures. And then you're going to do a lot of things that end up being moonshots and taking off and doing really well. But the whole idea is that you will have things that are going to be highly variable in terms of their success, because you're supposed to be taking on those strategic bets for big opportunities for the company.


LED  19:00

This is really helpful. Basically, what you're saying is that as someone in business development, as opposed to someone in sales, you almost need to have some sort of a vision for the future, or some sort of this is where the market is going to be. And this is what needs to exist in that market. And then I think the key difference, as opposed to, let's say, a product manager is that you fulfill that vision through partnerships. So you are working with other companies to get to that future state, whatever that is. So are these partnerships? Do they always end up being some sort of product partnerships that build this together? Or can it be other things also?


Cristina  19:42

I would generally say something is often being built either by your company or the partners company, and often both. In order to make a strategic partnership successful, I would say that There are certainly partnerships where nothing is built. And maybe it's like one company is referring users to the other company. And maybe like a marketing email is sent. And those are in a lot of cases for certain companies, and depending on what they're looking to do drive growth or market, but they're not necessarily what I would consider to be the most strategic of business development opportunities to spend time on within a given company. So I think generally, your best business development, people will probably gravitate toward the deals that involve a significant amount of, of product involvement, whether that is,new products that are enabled by the deals that you are doing as a business development person, or you are going out and kind of building those new products by virtue of the deal that you're building?


LED  20:54

I see. So can you maybe share examples of some interesting business development deals that you have worked on?


Cristina  21:01

Sure. So let's see, I've done everything from in my time at Pulse worked on a deal to get pre loaded on the Amazon Kindle Fire, which is a tablet device made by Amazon. And because we were a free app, we were looking for as much distribution as possible. And that meant getting pre loaded on as many devices, you can't do this on an iPhone, because Apple owns all the software that ultimately appears on the homescreen. And when you first get your device, but with a lot of Android devices, that's not necessarily the case. So that led to a significant amount of user growth for us at Pulse, which was primarily the goal of the partnerships that I was doing, versus like revenue growth. And then at stripe I would say generally, for us, user growth generally means revenue growth, because our businesses, Process payments with stripe that we take a cut of the transaction on. So couple of deals that I've worked on in my time there one would be with Apple, I led our partnership to effectively integrate with Apple Pay a brand new product that Apple was launching, and ensured that all of stripe users, stripes, users could have Apple Pay available on day one, and that it was a product that was deeply integrated with our core service, so that you only had to add a few lines of code to your stripe integration so that you could offer Apple Pay as a payment method to your customers as a stripe business. And that enabled effectively on day one in the App Store, over 50% of the apps that had Apple Pay support, were powered by stripe. Another example would be our partnership with Facebook. So we power and experience that enables every Facebook page owner. So if you're a business, Sally's t shirt shop, for example, you likely have a Facebook page. And on that Facebook page, you can actually sell products within your own page. So Facebook user can click one of your posts that says by entering their credit card information without ever having to leave Facebook, and actually purchase that product without ever having to leave the site. And that works across web and mobile. And we power all those transactions for Facebook shops.


LED  23:31

These are great examples of a powerful example. So just to make sure listeners understand. So as an example, in the Kindle Fire example that you took, because stripe came preloaded any user who would buy something on that tablet, it would be powered by stripe.


Cristina  23:49

The Kindle Fire was actually pulse. So it was the news reading app that was pre loaded on Kindle Fire. And every Kindle Fire user would automatically have our app once they open the device for the very first time.


LED  24:04

I see. So since since your goal was distribution in that deal, you are automatically got all the people who are already over on Kindle Fire. So maybe take one of these projects, or maybe some another project that you haven't mentioned yet. But it's any project that stands out in your mind as either being very interesting or challenging. And then let's walk through the sort of the stages in the project and the activities that you engaged in various stages. And you don't have to share anything confidential. But take any example. And then let's go into it.


Cristina  24:37

Sure. So the deal I mentioned with Samsung earlier, which was actually a partnership that I led at Pulse was a good example of a partnership and for us it was very similar to Amazon. We were trying to get the application that we built preloaded on Samsung devices. I believe they're Galaxy line of devices. And that required some hefty negotiations in terms of figuring out what would make sense for a partnership with a big company Samsung, and a partnership with a company that was very small, pulse, and trying to make something that works for both parties.


