By: Kendall Pruitt
Arteen Arabshahi, a University of Arizona alumni, was born and raised in Tucson, Arizona by his parents who immigrated from Iran. Both of his parents worked at their own businesses, so he grew up with an entrepreneurial mindset. However, Arteen describes his career path as “untraditional”. His primary goal was, and still is, to help others, so for the first year of his college career he studied to be a doctor. His passion to achieve this goal shifted, and although the benefits that come with the years of schooling to become a doctor are very fulfilling, Arteen decided he wanted to start doing something now, and changed his approach by studying Finance and Entrepreneurship.
Since graduating, Arteen has helped launch Fika Ventures, BuiltInLA.com and worked at Techstars Chicago. Now he is the Vice President of WndrCo, a holding company that invests in, acquires, develops and operates consumer technology businesses. His involvement doesn’t stop there. He is on the National Board of Advisors for the Eller College of Management and a member of the Regional Board for Opportunity Fund in California. We sat down with Arteen to learn more about his journey and how he grew into his current success. Here is what he had to say to our questions.
What did you have to do to make things happen?
I was smart enough to be proactive, reach out. But naive enough to think that sending out 150 cold emails would work. Turns out that a little bit of naivete, combined with a lot of hustle can actually go a long way. I know that I got incredibly lucky. The numbers are stacked against you, especially in a very competitive industry like tech and venture capital, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make your own luck. As a state school student who didn’t have a personal network, it was pretty clear to me that my platform was going to be a little different. That I was going to have to hustle harder and be hungrier to get where I wanted to be.
How did you pick the companies and people to reach out to?
I looked for whatever and whoever I could find that I had some level of commonality with. I found a lot of people by reading a lot. A disadvantage I faced while trying to enter the tech space was being in competition with a lot of Stanford and Harvard grads that had an extensive alumni network, so I leveraged my commonalities with those that went to state schools. I also found interesting people and would reach out to them about an article they wrote and how I related to it. Thoughtfulness takes time, but the goal was to send each person and organization a different email.
How many emails did you actually send out?
I cold emailed about 150 people. I had a spreadsheet. My framework approach to the entire experience was to treat it like a numbers game. I didn’t take any responses, or lack of responses, personally. I figured 50% of those that I emailed would respond, 20% would turn into a conversation, and maybe 10% would show interest or more.
I’ve heard people say, “well what if they don’t answer?” That doesn’t matter. Just send the email. Of the 25-30 conversations I had, I received 5-6 offers out of it. The more thoughtful and concise the emails are, the better. My emails were usually a 5 line email with an introduction of myself, why I reached out to that person, then moved into what I wanted.
It is also important to update this information, but know that you don’t have to use email. Get creative with how you reach out to people. Last month I had someone pitch to me via Instagram DM. Consider going where the least noise is right now – Tik Tok maybe?
Did you use LinkedIn? How many messages did you send out from there?
LinkedIn is very different now than it was when I was in college. The audience wasn’t where it is now, and it has become a commodity for anyone interested in business. I used email and Twitter more so. For example I had some Twitter banter with the Reddit founder. Twitter can be valuable, and in this past week I’ve talked to 2 people through that platform.
For LinkedIn, it is an incredible search engine to help you find people. It is important to keep your profile updated, but also know that there are not a lot of responses there because it can be seen as less important. If you don’t get a response, try another platform.
What do you recommend students do if they are looking for jobs and internships right now during this time of uncertainty?
If you have an offer, communication is key. Be proactive and check in regularly. Send your employer a note, ask if everything is still on track and ask about the risk. Everyone is in that mode. If you have other offers, make a backup plan as well.
If there is nothing, if you don’t have an offer, be entrepreneurial. What can you build and start of your own right now? It is cheaper than ever to start something of your own with how easy it is to build a website and promote social media ads. If the traditional paths don’t line up, then this is something you can try.
The uncertainty we are living in also forces us to try new things that we may not have thought about until now. Reach out to people you know, maybe. Work with family or family friends. Be creative if you need to. There are so many opportunities.
Did you have any “back-up” plans?
There are traditional paths, but they tend to follow different timelines. I ran parallel processes until the one I wanted stuck. Keep your number 2 option available just in case your number 1 falls through. Don’t cut anything out until you know. Run everything and keep your options open, just like the companies are doing with their hiring processes.
What did you do to keep your spirits up during the hiring process?
It is different for everyone, but I chose to compartmentalize it away. Again, it was a numbers game for me, so don’t take it personally. Ask yourself what brings you joy and what pulls you up. “No” fueled my fire. When I got a rejection email it lit my fire more, and I would go out and send 10 more emails.