Partnerships lessons from Stripe & Notion — Cristina Cordova on creating win-win deals
Episode 5

Partnerships lessons from Stripe & Notion — Cristina Cordova on creating win-win deals

Today’s episode is with Cristina Cordova, Notion’s Head of Platform & Partnerships. Previously, she was the 28th employee and the first partnerships hire at Stripe, where she cultivated partnerships with companies like Shopify, Squarespace and Apple.

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Today’s episode is with Cristina Cordova, Notion’s Head of Platform & Partnerships. Previously, she was the 28th employee and the first partnerships hire at Stripe, where she cultivated partnerships with companies like Shopify, Squarespace and Apple, built out the BD org, and led their new Corporate Card effort. 

After a decade in partnerships, Cristina has bagged big deals, honed her negotiation skills, built out teams — and made plenty of mistakes she hopes others can learn from. In today’s conversation, Cristina pulls from across her career to share the inside scoop on deals that had an unexpected outsized impact — as well as the ones that went sideways. 

She also shares her playbook for being a startup’s first partnership hire, including the three critical areas to focus on first, and the common traps to avoid. It’s also full of actionable tactics on everything from dealing with partners trying to push you around, to how to hire for partnerships roles and structure the org chart.

Today’s conversation is a must-listen of course for folks currently in or hoping to break into partnerships, platform or BD roles, but Cristina also shares great tactics for getting better at negotiating, as well as some fascinating stories of how Stripe and Notion scaled — meaning there’s tons to learn here for everyone.

You can follow Cristina on Twitter at @cjc.

You can email us questions directly at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter @ and 

EP.05 - Cristina Cordova

Cristina Cordova: [00:00:00] There isn't really ever a holy grail deal that makes or breaks your company. And I don't think you would ever want that to be the case. Personally, I very much believe that as a BD person, I want to join a company that's probably going to be successful without me. It would be great if I made this company more successful, but the reality is that I want this company to be successful even without this function.

And so the other functions within an organization, whether it's sales or marketing or other things that can kind of make things happen, those functions need to be performing well. And if they're not, I don't think you can depend on BD to just be the only thing that makes your company. And that's true of every other function.

Brett Berson: [00:00:51] Welcome to in depth, a new show that surfaces tactical advice, founders and startup leaders need to grow their teams. Their companies and themselves. I'm Brett Berson, a partner at first round, and we're a venture capital firm that helps startups like notion, roadblocks, Uber, and square tackle company building firsts through over 400 interviews on the review.

We've shared standout company, building advice, the kind that comes from those willing to skip the talking points and go deeper into not just what to do, but how to do it with our new podcast. In-depth you can listen into these deeper conversations every single week. Learn more and subscribe [email protected].

Christina joined. Nosha a first round back company this year as their first head of platform and partnerships right on the heels of a seven year stint at Stripe, where she was the 28th employee and first partnerships hire. She built the team from scratch oversaw partnerships with companies like Shopify Squarespace and apple and led stripes, new corporate card effort.

Now in a role at notion, she's building out a team that focuses on their forthcoming API, third-party embedded content and integrations and the overall notion ecosystem. What I most appreciate about our conversation today is how Christina immediately gets down to the brass tacks of how to be successful in BD and partnerships.

It's role that doesn't always get as much attention as other functions like product or engineering. And while it can be critical to a startup's growth journey, there are also so many mistakes and pitfalls to be wary of. In today's episode. Christina shares her guide to being a startup's first partnership hire, including three critical areas to focus on first, she shares the mistakes she's learned from and common traps such as going after the biggest potential partner on your wishlist.

First. Or failing to codify your principles before pursuing deals from what to do when a partner tries to push you around and how to craft a win-win deal to the first steps you can take early on to smooth the path to success. She's full of actionable tactics. I particularly love how Christina shares the inside scoop on deals that had an unexpected outsized impact, as well as the ones that went sideways.

We dive into the team building side of things as well, such as how the BD org chart evolved at Stripe and how she's approached building out her team at notion, including what she looks for when hiring the interview questions she asks and the practical exercises she assigns. Of course today's conversation is a must listen to, for folks currently in or hoping to break into partnerships platform or BD roles, but Christina shares great tactics for getting better at negotiating, as well as some fascinating stories of how Stripe and notion scaled, meaning there's tons here for just about anyone.

I hope you enjoy the episode. And now Mike session with Christina. Well, thanks so much for joining us, Christina, glad to be here. One of the sort of ideas with this podcast is to give folks that are listening sort of a front row seat in conversations that happen in Silicon valley, sort of coaching conversations.

And one of the things we were talking about is you often have people reach out as the, in their role. They're the first partnerships person, and they're trying to get a download from you on what to do traps and pitfalls to try to avoid. And so thought maybe that would be a great place to start sort of when you think about all those conversations or zooms or long ago, when you met people for coffee in person, what's the stuff that you kind of have found yourself saying over and over again, in those conversations when somebody sort of joining in that first partnership, 

Cristina Cordova: [00:04:46] I would say first is that with a lot of these new companies, you haven't necessarily found product market fit yet.

And so in a lot of ways, partnerships comes on board. You have a pretty small team with few resources to be able to do what you're looking to do. And maybe you have some initial ideas for what partnerships would be effective for your organization, but maybe you haven't really tried those out. You don't know if they're going to be successful and you don't really know if those are the right ones.

So very often I would say the person who starts in BD at an organization is often a generalist. Maybe they started in one function. Marketing or sales, and it was clear that there was an opportunity for BD and then they moved into that function or they were hired straight into it. And I think the biggest challenge is really kind of testing and iterating on what is going to work for a given organization.

So early on, you might talk to the first few potential partners, but they don't really know your company very well. And startups often, they've never heard of you before have some hesitancy in building a relationship with you. And there, I would say my biggest advice was very much kind of thinking about how you could start with probably not the most important partners that you could potentially work with, but maybe let's say third, fourth or fifth, kind of down on the list of potential partners and really kind of building a case with those folks before you go to your most prominent potential partner in a given space.

And that way you could really learn exactly what the objections might be from a big partner and figure out what the right path forward would be. If you were a pitch that big company, five, six months from now. And I thought that was very helpful for me generally, because with a lot of people in these kinds of new functions at a new company, you don't know the space very well. You don't necessarily know what you're doing. And I think being able to kind of read the people who you are pitching to in those very early days, and then just try and figure out well, what's working. What were the parts of this that they liked, that they didn't like? And how can you kind of iterate on that before you get to the next person, both within that organization and then kind of moving on to bigger and bigger partners.

So that was very big for me. And I think you can take it down to the smallest task. So. When I joined my first startup, I was just out of undergrad. I knew no one, I didn't have any of the connections I do today. And as a result, I had to cold email people. So I was cold emailing publishers in New York, primarily cold emailing, the likes of like Samsung and Amazon and at and T and all of these companies and trying to find who is the right person who would talk to me.