LED  25:17

So let me so before we go into the details, let me ask you a quick question. I'm imagining that you are at Pulse. And the business development team is thinking about, we need to get more distribution. How do we do that? So how do you get to the stage of saying that we think we should partner with Samsung?


Cristina  25:36

Sure. So that a number of ways we were thinking about what are strategic ways to drive growth. So in a number of ways for the app itself at the time, you could either, go through the path of trying to drive organic downloads to work your way up the app store charges, which was definitely something that we were doing. Another thing that we could potentially do was figure out how to advertise to get more users to download the app on various channels, that would cost a significant amount of money. And we were trying to be fairly conscious of costs at the time, that wasn't something that we explored. And then last in a number of ways, we thought on Android, you can have a device delivered to you. And that can be preloaded with a number of different applications. Wouldn't pulse be great if it was the default news rating app on any of these devices. So instead of let's say, Samsung, or LG, or any of these companies going out and building their own news rating applications, why doesn't post just become default, preloaded as the best app for that particular device. So, our pitch to a company Samsung was that you didn't have to do any of the development work to ensure that you could offer this app as something that was pre loaded, whereas with all of Apple's applications, at the time, Apple was doing all the work to build out each and every single one of those applications on their own. So that would save them a significant amount of engineering time. And too, we worked with them to ensure that the content that was preloaded was actually content that they approved of, and that we would be relevant to their users. So maybe their users weren't as necessarily interested in, let's say, The New Yorker, but were much more interested in something at the time was like Engadget, or the New York Times. And as a result, we could craft content strategy, that would be a good fit for their user base, which would be effectively as good as building your own custom app.


LED  27:50

Got it. I have a quick follow up question regarding the outreach piece. And you sort of alluded to it that, why will Samsung partner with like this tiny startup pulse with 15 employees? So how did you even read literally, I want to understand, once you guys decided that Samsung would be a great partnership to have, what did you do? Did you send a cold mail to the business development heads? How does that work?


Cristina  28:23

That's a good question. I can't so many years ago, now, I must be getting old. But I can't exactly remember how we did that outreach, I think it's possible that they may have even come to us because we were fairly high up in the App Store charts at that time. So definitely could have been the case. And I will say that's definitely true. Now, having worked across multiple companies and early stage side size, that a lot of large companies will actually come and reach out to you. But General, in a lot of cases, for like the wrong reasons, maybe because they want to acquire you and like you don't want to be acquired by you'll talk to them anyway. And it'll waste a lot of time. Unless you can find the right person within the organization that's not trying to buy you but trying to partner with you. And then to, at the same time, we had certainly good investors at that time, who would put us in touch with a lot of contacts at the companies that we needed to work with, which was definitely useful. And we still use that tactic today in my work with stripe as well. And then last, but not least, definitely in my time at polls, especially in the early days, because I joined before we actually had any investors. And that was a time ultimately where you didn't have nearly as many connections. And I was doing a lot of cold LinkedIn messaging and guessing people's email addresses to reach out to them. So it was probably some combination of those three things.


LED  29:55

Awesome. I really liked third point because I think that sort of goes to show that if you're a really small company and you do not have access to this network, then you do have to resort to cold emailing and just figuring out how to reach out and who to reach out to. Another question that this brings up is that how important is your own personal network? As far as this outreach piece is concerned?


Cristina  30:20

Sure, I would say it's quite important. And I say that now, because it's quite easy for me as someone who's at stripe in Silicon Valley, with a number of connections through previous companies that I've worked at other companies that I've partnered at, and those people then move on. And I'm working at a lot of companies and in our industry, that it's fairly easy for me to get in touch with people that I need to get in touch with through friends of friends. And so I would say it's important to have those connections. However, I wouldn't say that when I think about hiring someone to do business development, for example, that I look at them having a great network as a requirement. Okay. So in general, because stripe is, as a company fairly like well connected as is, I want someone who can be very creative, and fearless and deal terms, be smart and have raw horsepower, be a great communicator, and I'm going to prioritize all those things over having a great network, because the network comes with being at stripe. And as a result, no one needs that necessarily coming in, it's highly possible that if you're looking for someone to join a company, that is 30 people, you may want someone who's already very, very well networked. Or if you're trying to bring on someone who's going to do a very specific kind of deal, like only work with handset manufacturers, or only work with education companies, that you may want someone who's very well versed in that particular industry, versus someone who doesn't necessarily have those industry contacts. So as a result of that, I think you might need someone who has a wider network, but I don't think it's something that I generally look for, I'm generally looking for, great kind of capabilities and skill sets, more so than network and the people that I bring onto my team.


