Breaking into startups is hard, especially popular ones like Square, Uber, or Airbnb. Hiring managers are inundated with resumes and cover letters from qualified candidates. AngelList company inboxes are filled to the brim with people who say they would be “perfect fits” for a startup’s culture. Most of the time, it takes a personal referral to get a great job at an amazing startup. Here are 4 people who truly went above and beyond the standard resume or email drop and were able to land amazing jobs at some of the coolest (and most well-known) tech startups.

1. Avi Lichtschein - Square


We’ve all at least had one run-in with the Square card reader at some point. When Avi Lichtschein had his first experience running his credit card through the white phone dongle, he was determined to get a job with them.

Starting out with traditional channels, Avi decided to apply as a Risk Analyst at Square. Although he got rejected the first time, he didn’t give up, and even took it upon himself to get noticed. Using his own money, he decided to purchase several Square card readers and signed 10 merchants in one day. Impressed with Avi’s hard work and determination, the co-founders of Square reached out to him and eventually offered him a position as a Community Marketing Associate.

2. Patrick Cines - Uber


Hitting a bit close to home on this one, but our Community Manager, Patrick Cines, was able to get a job with Uber back in State College, PA as Campus Manager doing growth for the local market. Patrick has always been an avid fan of the private driver app and when it was announced that they were coming to Penn State, he was determined to get a gig with them.

In the weeks leading up to Uber’s launch in the college market, Patrick noticed that Uber was doing minimal marketing, so he took it upon himself to help spread the word of the taxi alternative. Using exactly $50 combined with some graphic design skills and Uber’s existing referral program, Patrick printed up over 400 Uber-esque cards that offered people a free Uber ride up to $30. If someone signed up with Patrick’s card, they would get their free ride and so would Patrick.

At the end of the experiment, he was able to rack up over $1700 in Uber credit and he showcased his work in a personal blog post detailing every step. Shortly after gaining traction within the Growth Hackers community and tweeting his story to @Uber and @Uber_Philly, he was contacted by an Operations Coordinator who managed the State College market. Instead of revoking his Uber credit for technically violating their Terms of Service, the Operations Coordinator offered him a job growing the number of Uber drivers and users.

3. Megan Towe - LiveIntent


After graduating from Colby College with a B.A. in Government, Megan landed a job as a Communications Assistant at a notable PR firm. Her roommate at the time was working at a startup and hearing her stories, she knew she had to make the leap into startups. Determined to dive head first into the startup job search, she went straight to the top and reached out to Charlie O’Donnell, a notable investor and founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, to have a coffee. Charlie referred her to Alex Taub, co-founder of SocialRank, for advice and to check out a NYC business development meetup. After her meeting with him, she sent him a handwritten letter thanking him for the advice

When one Charlie’s portfolio companies, LiveIntent was looking for a new business person to take up partnerships and integrations, he personally referred Megan. Shortly thereafter, she became the 9th employee at LiveIntent!

4. Tristan Walker - FourSquare


Tristan Walker, a business student, wanted a job with Foursquare, the popular check-in application. Instead of dropping a resume on their website, he cold emailed the co-founders, Dennis and Naveen, directly. In his email, he expressed his excitement for the company, his work ethic, his entrepreneurial track record, and how he really wanted to help Foursquare.

When Dennis, one of the co-founders asked him if he was ever in NYC, Tristan replied by saying that he was going to be in NYC tomorrow. At the time, he was in LA and had no intent of actually going to NYC that day. As soon as responding to Dennis, Tristan booked his flight and spent the entire next week with Dennis and Naveen. Crowley challenged him to sign 30 businesses in a month. Walker found 300 in a little more than a week. A month later, he was the third employee at FourSquare and helped the startup skyrocket by closing hundreds of partnerships with brands including American Express and BravoTV.

Getting a job at a startup can be a long and stressful process. Sometimes we hear about people sending out hundreds of resumes without as much as an email in response. Our biggest piece of advice: do more than just the resume drop. Reach out to current employees, try and get coffee with the founders, go to startup meetups in your city, and even consider finding ways to hack your way into a startup like the four inspiring stories above.

Want that extra leg up? Sign up for Planted. We’ll act as your inside referral so you don’t have to send out hundreds of resumes and cover letters.