And in those cases, I would try one email to one person. And that was just me, just trying to hack around what their email address was. Now there are tools for this, which is nice, but in those days there weren't, and then just figuring out what were the things that people responded to. So looking at the emails where people didn't respond to me, looking at the emails where people did and just kind of doing your own internal AB test, what was the.

30 second elevator pitch within an email that worked and what didn't work. And then moving on to doing that in every single aspect of the deals that you do, where, what are the tactics to the first pitch meeting that work really well? What are the tactics to the deal negotiation that tend to work? Those are the kinds of things that I would say were really critical for me early on.

And then second, I would say two typically, I mean, often you're doing partnerships as a smaller organization and you want to partner with larger organizations, the other organization is going to try and extract as much value as possible from you and your organization, and think that they can kind of push you around because they're bigger.

And in those scenarios, I had partners that I was working with in other countries that would call me in the middle of the night. And I have to like wake up at three in the morning and take these calls, these kinds of things, or a partner that would try to insert like a very onerous deal term that would really make you kind of question the entire partnership.

And in general, I would say you want to push for a partnership that feels very much like a win-win for both parties. And that's not because it's just going to be easier for you to give away things, but. Also because you want to feel like if this is successful, both parties are in it together and happy with the general outcome and not just happy because they extracted more value than the other party.

And finding partners that are amenable to that I think is going to be very critical to doing good deals. There are definitely deals I've done in my history where I didn't think we were particularly aligned. And I felt that a company wanted to kind of extract a lot of value and you put a lot of work into those negotiations And then it turns out that you're six months into the deal being live. And there's. Too much value that you're giving away and you're not happy with it. And you terminate that deal or try to end it or renegotiate it. And it's a huge mess. And so when you're really early on, I would say I was later on at Stripe when some of those deals happened.

But I think early on, I would look at partnership opportunities where you feel like you're still getting a lot of value and not feeling like the goal isn't to just release a press release that says your company and this big company are working together. It really does have to work at the end of the day.

And it's not just about the headline of the partnership. So I would say, be weary of some of those larger companies that may want to push you around and try to find a way to work together, where there can be kind of mutual value that both companies are extracting from the relationship. And that way you can have these relationships that last.

Seven nine, 10 years. And aren't these kind of quick partnerships that feel good in the moment, but then die a year or two later. And then I would say last but not least would be trying to figure out how you can as a person doing partnerships, start out by doing some kind of first ikin nd deals. So these are partnerships that your company has never done before.

There's no kind of existing agreement. There's nothing off the shelf that already exists for what you kind of want to do with this organization. And then when it's clear that you want to start working with other partners, continuing to find ways to make this repeatable and scalable, even if that means the partnerships no longer belong in your team.

So, as an example at Stripe, we did a number of different distribution partnerships, where we would partner with a company like Shopify and have them. Automatically include Stripe as a payment offering for all of their merchants. And after a while, we went just down the list of every e-commerce platform, every invoicing platform, and just kind of category by category, knocking them all down.

And after a while, the deals became pretty repeatable where we had the kind of like template contract. The pitch was pretty stellar and straightforward and easy to replicate. And it made sense to say, well, this isn't really BD work anymore. This is actually now something that is a little bit more akin to sales, where you are selling something that's off the shelf.

And so we had to figure out, well, if we're going to be a team that does kind of highly strategic first and kind deals, then this doesn't really fit into that category anymore. And even if it was something that produced billions of dollars in payments processing revenue for Stripe. It made sense to move it to a team that was more scaled and did more repeatable deals.

And so I think the other thing that I would think about is as you start doing deals and things become kind of different than they were at the beginning and require maybe a different skillset, find a home in your organization for that work. I think generally BD teams should be small. You shouldn't necessarily have hundreds of people doing BD.

I've never seen that in an organization. And if you do see it, it's typically that they're like not actually doing BD. So that would be kind of what I would look at in an organization for the most part. When I see the ability to scale a particular set of deals, that's a really good sign and you shouldn't be afraid of giving away your Legos in a sense to kind of grow that effort within an organization.

So those would be my kind of three areas that I would focus on as an early person doing BD within an organization. 

Brett Berson: [00:14:21] So building on that, I think a lot of small teams when they start trying to do partnerships, think that one of these deals is going to be some sort of holy grail that, oh, it's gonna unlock distribution or transform the company.

And often to your point, they go after companies that are never going to do a deal with a 15 or 20 or 25 person company, or if they are to get it implemented and actually working is just phenomenally challenging. And so to your point about maybe starting with smaller deals and then working up, are there other approaches to.

Sort of sanity check or to increase the odds that deals actually drive tangible business value. 

Cristina Cordova: [00:15:05] I would say in a lot of ways early on, it really helps to set a good framework for how you're going to do these deals. And I think a key component of that framework is really setting out what your principles are.

So what are the things that you really care about as an organization? What are the things that you're not going to give on? So for example, with our distribution deals at Stripe, we tended to not do anything related to exclusivity. So if Shopify wanted to work with us, great, if Squarespace wanted to work with us to awesome, we were never going to sign anything related to just working with one single company.

And that was because we viewed ourselves from a principal's perspective as an open platform that wanted to support all types of commerce. And I think if you are a BD person within an organization you're coming in fresh, I think it's good. Before you start engaging with any partners to take a step back and really figure out what your principles are within an organization, so that you can go into these negotiations and say, it's great that you want exclusivity, but that doesn't really align with what our principles are as an organization. And that's not something I'm going to be able to get done for you. And it's much easier to do that from a place of having principals versus having. Very strict. Yes. I can give this away. No, I cannot because you don't know what you're willing to give away right. At the beginning, but having a good sense of what are these things that we think might lie in one category of yes, we can do that versus no, we can't.

I think is really something that you should do early on and making sure that your leadership team isn't supportive, that, that your product and engineering team are in support of that because often you're going to be negotiating their time and their ability to kind of make things happen for you. And then at the same time, I would say in working with these larger organizations, I think you're right there.

There isn't really ever a holy grail deal that makes or breaks your company. And I don't think you would ever want that to be the case. Personally. I very much believe that as a BD person, I want to join a company that's probably going to be successful without me. It would be great if I made this company more successful, but the reality is that I want this company to be successful even without this function.

And so the other functions within an organization, whether it's sales or marketing or other things that can kind of make things happen, those functions need to be performing well. And if they're not, I don't think you can depend on BD to just be the only thing that makes your company. And that's true of every other function.

Sales can only do so much when you have a bad product, et cetera. So when I think about partnerships that work really well, often a lot of the, what seemed like a small partnership at the time, but those partnerships tend to grow with your company. So, as an example, I've mentioned this a few times before and mostly because it's a public company.