LED  32:28

Then let's talk a little bit about the deal structuring itself, because I'm guessing that's where the most time goes. So tell us how does that happen? And what are the things that you guys think about when you're thinking about structuring a deal?


Cristina  32:45

One, it's great to have someone who can Shepherd all the internal and external stakeholders through the various phases of the deal. And generally, I would say, great to have a deal team that can effectively work on everything from ideation, which is what even are we building here? What is the right product to work with, on the, for this particular partner. So as an example, we definitely gone to partners and said, we should be working together on a couple of things, we don't have any products that are built out in the space yet. But we're very interested in seeing what we might do here. So we'll go over to their office, we'll get up at the whiteboard. And we're going to need to start drawing things out, if we build this API, here's what information will carry through from this application to this other service. Those kinds of things can be really good ways of understanding how products might work together at a very early stage. And then once you have a good understanding of how those products might work together, then it's about actually making the pitch, like what is your value exchange between the company that you're representing and the company that you're trying to do the deal with? Because what you don't want to do is, and I have people do this all the time. Now that I'm at stripe, where people come to our company and say, how about you just refer all stripe users to my company? And we're like, that sounds not so interesting at all. So, you have to ensure that there's something in it for both parties. That the value exchange is fairly equal. Because if it's not, then you're gonna be wasting your time to find someone to take a deal, and it's likely probably going to be the the worst partner down on your list. And then you're getting into the kind of core negotiating stage of what are the terms? If there's, revenue involved, how is that structured? Is there going to be a revenue share, what are the costs of the deal? building out the deal model, if you are talking about a very kind of commercially oriented deal In a lot of cases, in the early stages, you would do that yourself as the BD person, at a later stage company, you might be working with someone on the finance team to help you build that deal model. And then it's really about making sure that you come down to the final deal terms. So, what are the three or four things that really matter to the partner? What are the three or four things that really matter to you as a company? And how can you collaborate to effectively come to a solution that makes sense for both parties? And then you sign on the dotted line for that contract? And then you're figuring out how do we actually go and implement? Likely, I think in the olden days, you used to, I think, go through the deal process, and then start implementing right after you signed, but hopefully, you're kind of going through the process of, of integration, technical scoping, all those kinds of things, while you're in the structuring and closing phase of the deal. But,sometimes that comes much later. And that can really help you define, are there things that we're missing as part of this deal, based on the product that we're actually integrating with and implementing? And is there something that I now know that prior to actually doing that implementation work, I may not have known at the beginning. So you want someone who's in a BD role, who can frame that negotiations, set up those prep meetings with your company and the other company, ensure that everyone on your side and on the other partner side is informed of all the different things going on, and really ensure that you are running a structured deal process, beginning Ted.


LED  36:44

So maybe you can shed a very quick example to show, it could be a hypothetical example. But just to show, you mentioned that how in the contract, it's important to say, most likely each company will want to have those three or four things that are most important to them. So just to sort of illustrate what these kinds of things could be like, could you share an example?


Cristina  37:02

I think some companies going into a deal have a particular maybe margin target that they're looking for, or maybe they're having a, maybe they have, like a cost basis in mind, something like that. And so you're trying to figure out, how did they come up with this number? And how can you make sure that what works for them in terms of costs, is also going to work for you and your business. And then I would say, other sticking points, there, sometimes it's legal things, which is really unfortunate, because sometimes there's just someone on the the partners legal team, which just can't do give on something, because maybe the company's never given on this particular ask ever, lawyers are supposed to ultimately protect the company. So they tend to be fairly structured and how they go about these processes. And not necessarily doing a lot of one offs or things that are custom. So it could be like legal liability for certain things. And as a result, I think in a lot of ways, it's important for someone who's working on VD to kind of pick up and grok legal nuances, even without a legal background, it's good to be in a lot of ways, part time lawyer, as a business development person, for that reason, and then, I think in some ways, there are probably going to be some deal components that are related to market needs. So sometimes a partner comes in and claims that they want x, but really, what they want is y, and there are going to be a lot of trends in the marketplace that are probably going to impact what the partner wants. So for example, if a competitor to that partner is offering a service for price z, then it's highly likely that the product that you're trying to kind of bring in and partner with them on is going to have to be at the same or lower price point so that they can compete. So there might be some market needs that then end up being sticking points as part of that deal.

LED  39:12

As you were talking to this, one thing which is very apparent about this role is that, from the outside, someone might get the impression that, business development is like, that kind of this lone person who is just going out and making deals and negotiating and selling stuff, like a very glamorous kind of thing, which I'm sure it is, but I think there's a there's a fair amount of product expertise that's also needed, right? Like in what you were describing, this business development person should be able to talk to another business development person and talk about, okay, what are the various product integrations that need to happen or whatever needs to get built, and do that in a way while you're making sure that you are protecting your company's interests, and you also have to be able to negotiate and sell so that's a hard combination.


Cristina  40:02

I think I would say that in a lot of cases, you'll find that a lot of BD a lot of great BD people are generalists in a number of ways, they're pretty good at a lot of things, especially BD people who are coming in doing well at early stage companies. Because as I mentioned earlier, like they need to do the deal model, they need to be part lawyer, because there aren't enough legal resources to help them on a particular deal. They need to understand the market. For that particular partner, they need to understand the product really well, because in a lot of cases, you might have a very small engineering team. And so there may not be a product manager who can be the interface between your company's product team and their company's product team. So I think as a result, business development attracts people who want to have, their hands in a lot of cookie jars, because you get to work on a lot of cross functional work as a result of the work with business development. Makes sense?


LED  41:04

Well, this was great. This gives a really nice overview of what business development is, overall, tell us a little bit about what your typical day is, if I were to run into you, what kind of things would I find you doing?


Cristina  41:17

Sure. So generally, I would say, I manage a team. So these days, I'm probably doing more coaching of people who are working on deals, rather than doing deals myself. And so as a result of that, I spent, certainly a lot of time in one on ones with people on my team, trying to get an understanding of where they're blocked on certain deals, how I can be helpful. Running team meetings and cross functional meetings with other parts of the company, specifically around wherever we have needs from external partners where we need to do something internally, build new products, new capabilities internally, and we need to plan for that. And that requires a lot of resourcing work internally. So I'll be doing a lot of that at stripe as well. In addition to that, certainly a lot of meetings with partners, that's the probably most external part of what I do. I spend a lot of my time internally, but I'm probably about 30 or so percent external in my time these days.


LED  42:19

And I'm sure that's someone who's you are a manager now. But when you were sort of an individual contributor, then I'm sure a much larger percentage of your time was spent in talking to partners.


Cristina  42:31

I would say it was probably the reverse, where probably 70% of my time would be external and 3% of my time would be internal managing.


LED  42:39

So since you do manage a team, how, and again, like, you don't have to share anything confidential, but how are you measuring the success or performance of a BD professional? What are certain two or three metrics that you look at to say, okay, he or she is doing well, and he or she is not doing as well?


Cristina  42:58

For us, it's really about can someone work across three core areas for us really well. So one is like execution. So can someone reliably and autonomously solve and execute high level and complex partnerships, owning the strategy and the execution for a set of partners within a functional area? And then to and this is more, I would say, internal versus external? Can someone use their knowledge of the organization and our products to determine what resources they need to execute their strategy? And how can they work to obtain those resources as autonomously as possible, to drive organizational process structures and change over time. And then the last piece, and I think this is somewhat underrated, for BD people, leadership on the team. So specifically, can people on the team, mentor others who are perhaps newer to stripe or newer to partnerships? And can they build credibility and be a thought leader within the team cross functionally and with partners, and that for us is really important, because we kind of alluded to this earlier, when you mentioned that it feels like people are kind of going out there solo on their own doing deals. And, and yes, that's true of a business developmen at stripe, for example. But I think really great business development is really focused on what's best for the company at the end of the day. And so, it really should be oriented on operating as a team and operating as a full company. Rather than just doing a deal that seems glamorous, because you're working with a big name company that's worth billions of dollars in revenue, and you need to really focus on what's important for the company at the team at the end of the day. In the work that you do, and in the time that you spend on ensuring that others on the team are as equipped to do great work.