So a lot of the data is public, but Shopify has started out as a company that was roughly the same size of Stripe. When we were doing our first partnership together. And so they didn't necessarily seem like this big company that was going to do amazing things, but I think one of the reasons why we invested in them and when they asked us to do things that were maybe not standard or not something that we had done yet, I think you could really tell from their motivations that what they cared about was really building a best in class experience for their customers.

And we were in the way of that. So we needed to change and we needed to move. And as a result, I think all of those decisions made sense at the time to kind of push the relationship forward. And then Shopify became a really kind of breakout company. But it took a long time for that to happen. And I think what we saw on the Stripe side was that just as Stripe was growing up into the right Shopify was growing up into the right.

So it wasn't a company that made or broke Stripe at the time. It was a company that very much added a lot of value, but we were on a trajectory that was already going in a particular direction and Shopify added to that. And so I think in a lot of ways you can find companies that you can take a bet on from a partnerships perspective that actually add a lot of value to your company over time.

But to your point, they're not necessarily going to be these, make it or break it type of deals and nor should they be. Are 

Brett Berson: [00:19:52] there other examples of those types of deals that you've done? That seemed interesting at the time, but it was not some make or break deal that ended up having a disproportionate 

Cristina Cordova: [00:20:02] impact.

I would say the other partnerships. We tended to work on that we decided to invest in, but we didn't exactly know what we were going to get from it. A good example of this would be our partnership with apple pay at Stripe. So very early on apple had decided to kind of launch apple pay, but they kind of only let in some kind of payments industry kind of long-standing organizations into that process.

So the visas and the MasterCards and those kinds of folks were in on it, but they came to us kind of last minute and said, Hey, we know you work with a lot of mobile first companies. Maybe we should talk to you about this. And we kind of had to stop everything and say, okay, we're going to put two engineers on this.

And we're going to build an integration that just kind of works off the shelf for every single user on Stripe. And that seemed like in a lot of ways. Okay. We're going to work with a big company and this big company is going to potentially let us in early on some new technology and that could potentially push us forward and make us be seen as a market leader in mobile commerce.

But at the same time, we actually had to work with a bunch of small companies to make that happen. So at the time it was kind of like we're going to make apple pay available, but we need businesses to actually activate it and potentially do their integrations earlier. And so this was kind of in classic apple mode.

It was like you would have all of these companies that use Stripe kind of come into the office and they would be locked in a room with no windows and a phone that was chained to a desk and they would program their integrations in that room, test it out on the device. And then hopefully when they actually shipped.

That integration, it would work. And I think that was a really cool experience, actually less so because of apple, because very much a big company that was kind of gonna go in a particular direction regardless of what we thought. But more so because of the startups that we got to work with that in a lot of cases were smaller than Stripe at the time.

So this was working with Instacart and Postmates and a bunch of these companies that were relatively new, maybe like a year or two old at that time. And just betting on the companies that we thought were interesting and could really get value from this experience. And it turned out that it ended up being over.

I think 50% of the apps that were apple pay enabled on day. One of the apple pay launch were actually powered by Stripe. So the fact that these kinds of small businesses at the time were able to just. Completely build these integrations in these tiny rooms and stripes office and be ready so quickly was such a surprise and delight for apple, which was great.

But then more importantly, those companies ended up building really strong product experiences and are very much doing well today. And as a result, I think those companies said, well, why not stay on Stripe? Where I'm going to use a partner. That's going to have access to some of this innovative technology very early on, rather than working with someone else.

And I think that ended up working out really well for us. What 

Brett Berson: [00:23:29] about deals or partnerships in the other direction across some of the companies that you worked, where you thought it was going to be really impactful and then ended up sort of not delivering in a way that you thought, are there any patterns or stories that come to mind?

Cristina Cordova: [00:23:42] The biggest one was certainly later in my time at Stripe. And there are actually two that come to mind. One is an example of a very large public company in kind of the FinTech space. And we were thinking of about doing a distribution partnership with them to access a large number of small businesses that could process payments on Stripe.

And I think the biggest sign there was actually a lack of cultural similarity. So as an example, when we would do meetings together, it would be me one engineer on our product team and maybe one other person on the partnerships organization in a room. And then they would come with a bus of people, 20 people into this room, and it was unclear.

Who's the decision maker who's doing? What, why do they need this many people in a room to do a deal like this? And that was a really early sign that. We probably should have paid attention to that. This company just operates very differently from us and it was going to be hard to actually get stuff done.

And it proved to be true throughout the negotiation process. You would negotiate with one person and then like another person would say, actually, no, I know we already agreed to that, but we can't do it anymore. And it just became this long protracted negotiation. And I think we gave up a lot just to release the deal and get the deal done.

And nine months later we ended up winding the deal down because it was so in favor of the other partner that it just didn't make sense for us financially. And I think the good part of that is that they agreed. It was pretty obvious that it wasn't kind of a good deal for us. And as a result, we weren't motivated to do other things that they wanted to do.

Why invest more efforts and the kind of like throw more good money after bad. Into a particular partnership that just clearly was one-sided and not really working. And I think you can tell when that's happening in a negotiation, when it just feels like you're kind of giving more and more away, and it just feels like in a lot of cases, you don't want to give up on that deal because you've already spent so much time on it.

You've spent so much time pitching and getting them to buy in and you've spent so much time on the negotiation. And I really do think you should be willing to walk away. And I think a good example of when we did walk away was just kind of like another, again, large public company that wanted to do a deal with us.

And there was a competitor of ours that was actually willing to do that deal and give away a lot more financially than we were willing to give up. And I think it went back to the principles at the end of the day that we were not going to sign a deal that was unprofitable for us. I'll give you a good example of where other companies have decided maybe that they want to take a different approach.

So square, for example, had in the past, signed a deal with Starbucks to process all of the transactions within Starbucks, retail locations. And in that deal, they were basically kind of giving away their product at cost. So they weren't making any money on it. And then when you factor in the time of the BD people and the legal people and everyone else who had to make this deal happen, you're losing money on that deal.

And that's the price you pay to be able to get the Starbucks logo on your website and kind of make that deal happen. And I think in working with some of those larger customers or partners and stripes time of kind of similar stature and brand. We very much took a step back and said, do we need more logos?

Is that really something we need at this stage are more people going to use Stripe because we have that partner logo or customer logo, or put out this press release and really realizing at that point that that is pretty unnecessary. We have a pretty strong brand without it. And. We don't need to give a lot away in order to be able to get something like this done.

So in that scenario, once we realized the deal was going in a certain direction where you just have to give up a lot in order to kind of win it, we said, actually, this probably isn't a good fit for us. And we pulled out and our competitor is now paying a lot for that deal. And I think that was ultimately the right decision.