LED  45:11

This is not like a commissioned job, right? Like you get a fixed salary.


Cristina  45:16

Not a commission's job. I think, if you have a business development job that is commissioned, it's probably just business development in name only. And it's really a sales job. Business Development, in my mind is not kind of commissioned role. And it's generally salaried role with some type of bonus structure, let it do it experience and in other kind of non sales oriented roles.


LED  45:46

The reason I ask is that, let's say you describe the three qualities that you're looking at right execution, how resourceful this person is, and in getting whatever things that are needed to execute the deal, and then leadership. But let's say I am repeatedly working on deals that are not working out. And for no clear fault of mine really, is just something happened, right? Because a good deal ultimately, is the coming together of two separate entities. So things could go wrong on the other side, also. So would that play into my performance?


Cristina  46:17

I'm not necessarily now, we've definitely worked with partners that ended up not being successful through no fault of our own. And by that, I mean, like, maybe their business wasn't successful. But you didn't necessarily you can tell that at the outset. And then too we certainly have built products that had particular partners in mind. And maybe those partners weren't particularly successful in utilizing those products. But I think what is telling about what we do is that it's a team effort, and that everybody is on the same page and believes that this is the right strategy when you're executing. And if it turns out a year later that, maybe this wasn't the right strategy, that's understandable. And we expect that there will be times when we fail, and it doesn't mean that you as a business development person are not doing a good job, it just means that we took a bet that didn't necessarily pay off. But I have found that a lot of the really great business development, people that I've met have a few of those cases, right, where they've done something that didn't really pay off. And then it turns out six months later, they did something that that worked out really well, or maybe all that was off at the beginning of that particular partnership was timing, and it just took longer to pay off than expected. The whole point of this particular team is that you take risks, whereas, a sales team, you're not supposed to be taking risks, you're supposed to be finding opportunities with guaranteed revenue. The goal is to in a lot of cases, ideally take risks and not be successful for a portion of them.


LED  48:01

What according to you are the most interesting aspects of this job? And  the intent of this question is, if you were to pitch business development, to someone that this is why you should get into business development, what would you say to that person?


Cristina  48:17

I would say, one, if you like being really cross functional, and working across engineering, product design, in a lot of cases, operational teams, legal, etc. That can be a really great kind of skill to learn both working across multiple different teams. And it can be something that really gives you a great sense of what are the different opportunities for me, long term gives you a lot of exposure within a company that to know a lot of people internally, and you get a lot get to know a lot of people externally as well. So you get that exposure across the board. And, then a good sense of what working with different kinds of people, and being a good communicator, takes in order to do that, I would say in terms of doing this kind of role, if you like to be very strategic and think about markets, thinking about ideas from that really early whiteboarding stage all the way through to execution, then this is a really good fit for someone in this role. If someone is extremely detail oriented, or they're looking to learn how to be the sub great role for that. I, for example, expect everyone to effectively read every word of every contract that we do, including on link language. And those are things that really ensure that people are thinking through all the implications of what that contract says. And then last but not least, I think if someone is interested in working on strategic opportunities that are really focused on on putting the company first versus the individual themselves or their team I think this is a really great role, because it's ultimately something that is fairly high stakes, you can be working on opportunities that have either a really big positive impact are a really big negative impact company. And as a result, the highest highs are quite amazing and thrilling and can have a much more outsized impact than you would imagine one individual at a company could have.


LED  50:36

I think the stressful piece is definitely something important to call out that the job will I think this job in particular should have some relatively higher levels of stress, just because you might have some high impact deal. And then maybe it's a difficult partnership, maybe it's a difficult negotiation. So you just sort of trying to figure it out. So you should be okay with that kind of thing.


Cristina  50:58

Yeah, definitely.