We realized that it was going to be a lot of investment in terms of engineering and product, and that we weren't going to get much back in terms of revenue because of the brand of this particular business. So I think in those situations, you always have to figure out before you ever started deal. What are the things you're really willing to give away? And for us, I think even if it's at a slim margin, we have to do deals that are profitable. And even if you're a company that maybe wants to take a bet and say, let's do a deal that is break, even figure out what are the three customers or the three partners where you'll do that kind of deal, put their names down on paper and say, only for these partners, will we do a deal that is a little more on their side than on our side.

And that way, if someone comes along and wants that and is not on that list, you can say, well, sorry, we don't do that. And you can agree as an organization that that's not something you do, unless it's. Very much this kind of like top tier partner or customer. 

Brett Berson: [00:29:20] You mentioned this a couple of times, the idea of starting with sort of deal principles.

And one of the examples you gave was how do we think about exclusivity? What are other things that either you've put in to ideal principal doc or that others might consider putting 

Cristina Cordova: [00:29:36] in there? Number one would be, what is the kind of ecosystem you're looking to build around what you do? So some of this can be revenue related.

Like I mentioned, we'll never take a deal. That's a new margin deal for us. And some of it can be related to what the partner is doing to your ecosystem. So as you think about building a partner ecosystem for the first time, in a lot of cases, you want to think about all the things that can go wrong.

Ultimately. So for example, a lot of companies that have put out API APIs for the first time, they release a lot of functionality all upfront. And then they kind of see what developers do with their APIs. And then when developers start doing things that they don't like, they start cutting off access to those developers or just pulling those features from the API altogether.

Thankfully I've never had to work for an organization that had to do that because I really think it just reduces the confidence that developers have in your ecosystem. And instead, I believe that you should take a step back and say, well, to your point, what are the principles that you have? So maybe a principle in that scenario is we want every partner to be giving value to the ecosystem.

And that could be giving value to us as a company, as an organization or giving value to my customers, which then gives value back to me because they're happier with my experience, but they can't only be extracting value. So a good example of this. I think at some point Twitter didn't have like a mobile app.

And so there were a bunch of developers who built mobile apps off of Twitter's API APIs. And then eventually Twitter was just like, Hey, we have our own mobile app now. So we're going to say that no developers can build copycats of an app that we already have because they're just extracting value our users aren't in our experience anymore.

They're in someone else's experience. And so what values do you have there, maybe the value is that you want your customers to be in your own product experience at the end of the day. So for a lot of companies, the principal, there would be the customer must be in our experience and not necessarily in a white labeled experience.

So we're not going to sell our data for example, and give it away to somebody else who can then put it into another experience. We can only really sell the full end to end product experience. So thinking about what are all the crazy things that someone might ask you for, and then trying to put that example into some principles, whether it's about value extraction within your ecosystem and where the value has to sit, whether it's about.

Things like privacy or security. I think that's a big thing that tends to come up. So there are a lot of partnerships that die once you get to the legal teams, trying to decide who owns the data. I think the really great thing for Stripe was that because we had very sensitive data, a lot of people didn't want to own it.

And in other companies that's not necessarily the case. So figuring out is this data that you want to share is this data that you want to own, that someone else can borrow if they're working with you, et cetera, I think is a very kind of key thing to think about. And then just think about all the kind of nefarious things that people might want to do if they abused your platform or your service in certain ways.

Or tried to create a competitive service with your functionality at some point, I think those are all things that you have to think through at some point. And it's certainly good if you think through those things much earlier than thinking through them in the middle of a deal process, because if you're thinking about it in the middle of a deal process, in a lot of ways, you're just so motivated to get the deal done.

You're just so motivated to sign it, that you're going to give things away because you didn't kind of set those principles down in stone in advance. 

Brett Berson: [00:33:48] So going back to your comment, you made a little while ago about tactics in the first conversation you have with a potential partner. I'm curious, we could spend a little bit of time there and either if you're doing some icy deal-making today, or you can think back in the past, when you think about your process for preparing for a first meeting with a potential partner, And then how you want to design or use the time with someone.

Can you share what you've learned about that, or what's worked for you? 

Cristina Cordova: [00:34:20] I would say earlier in my career, I had a tendency to, if someone wanted to meet with me, I would meet with them and not really think too hard in advance about all the ways in which we could work together, which was very much a mistake because you're walking into situations where you're not able to necessarily make progress, or you might have to say like, oh, I have to go back and think about that a little bit. Whereas you should have done probably the work going into it to really understand what a partner might want. So I would say really investing in that upfront, even if it's just a first kind of get to know you meeting what. Is this partner, what do they do? Who are their customers? Do we have any shared customers? Do they have partners today? Do they have an app marketplace, some kind of ecosystem that exists around their product? And did they have particular ideas as to how we would work together or did they just kind of want to meet? I also get a lot of folks who just kind of want to maybe do a little information sleuthing and just try to understand what is my company doing? What are they up to, but they don't actually want to do a partnership. So I would say try to be weary of those situations as well, and try to be firm about what are the things that this company wants and how can we very much discuss that explicitly, especially meeting with larger companies early on.

I've found that when you tend to work for a startup and this very large company wants to meet with you, and doesn't really give a lot of explanation as to why, and then asks you to share all of your company secrets with them, definitely something you don't want to do. They might be thinking about acquiring you, or just trying to duplicate the technology within your service and their service. So try and stay away from those. If you feel like it's not actually going anywhere. And then second, really try to think about all the ways that you could work together and kind of noodle on those potential opportunities with your team. If you have one or with an engineering organization, if you have one so that you can kind of throw out a bunch of ideas, and it's very likely that a lot of these ideas will not work or will not be of interest to them, but saying.

Is this something that would be interesting and making sure that you're aware of who would have to do the work to get that thing done. The worst thing I see is when a lot of ideas are thrown out and then I say, oh, that's really interesting. And then the party on the other side says, well, actually we don't have the capability to do this.

My team's not going to build it. So it was an idea, but now it's not going anywhere. So doing that upfront, work with your team to figure out what they might be willing to do for that early conversation so that you can pitch something that's realistic and might actually happen, I think would be ideal.

But I don't think a lot of these first conversations have to be super formal. I just think you want to go in informed of what the company does, what their space is and where the kind of possible intersections are for where you can work together. 

Brett Berson: [00:37:32] And then when you think about post first meeting, are there principles or.

Tactics that you've used to increase the probability that a win-win deal sort of ends up 

Cristina Cordova: [00:37:44] happening. I would say at that phase, especially when we are thinking about a company that could be a meaningful difference maker. That's probably when I go into more of an explicit pitch mode. So things that have worked for me really depend on am I working with a company that I feel like I have to really impress?