LED  50:59

I think one thing, which really stands out for me as an outsider, is that this role seems to be a very different way of looking at growth, like a lot of people tend to think about growth as okay, I just somehow need to get my product in front of more people, I just need to somehow do advertising. I think partnerships, if executed well, can be a very good and much higher impact way of seeing that growth, rather than, sort of the organic, sort of keep on pushing. If you like to think about those kinds of things then again, this could be a good role. So are there any aspects about this job that you do not like?


Cristina  51:39

You touched on one, which is stres. I definitely think especially when you're in a very high stakes Partnership, which can take a turn for the worse, it can be very stressful, I'll give you an example of a partnership I was working on with an OEM in Asia, when I was at my last company, where in the middle of the night, I think, one in the morning, I got a call from the partners engineering team. And they said,  unless I can fix this bug, I'm not gonna be allowed to go home tonight. And this was like, maybe 5pm their time or something like that. And at that point, it's one of the morning, I have no idea what to do, nor am I the right person to actually fix this problem, because it's a bug in our software code. So things like that, where you're trying to do absolutely everything you possibly can. And in a lot of cases, it's completely outside of your control. I think that's probably the most stressful part. Whereas, if you're an engineer you're building everything from end to end. And maybe deadlines are stressful. But in the case of partnerships, you're somewhat taking a roll the dice in terms of, what you have control over at any given time. And then second, I would say, you are in a lot of cases obligated to work with people who you have no control over. So as opposed to people who are on your team, who you can, that for a good fit with your company culture and ensure that they work with your team well, in other parts of the organization, well, with people who are on the opposite side, on another partnerships team, or on another partners product team, for example, you don't really have any control over what their culture is like how their company is going to interact with and work with yours. I think if you aren't used to operating with different working styles, different personalities, it can be somewhat hard to do this kind of job, because you are extremely external facing. And that means you just have to adapt to different companies ways of of operating different personalities and styles. And so that's a very crucial piece to this role. And then last, but not least, I would just say, if you don't like working with product or engineering teams, probably not the right role for you either. I think we are particularly close with those teams internally. And I think you have to be a great representative for those teams, externally, and that you shouldn't just necessarily take whatever the partner says in terms of what they want to build, or what they want to achieve. And blindly bring that back to your product team and say we need to implement XYZ. That's not necessarily the best way to work internally. So you both have to represent your company and that includes your your product and your engineering team. And also ensure that you are working on behalf of your partner. You are a representative of multiple constituents. At the end of the day.


LED  55:03

Is there something like a typical background for people in business development?


Cristina  55:09

I wouldn't say so honestly I've found that a lot of people who, who end up coming in to business development roles have been DL people in some other capacity. So as an example, I know a fair number of people who've gone into business development who were previously in a legal function, and they decided that they wanted to stop negotiating the legal terms and start negotiating the business terms as part of their job. So they made that transition, I found that a lot of people have also come from maybe like, venture capital, or investment banking, where they had to do a lot of deal oriented work. And that was maybe a little bit more finance oriented, or more straightforward, or well structured, those kinds of things. Then I've also found on the flip side, that you'll often find people coming in from maybe marketing or product management, in a number of cases, because those folks have a tendency to be extremely detail oriented, like to work extremely cross functionally, and are able to think about markets and impact of products really well.


LED  56:19

If you were to think about the best business development professionals that you worked with, what are some three to five traits that you think would be common across those five people?


Cristina  56:34

I would say, pragmatic, would be one, and then also kind of keeping the big picture in mind. So ultimately, there are a number of folks who think about, what is important to the company, what is important to this particular team, and then they optimize everything for that particular area. The opposite of that is trying to optimize for 10 or 15 different things, as like a negotiating tactic can be a lot of wasted work, ultimately, or a deal that doesn't get done. So I found that a lot of people who are doing great deals are really thinking about, what is the ultimate goal here. And we don't need to quibble over the last minor items, if we're getting what we need, at the end of the day. I would say, have stamina. I think deals with big companies can take a really long time, I think the longest deal that I've worked on, has taken over a year. And as a result, it can feel like you want to give up at the end, just to get it done. And that's where you might actually lose a lot of value, because you've given up on the things that really matter to you and your company. So you've kind of forgotten that big picture in mind that you had at the beginning. And you'll just give it up just to kind of get it over and say you signed the deal at the end of the day, even though it wasn't the best deal that you could potentially accomplish. And then last, I would say relentless there are a lot of companies that I've reached out to where it just wasn't a good time to work with that company. Maybe they were strapped for resources. Maybe this just wasn't an area of importance to them yet. But I always made sure that either I or someone else within the company, was checking it every quarter, every six months, whatever made sense for that company, and tried to get it done. And as a result, it may have taken a really long time for it to even get started. But they those companies came to me first, because I had been that person who's bugging them for years. Ultimately, I figure that's a really important trade of people that I've worked with and people who I have ultimately decided to work with, because I know that they're gonna get it done because they never gave up on me in the past.