Is this a company that's much larger than ours? Is it a company where they could probably be working with anyone? And so I really need to put in the work early on to make sure that we build that relationship, or is it a company that maybe operates a little bit more in a scrappy fashion? And then you can kind of just talk these things through.

But the things that I've found to be very useful in these pitches, especially with kind of first unkind partnerships where you're discussing the way that your two services might work together, but there isn't any corollary for that. There's not an example that you can kind of pull to kind of make that happen would be actually one potentially wire framing that out.

What would that experience be? And then what would that change either within their experience or your experience and how would that be better for ideally both companies? So an example that I used early on at Stripe was when I was thinking about some of these other companies and what their kind of payments experiences were for their customers, thinking about how those could be improved.

And so, as an example, with a lot of e-commerce platforms, This is like 10 years ago, you'd go to these sites and there would be 80 different payment gateways that you, as the customer had to decide which one you're going to take advantage of. And it was just very confusing. Most of these businesses had never even thought about payments before and they weren't going to do the research necessary.

So it made a lot more sense for e-commerce platforms to instead say here's actually a payment service that we recommend for you that we think is the best experience for you. And that would actually ensure that business went through the onboarding process much faster and got their store up and running, which is something that obviously the e-commerce platform wants.

So if it improves their kind of rate of conversion and it makes the product experience better for their customers, then it feels like a win-win overall. And when I would kind of describe this to. Some of these e-commerce platforms at the time, they were just like, I mean, that sounds really interesting, but I don't know what it looks like.

And I think it really depends on who you're talking to. And a lot of cases with BD folks, the person on the other side doesn't necessarily think about all the different ways that this might work from a product experience it's possible. They're not even using their own product experience that much. So they don't know what's bad or could be improved by it.

And so you kind of need to show them here's your current product experience. And here's how our partnership could make that experience so much better. And even if it's just me, wireframing stuff in whimsical, or if I'm going to get a designer to mock something up, that's a lot more realistic than my crappy wireframing, then that can really illustrate to the person on the other side, what this might look like.

And then kind of showing examples of maybe other deals that you've done in the past and giving data points as to what was improved. Deconversion changed. Did customers like the product experience better? I think showing is one thing. And then actually using data points is the other piece and making sure that the person who's doing the deal with you doesn't feel like they're your Guinea pig and they're the first person who's ever done a deal with you.

I think it can give them a feeling of a lot more kind of safety and feeling like they're not necessarily taking this chance on a small company. Everyone says, oh, you never get fired for buying Microsoft. And I think at Stripe, we always had to. Fight against everyone saying the equivalent thing about PayPal.

And so in all of our experiences, we had to say, here are the companies that are modern and innovative and have made the decision to use us. And don't you want to be on that more innovative and modern path versus kind of this old school path that people are typically not choosing these days. So trying to bring people along that journey with a pitch that gives them visuals as well as data, and then confidence in choosing your organization 

Brett Berson: [00:42:32] to think about early in the process of deal-making.

Are there questions you ask or things that you look for to try to get a lay of the land in terms of what it's actually going to take to get a deal executed and implemented other than asking who is the decision maker or the sort of other things that gives you a roadmap in your own mind about who you have to get around, what incentives you have to align to ultimately get it done?

Cristina Cordova: [00:42:57] I typically fairly early on after there's kind of a good signal that our organizations would want to work together, try to get the lay of the land for them organization. So on a big deal, I think it's very important for you to lay out a map of an organization. So who are all the different constituents who are going to be involved and typically a good BD partner for you on the other side of the table will want you to know that information and will be open to sharing it with you.

So that person should be able to tell you, okay, here is a legal person who's going to need to be involved. Here's a security person who will need to be involved. Here are the different people on our engineering and product team who are going to have to buy into this. And here's your finance constituent, who are all the different parties, outlined that into a map and then start looking at your organization and figuring out who is each individual in the partners organization going to actually map to within your organization.

And that way you can have those relationships kind of built early versus doing something where those people are kind of meeting a lot later. And I think that's particularly important with executive relationships. So thinking about is the person who's going to have to sign this deal, your CEO, is it your head of product?

Who's that person who kind of needs to be involved. And maybe it's something where I suggest that our CEO and the CEO from this other company in a pre COVID time, go get coffee, go get dinner together. Kind of build that relationship so that when. I, as the person might be negotiating with the other BD person and maybe we disagree and can't move forward, or there's some kind of issue with other people within the organization.

I can always escalate to whoever that executive sponsor is for the deal and make sure that they're able to potentially negotiate that with each other and just kind of move the process forward. And I tend to think that that's always something that's very useful to do early and making sure that all of these individuals are involved and know what their role is and that they're supposed to build a relationship with their kind of counterparty in a way I think can be really helpful for getting a lot of these deals.

Brett Berson: [00:45:21] And so building on sort of the idea of what's going on in your own organization and how to set that up for success. Can you share your approach to getting your internal team aligned? Either around sort of a one-off deal or sort of how maybe that translates once you sort of want to scale a specific 

Cristina Cordova: [00:45:39] type of deal.

When I started in BD, BD was kind of in its own function, kind of reporting up to our chief business officer at Stripe, for example, or in the early stage startups, I've been a part of reporting up to the CEO directly. So you don't necessarily have constituents within your organization that are on your team, necessarily who aren't in BD.

And as a result, you have to build those relationships internally in order to get a deal done. And so I would say very early on before there is any deal, your job as the BD person is. Ideally, if you're doing first unkind product or platform type partnerships, your best friends should be the heads of your engineering and product organization.

And what I mean by that is that you should be building really strong relationships before there's ever a deal in play so that you can both one understand their roadmap. And then also to understand what's going to potentially change that roadmap or be worth changing that roadmap if a really important deal comes along.

And I think that's just super critical. I think in a lot of cases in early stage startups, it wasn't even that I had built a really strong relationship with the most senior engineering and product. Organizations. It was that I built really strong relationships with individual contributor, engineers and individual contributor engineers at a tech company of under 50 or a hundred people have a lot of power and sway over the work that they do.

And so there were definitely times when I would say, oh, I have an idea for a new product partnership. And I'm just going to get this one engineer who might be a friend of mine, or might be someone I know really interested and invested in working on it potentially. And ideally, you're doing this with someone who is in the right part of the organization, not asking an infrastructure engineer or to bill something, that's a front end product experience because it doesn't necessarily fit within their role or their team.

So ideally you're finding the right part of the organization, building the relationships with those people and then getting them really excited about the opportunities that you bring in. And I think the other key component of this is kind of no matter how bad a deal might be going for you and how stressful it might be for you as a BD person, kind of doing the negotiation and all that kind of stuff. It's your job to maintain a good face internally about the partner, because you don't want your internal team, whether that's like engineering, product, other BD, people, finance, et cetera, to be adversarial in their process with the other counterparts, with the partners organization. And I think that's just a really critical piece of maintaining a good working relationship with everybody else that's doing the deal.