LED  59:18

I've heard something like for call mailing. This is not 100% related, but for call mailing. I heard someone say that unless and until I hear no, I just keep on mailing. Only when they say no, do I say okay, fine. I try and understand what the reason is, and then I go somewhere else. So it's kind of speaking their relentless point. So this is an interesting list of things that you say is common across a lot of the really good BD professionals. How are you measuring this or gauging this in someone's application? So I'm guessing an application is basically someone's resume. So what are you looking for in that resume?


Cristina  59:57

Generally, I think it's hard to determine all of these things purely from a resume, I think you'll get a lot of them more so in an interview over a resume, but generally in a resume, I'm looking for someone who has expressed that they've probably worked closely with product or engineering teams, because that's a really crucial part of what we do. So some notion of maybe bringing a new product to market or something to that effect would probably give me some signal that's something that they've done in the past. Also, I would say, looking for something like experience doing end to end kind of one of a kind deals. So not necessarily participating in like a program of BD. While that's great, and it's really interesting work in a lot of cases, it's often very repeatable. And a lot of the deals that really matter for stripe and that we're spending a lot of our time on now, are not necessarily repeatable deals, they are in a lot of cases custom, and we're trying to figure them out at the beginning. And then eventually they become more programmatic. So we're trying to find someone who has done kind of that completely custom deal. And just figured it out, for whatever made sense for the company that they were at at the time. And then last, but not least, I would say, a focus in the resume on the impact of the deals. So not just closed a company with Twitter, or started closed a deal with Twitter, or closed a deal with with Google, but what was the impact of that deal? Because I think a lot of people stress on big names. But that doesn't really matter if it didn't affect the company dramatically at the end of the day.


LED  1:01:47

Quick question for you there. Let's say someone does not have prior deal experience in any form or shape. So no business development, and no sort of venture capital or something like that. What can this person do?


Cristina  1:02:02

I would say, one of the most successful things that I've seen anyone do to date has been actually doing a little bit of work, prior to even applying or as part of their application process rather. So I had one person actually apply to kind of get their foot in the door. And they sent over a 10 page deck of a partnership proposal that they thought that the company that I was working for, should actually go about and do. And it was extremely thoughtful. It showed that they really cared about working ash, like the company that I was working at specifically, rather than just  any company that they can get a job in median. And then last but not least, it really showed their work product. So I could get a sense of how they thought, how they operated, what kind of work that they would do if they were at my company. So that is, I think one really great way of kind of getting your foot in the door, if you really don't have the BD experience or the connections in place to kind of get past that first resume screen, if you don't have the experience that you would typically look for in a role like this.


LED  1:03:18

That's a real example. Because even though this person in this example, did not have prior media experience, they illustrated that I can think through a partnership, I can think through what it what a good deal might look like. And that helped this person get through, but also from the way you answer that question, it sounds like the best way to apply is through photo.


Cristina  1:03:37

I think so in a lot of ways. I would say that BD is very much a kind of role where you're talking about earlier, it's not that your network matters as everything, but it can be important and crucial. And for someone who is connected to a lot of people, it's fairly easy to get an intro to me, I think in a lot of ways. So if you are looking for a role at a company that I've worked for they work for now, generally, I would recommend that you should try to get an introduction to someone on the team first. And that way you can go and warm get a better sense of what the role is without having to necessarily get into the formal interview process right away. And that can give you some hints as part of the process. But eventually everyone has to go through the same process at the end of the day. So that part is effectively required.


LED  1:04:42

That makes sense. And you mentioned something very important at the beginning of the discussion that not every company will treat business development as a very important function. Is there a way for a candidate to assess that from the outside? How important is business to be Looking for this company?


Cristina  1:05:01

Sure. I mean, from the outside, I would say, certainly thinking about it from a perspective of no, if I were working there, what kind of partnerships would I do? Right, especially at a company that doesn't have a business development function yet, but I know people who have joined a company in a business development role, and then realize that business development it's a function there. But maybe it's just more programmatic and less highly strategic for that kind of company. And as a result, it didn't really make sense for them to join that kind of company at that stage, because it wasn't an area where they felt they were strategically aligned to an important function at that company. So in terms of figuring out that through the interview process, I think, in a number of ways, when you have the opportunity to ask questions of people who are in the interview process, certainly asking about, what are the kinds of deals that you work on? When a big deal comes up? Who in the company do you work with on it. Are our executives involved? Are other cross functional leaders within the company involved? When you've had a problem with a particular partnership, or big roadblock? Who comes to help you solve that? Those can be areas where you can get a sense of does the company rally behind the partnerships? Or are the partnerships really just a nice to have that don't get a lot of people interested? Or kind of involved with the aspects of business development on a day to day basis?


LED  1:06:42

And I'm sure the answers to that can be very telling. Are there any resources that you would want to recommend to let's say, someone is interested in exploring business development a little bit more, or maybe things that can be used for preparing for interviews?


Cristina  1:06:55

Right, I would say, ultimately, there are a few blog posts that are really interesting. As an example, Elon Gill, has a blog post, I think it's something how to hire a great business development people or something to that effect, which I think really rings true to a lot of the things that I believe in the hiring process for those who work on BD. in tech, especially. I think that's a great blog post to read to get a better sense of, how would I answer these questions if I were kind of going about an interview process? And then second, I would say, just thinking about your strategic communication, and thinking through different deal types and scenarios that would make sense for a particular kind of company. For example, if I were interviewing at Dropbox, I would want to think about what are the different competitors in Dropbox space right now, it's everything from Google to Microsoft to Apple. And I would want to think about before going into that interview process, what are the different kinds of ways that business development could create a moat around the dropbox business so that companies like Apple, or Google, or Microsoft are less successful in competing with a company like Dropbox, right? Thinking about what's strategic for the business? And how can this function be helpful and mapping that out. And then last, but not least, just be prepared to think about your past experiences, talk about your failures, talk about what hasn't gone so well, because there will be failures in the work that you do around business development, and it's all about how you handle it. And then really start thinking about how you might work or how you have worked with folks on other teams and other cross functional organizations, because a lot of the business development interviews that I've participated in have been very cross functional. I'm not necessarily just interviewing with, let's say, business development people I'm interviewing with engineers or product managers or with for some legal team. And so my interactions with those people will matter a lot. And preparation would be pretty key, though.


LED  1:09:12

This is great. This was a slightly long conversation, but I think you have so much good data and insights to share that I wanted to keep on asking you questions? Or is there any other advice you'd like to share before we end any for people who are interested in in business development, parting advice?


Cristina  1:09:31

I would just say, try to find a company that has a really great cultural and strategic fit with how you like to do deals and business development. So if you strong arm negotiation and have a very aggressive way of operating. It might make sense to join a company where that's the style and par for the course, versus another company where that's less important. So think about the kind of cultural ethos of the company that you're joining and what makes sense. The second, I would just say, try to join a company where you can really learn from other people, specifically people who've been doing business development for a lot longer than you have, or folks who have done particularly one of a kind in special deals that are career making, or career defining and the number of ways and try to work with those really great people, because that experience will certainly teach you a lot.


LED  1:10:30

That these are great points. And I'm guessing you can find this information by just sort of looking at the business development team on the company's website, and then looking at their profiles and doing some digging around what deals has this company done in the past and who was involved with


Cristina  1:10:45

Press releases and blog posts are great examples of this. It's important enough, then the company has probably talked about that particular deal. So that's a great way to understand, what's important enough for the company to be shouting rooftops about


LED  1:11:00

All right. Thank you so much, Christina. This was wonderful. I really appreciate you taking the time.  

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