So I think making sure that you have a really great. Partnership and relationship with the people on your engineering and product teams is key. Making sure that they feel really good about the partner is very much key. And then also figuring out where it makes sense to press and where it doesn't make sense to press at a given time. I think it's really critical. So as an organization, things are going to be coming in and out of importance within the lifetime of what you're doing. So it's possible that at a certain time you have a lot of growth, your infrastructure is falling down. It's probably not a good time to say, Hey, let's bring this new deal to the infrastructure team and they're going to have to completely re-architect and you part of the product in order to make that happen, just bad timing, read the room, figure out what these teams are doing and make sure that you're not trying to make a team do something that just doesn't make sense for where that team is at a given moment.

And then try to build a relationship with that team over. A long period of time, because there will probably be several deals that could be done. So, as an example, at notion, we have a client platform team, which basically builds the notion desktop app, the mobile apps for iOS and Android, et cetera. So when I'm out and building relationships with Google and apple, so that we can potentially get distribution for those applications, I want to make sure at that same time I'm working with the client platform team and getting them excited about potential opportunities to work with those partners.

So that means literally everything, both deal-making and not deal-making related, even when apple has an event, which it seems like they're having every month in post COVID times doing a live stream with our team so that we can all watch that event and see what new stuff is being released. And if we want to do anything with it, I think you want to kind of continuously get the team excited about working with partners even before it ever has to do with doing any kind of deal and making sure that you're building that relationship for the long haul and building a relationship with all the teams that you think might at some point be involved in a 

Brett Berson: [00:51:11] partnership.

Are there any other internal rituals or practices that you've developed internally that increase your odds or other partnerships, folks, odds of being successful in getting their 

Cristina Cordova: [00:51:24] work done? I would say the thing that kind of strikes me as most relevant, especially with earlier stage companies is aligning on your goals as a team and what the goals are for different stages of product development and different stages of partnerships.

And making sure that you're all kind of on board with that. I think it's easy, especially with an early stage teams to say, Hey, we got to move fast. We don't need to write these things down. We don't need to document that we know what we're doing, but I've always had situations where it kind of forces you to take a step back and say, actually, maybe we should be outlining our strategy here and making sure that we're all on the same page before we move forward.

And that can be as simple as two new engineers join a team and they are asking questions about why are we doing this partnership or what are even the goals of this partnership, which are totally valid and reasonable questions to ask. And if you don't have those things outlined, what are the goals? What are you doing?

What is the long-term strategy of this? Then I think it's perfectly acceptable for people to ask questions and challenge. And potentially say that maybe this isn't the right thing to be working on at a certain point. And so I think you always need to be bringing people along in that journey and taking time out to specifically outline that longer term strategy.

And I think earlier in my career, that was probably one of my biggest mistakes that I was such a go getter and wanting to kind of tactically get things done that I was just doing deal after deal after deal. And the feedback that I was always getting was you're doing so much, you're fantastic with execution, but you don't take enough time to take a step back.

Think about longer-term strategy, vision, and kind of bring other people along in that journey. You just continue to kind of fire away on your own and. I think that this is a function that is inherently collaborative and regardless of how good you are, you are going to make other people feel better about you and your work.

If you bring them along in that journey. 

Brett Berson: [00:53:43] Switching gears a little bit, we'd love to talk about the organization that you ended up building the partnership organization and maybe sort of design principles for that and how that evolved at Stripe. And maybe how you're thinking about that. Now, when you start with sort of a fresh sheet of paper at 

Cristina Cordova: [00:53:59] Stripe, I think the biggest challenge for me was actually just literally hiring the first person and deciding that we needed the first person.

I tend to be someone who kind of hires a little bit behind need. I want to be overwhelmed with the amount of work I have to do before I hire that next person in a lot of ways so that I can feel like that person has such an exciting amount of work. And plenty of things to do, and also decide where they prioritize versus me deciding for them.

And I think that was a critical kind of stage for me to get to. And so I was actually the first BD person at Stripe for, I want to say over a year before I said, Hey, I'm overwhelmed. And I think we need to hire a person. And then having that conversation where it's like, given I was the first person, am I hiring this person?

Or is this person going to be my colleague and working alongside me and making sure you are aware of what path the organization is going to take to kind of grow that. But I think at that point I had done enough good work that I had proven that I could at the very least lead a team and started hiring for those folks.

And so at the beginning, I was just hiring someone to do the same work that I was doing effectively. So that we could accomplish more of it. And I think that's an easier thing to do at the beginning, because one, you spent enough time in that particular role to know exactly how to do that work and to ideally train and build someone else up to do that kind of work.

So early on, I was looking for someone who could do that kind of work with me. And I think that was also my second hire as well. So we were primarily focused on distribution partnerships over time. And given I was very product oriented, I was hiring people who were taking off the distribution partnerships work from my plate.

So these were the Shopify guys, the Squarespaces et cetera, and doing more and more of those deals and then managing those deals. And I would start working on a lot of the product partnerships. So thinking about how would we work with other organizations and do first unkind partnerships, who our products work together in interesting ways.

And I think that in that experience, the thing that's really critical for you as a leader is to, especially when you're in a situation, which is what Stripe was in at the time where almost no managers, until we were like hundreds of people along did purely management. You always did a little bit of IC work and you were always kind of an IC plus management.

And even today at Stripe, I would say the goal is to find managers who really know the work of their team to a deep level, rather than just people who are very high-level managers and are kind of in the thick of the work of their team. So at that point, I was kind of thinking about what is the work that I really enjoy.

I really like working with product and engineering and so working on first unkind product partnerships make sense. I will hire people to do distribution partnerships, which were the deal that I was getting kind of more templative and kind of less interesting to me over time. And that worked really well.

And I think the first critical break that typically happens within a lot of partnerships, organizations is. Trying to separate BD, which is typically going out and bringing in new potential deals for the business and doing everything like pitching and negotiating and getting that deal done across the finish line and up and running from partner management, which is much more oriented around, okay, this partnership is here, it's integrated, it's up and running, but it needs a lot of care.

And we need someone to kind of grow that partnership over time and be responsible for the growth of that deal and doing things like renegotiations at times, which can be a little easier than doing the deal from the very first time. And so we eventually kind of split out those functions and said, we were going to hire a kind of partner managers.

And BD folks and the corollary for this, and let's say sales would be an account executive who would be out hunting versus the account manager. It would primarily be farming. So think about it in a similar way and building out a team that would be partner management focused, and then a team that would be BD oriented and then promoting people who were individual contributors on those teams into management roles.

And then me becoming a manager of managers. And I would say that was kind of the biggest evolution in the org over a time. And then I would say, just be prepared if your company's growing really fast, reorg every six to 12 months. I think for a lot of people in startups, they can get very annoyed and concerned with reorgs, but with organizations that are growing so fast, you ultimately have to do that.

When we built out a specific kind of product partnerships team, that team very much needed to be aligned with the product organization. So ideally one product org would have one BD person who they would work with. So when that product org said, Hey, I need a bank that can do X, Y, and Z. That partnerships person would go out and find that right bank, do the negotiation sign that deal.

And when the product org is constantly doing a reorg, it requires you as a partnerships and B organization to kind of constantly reorg to match the rest of how the company is growing. So I think that can be very intimidating and concerning for a lot of folks. But I think it's just kind of par for the course.

If you're planning on growing really fast, maybe you're kind of going back to notion. I would say my experience now is kind of joining as the first person again and building a team. I think due to my eventual experience at Stripe, I was eventually moved on from a BD role into a general management role where I was managing a bunch of different functions.

I think the way that I look at my role now at notion is one in which there aren't necessarily roles that are off limits. I can hire technical people. I can hire business folks, whatever kind of makes sense to ultimately achieve the goals of the organization that I'm building. And I think I always want to take a step back and think about what are the broader initiatives that we're trying to achieve.

And so thinking about what ordering makes the most sense, we're building an API for the very first time. So the first person I'm actually hiring for is not in BD or partnerships. It's a developer advocate who has an engineering background and can. Help empower other organizations to build to our API. And then I'll probably be hiring a few more engineers who can do that at a greater level of scale.

So think about solutions, engineers or partner, engineer type folks. And then I'll probably hire a BD person after that. So I'm actually thinking about it from a different perspective, which is how can I hire people who don't have the skills that I have. So how can I hire folks who are maybe more technical, who can be complimentary to me, but I can still help direct their 

Brett Berson: [01:01:49] work.

So going back to sort of the early hiring on your team at Stripe, what were you looking for? What did you find in the people that were truly sensational in the role and maybe what did your interview process look like? Or what should it look like if you were advising someone else who's kind of crafting the interview process for their first couple BD hires?

Cristina Cordova: [01:02:13] I would say the folks who were probably most successful. We're willing to kind of roll up their sleeves and do multiple roles at once. So I would say a lot of the folks who were really successful on my team because Stripe didn't really have a super strong product management organization early on. I would say a lot of the hires on my team that did really well, kind of rolled up their sleeves and were like, Hey, I'm working directly with engineers here.

I'm going to kind of play a quasi role of product manager to help get this deal across the finish line, because there's a lot of product management involved in doing so, or maybe there's a lot of operations or data work at the beginning when we were building financial models for deals, there were people on my team who couldn't get resources from finance to build a financial model for a particular deal.

So they rolled up their sleeves and were like, great. I did two years by banking or whatever. I'll build a model, not a big deal. So I would say just folks who could kind of take on a lot of different roles, I think were really impactful to my team. And then to folks who were very product oriented were I think the folks who were probably most in demand over time, generally because other people, other product managers, engineers, et cetera, really wanted to work with those folks on the BD side, because they felt like those folks on BD really understood where the product team was coming from, what they really wanted.

And I think finding someone who can really understand what product means and can kind of shield the product organization from. A lot of, some of the painful elements of deal work, where there were just a lot of meetings where you have to bring product and engineering people along to kind of make the partner feel happy.

How can you reduce the amount of weight and burden that that has on the product team? I think people who are more product oriented, we're certainly more able to do that. And people who are a little bit more technical or willing to roll up their sleeves and get technical, you should, as a non-technical person, be able to read the API docs and understand what someone might be trying to do with it.

And if you just looked at the API docs and were just like, oh, that's not meant for me, that's for someone who's technical, then he probably shouldn't have been on our team. I think we wanted people who were not afraid of getting technical, not afraid of working with engineering or in some cases coming off as more technical than they really were.

And then in terms of. Interview process. I would say the things that I tend to look for our collaboration first and foremost, if someone is not collaborative in this type of role, they're just really not going to be successful. And I think a lot of people who may have spent a long time in BD roles come in and expect that when.

A big partner comes along and wants to do something. The product and engineering team is just going to raise their hands and say, of course we'll do that. And that's just not how it works within any product engineering organization. There are a ton of different priorities and you really have to think about the opportunity cost of every single partnership deal.

And so bringing on people who are collaborative, who can make really strong kind of strategic decisions and have a strong framework for how they would make those strategic decisions, I think are really critical. So from an interview process standpoint, I tend to do a few things pretty consistently across all BD folks.

One is make sure that someone from product or engineering is interviewing them. And then. Having that person take me through some of their previous deal work. So what were the components that they thought about? What were the challenges? How did they work through them? And then I would say another element would be kind of more of a hiring manager interview to just really suss out if they're resilient, if they're collaborative, what feedback have they gotten in the past?

How have they actioned that feedback? Do they have a growth mindset about themselves? All of those things I think are really critical to this role and then making sure that I would say a lot of other folks are involved in that process. So I've had folks in BD roles be interviewed by engineers, by product people, finance people, et cetera, legal thinking about who are their partners going to be in the organization.

And I want all of those partners to be interviewing that person so that they're very much bought into this particular person for this role. And obviously keeping in mind that I think with every person that you bring in, you want to feel like they're adding something that's kind of complimentary to your team.

So I hired folks who had BD experience and I hired folks who didn't have BD experience. And there were folks I think, who were very, very successful who had never done the role before. And I think there are, you're really testing the skillset and capabilities. Can they be convincing? Can they negotiate?

Maybe they've never negotiated deal before, but if I feel like they can come in and pitch me on something and be convincing, they're probably going to be a very good BD person. And then what are the other skill sets that they can bring to the table to the person I mentioned earlier, maybe they were in finance for a couple of years.

They can bring in some modeling expertise. And step in for the fact that we don't have finance people or one person that we hired previously was a product manager. And so spent several years in that role, but we weren't hiring product managers at the time at Stripe. And he came in and started in BD. And I think he did a really great job by virtue of the fact that he was able to relate to product and engineering teams really well.

So find someone who can add some value to your team and think about the different kinds of teams that they'll have to work with and gel well with certain teams and really add a lot of value there. 

Brett Berson: [01:08:39] Do you have a series of practicals or projects that are a part of your interview process or not? And if so, what do those look like?

Cristina Cordova: [01:08:47] That different points of time? We try different things. I think first and foremost, a project of any kind I think is first supposed to. Assess how much interest you have in this role, if you're interested in doing a project and that project ideally, should be somewhat similar to the kind of work that you would have to do internally, if you're totally on, you're interested in it, then probably not the right role for you.

And then too, if you're just interviewing all over the place, a project can be a good way of weeding out who really has interest in this role and in this company. But I think the two different types of partnership projects as part of the process that I would typically put people through one was like a data exercise.

So giving people just literally a spreadsheet of a bunch of data telling them what was in every column and this was at Stripe. So basically that data was kind of the revenue and volume that we would see from certain fake partners at the time for the purpose of this exercise. And I would ask them to kind of take a look at that data and then put together a presentation for.

What are the partners that we should double down on in partner management roles? So ideally if you're a partner manager, you should be able to kind of assess the landscape of potential partners or sorry, existing partners rather. And then tell me where you want to invest your time. What are the partners that we should be spending more time with versus other partners that we spending relatively little time with?

And that exercise, I think was a really great way of getting to a sense of whether someone could interpret data correctly and could make the right strategic decisions with data. And then a good exercise for someone who is maybe more on the deal-making side of BD. That we tended to employ was just putting together a presentation where you could walk me through the end to end deal process for a partnership that you've done in the past.

So how did you find that partner? What was the process? What was the negotiation like? What was implementation like once you actually signed that deal, what were your metrics of success? And so I think that really gets into what are all the different stages and kind of probing in, on different parts of that deal process and making sure that someone really thought critically about the end-to-end regardless of whether the deal was successful or not.

Brett Berson: [01:11:17] There were other attributes that you mentioned that you tend to look for. So things like being collaborative, resilient, convincing, strong, strategic instincts for those different types of things. Are there specific questions or ways in which you spend time with a candidate that gives you conviction that they might spike in.

Strategic decisions or collaborative, other than sort of some of the project based work. We were just talking. 

Cristina Cordova: [01:11:43] I think that in a number of ways, whether you are structured and can run a really strong deal process, I think the project can get to that. But if you are being thrown into like a brand new experience, working at a new company and have less of a strong sense of what to do there, I think one kind of just going through their history of deal.

So what are the deals that they have negotiated themselves? I think a lot of BD people are part of deal teams, but haven't necessarily led the deal process themselves. So trying to get a sense of truly how much experience do they have there and then figuring out how complex those deals were. I kind of mentioned earlier on, we had partnerships that eventually got to a place where they were pretty templatized and pretty straight forward.

So we kind of moved those efforts to. Another kind of more scaled team. So kind of walking through someone's past history of deals and really trying to understand how complex was this. Were there components that were perhaps never negotiated before? I'll ask a question. Like, can you tell me about a deal term that you negotiated that you didn't think you were going to get?

And that's typically one to someone ask for something that they don't think they're going to get. That's usually a good sign that they're probably could negotiate, or even if someone says no and two, what was that? Was it something that was like really simple and relatively straightforward or was it actually pretty complex to actually get that ask and then asking someone what was a hack to a deal that you felt was like really clever and then asking someone, given a particular deal, what impact did that deal actually have on the company?

I think that. Last one is particularly critical by virtue of the fact that a lot of BD folks pride themselves on signing deals. But do those deals actually do anything for the company? What did that drive? Did it drive a particular metric? Did it generate revenue for the company? If so, how much, how impactful was it, you know, really kind of getting to, yes, this person may have signed a deal with a big name, but did it do anything?

And I think for a lot of BD people, you can hire them and it can take a while to figure out are they actually being useful because these deals take so long and a lot of cases to actually get done that it's really critical. You look at someone else's past deal, work to really understand if they've done strong deals.

If they've kind of been clever, if they have negotiated more complex elements and done that themselves and understand the tactics behind it. And then I would say. Kind of culture fit ish from a collaboration perspective questions there, I would ask a little bit more about their career history. So for example, how they made their career decisions to date, how did they decide to join this company from this other company?

What were they optimizing for? What are the cultures that they've been a part of in the past, where they felt really good about those companies and why? And then just trying to understand what were the things that really drove them that really motivated them. And I think that will generally give you a good sense of whether someone's a good kind of culture fit within your organization.

And then last references I think, are also very critical and specifically. This is a pretty small world in terms of BD people obviously you'll get references from someone and all, a lot of those references will be people who will say nice things in this industry. I think that's pretty common. So trying to find people that they may have worked with, if they said, Hey, I did a deal with Twitter.

At some point, I might go to someone I know at Twitter and say, Hey, did you know anyone who worked with this person and get a sense of what someone on the other side thinks of that person? And ideally, even if people have done a negotiation with me and may have felt that they quote unquote lost that negotiation, they should still feel positive about me as a person and about the experience and speak positively to that.

So making sure that you actually look beyond the references that you get from a person and try to figure out who they've worked with and try to figure out what are the other folks beyond just maybe their manager or peers. That you could get references from. So I tend to like getting references from the engineering manager of a team that they worked really closely with.

And that can give me a good sense as to how good of a partner they are internally, as well as externally. 

Brett Berson: [01:16:32] I want to end by talking a little bit about folks that you've worked with or spend time with that you've learned the most from, in either deal-making or partnerships or maybe something more broadly.

And maybe you could share a few of the things that you've learned from that. I 

Cristina Cordova: [01:16:50] would say one of the folks that I've learned a lot from in my time has Stripe's chief business officer, Billy Alvarado, I think. Really learning about positivity in these processes and trying to kind of keep a positive forward momentum going within an organization when doing a deal, no matter how rough and harsh and negotiation is getting, I think is definitely something that he taught me and then to trying to come out of a deal and feeling like both sides.

One. And I think one of the things I've always admired about him in particular is that anyone who's ever done a deal with him feels really positively about their experience with him. And they don't feel slighted or the negotiation went too far in his favor. And that he's very much looking for something that is mutually beneficial to both parties, whether it works out or not.

And I think as a result, just like he has a very strong reputation and it's something I admire and very much want to have myself. So that would certainly be one person. And actually a lot of other folks that I've learned from I've learned a lot from them in very weird ways. So I actually learned, there was a woman who was the SVP of product at the BBC, and I was doing a partnership deal to get BBC's content into the pulse app.

And so I was two years out of school and I went into this meeting. With the BBC and this SVP of product, just like really ran this meeting and really kind of controlled everyone in the room to make a decision and take on their explicit parts in the deal. So very much push marketing to say, okay, here's what you're going to do.

And even followed up with an email that I still have to this day, cause I have forwarded it to my personal email that was just extremely organized and went through here is what every single person will be doing. And she just had a very organized way of thinking and bringing everybody along for this partnership effort, because she was very much kind of the executive decision maker.

And that was someone who I learned from in the course of a one hour meeting and then a follow up email. And so think about not just. People you have in your experiences that are mentors to you that are managers for you, but actually just people on the other side, regardless of what role they have, who do something and you take a step back and are very impressed by that person and take on the things that you look at and find to be good qualities and absorbing those things.

Well, that's 

Brett Berson: [01:19:39] a great place to end. Thank you so much. 

Cristina Cordova: [01:19:41] Yeah. Thank you.