The Work I Do: Being an Entrepreneur in Residence
Black Enterprise Magazine July/August 2018 Issue

Name: Tristan Walker
Current Position: Entrepreneur in Residence, Andreessen Horowitz, also known as A16Z
Age: 28
Education: In 2005, Walker graduated valedictorian from Stony Brook University after three years. He received an M.B.A. in 2010 from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Previous Job: Walker was one of the very first employees at Foursquare when he joined in 2009. He e-mailed co-founder Dennis Crowley eight times and financed his own trip from Los Angeles to New York to meet with the founders before he was offered the job. At Foursquare, he led all strategic partnerships and monetization for the organization and spearheaded partnerships with companies such as American Express, Starbucks, and The New York Times. His last position was director of business development at Foursquare.

Responsibilities: An EIR can take a few paths. Some join a venture capital firm. Others join a portfolio company owned by the firm. Walker will be at A16Z (www.a16z.com), with a team to help him think through ideas for potential business opportunities. “I get to leverage the resources of the firm,” says Walker. “A colleague of mine teased me: ‘Let me get this right, you’re essentially getting a salary to brainstorm with [Silicon Valley powerhouse team] Ben Horowitz and Marc Andreessen?’ Absolutely! And hopefully I’ll build something that is important to the world.”

Unique Exchange: Most firms generally hire EIRs who have specific domain expertise that the organization can leverage, explains Walker. “I worked really hard at Foursquare and have some semblance of expertise in local, mobile, and social. A16Z has folks in existing portfolio companies who can benefit from what I learned at Foursquare. Also, I have a pretty great relationship with Ben Horowitz. He knows I’m capable of executing, and I have a lot to learn from him as well. When I start a company, they get the opportunity to decide whether or not they want to invest in my company and they get to see it before anyone else.”

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Learning Curve: Walker interned at Twitter during his first year in business school. There he interviewed corporations and merchants to learn how the service benefited them. “I knew there were brands that used Twitter. Foursquare was just an offline manifestation of Twitter. But once I got there I had no idea about local [i.e. location-based marketing],” says Walker, who formerly worked as an oil trader on Wall Street. “As a company we were really creating an industry, so the learning curve was steep. When I secured the role at Foursquare I was able to out-compete people 20 years my senior because they didn’t understand the new industry either. So it put me on an even playing field.”

Major Accomplishment: Foursquare was the first third-party social service to be connected to American Express credit cards. “You know, when you check in, get a mobile coupon, and you have to show it to the cashier. It’s a terrible process. You don’t know if the cashier knows what you’re talking about,” says Walker. “We fixed the redemption experience.” Now you can go to AmericanExpress.com, log in, and connect your Foursquare account to your credit card. If you see a deal, you can check in, unlock the deal, and when the cashier swipes the card, you get a push notification to your phone saying, ‘Thank you for your purchase, expect to receive a credit on your statement.’

“It’s an experience everybody’s used to. It’s safe, and more importantly we can now show merchants that we can help them measure the value of offline advertising. We can tell a merchant that 1,000 people saw your special nearby, 500 people checked in, 250 people redeemed the deal, and spent $1,000. We are able to measure the effectiveness of that advertising all the way down the funnel. That was my baby.”

Skill Set: You’ll need “tenacity, if you’re in sales, because you’re going to be turned down a lot. Patience, because engineers are unquestionably the important folks out here. Everything I do is just support work for them. You need to understand how to support them in the best way possible. Finally, never stop asking questions–that is paramount. Also, you don’t get what you don’t ask for. A big reason for me getting to where I am is because I am willing to ask six questions when other people are only willing to ask five.”

Extracurricular Passion: Walker started the nonprofit Code:2040 (www.code2040.org). The goal is to get the highest performing black and Latino engineering undergraduates internships in Silicon Valley. This summer the organization will have about five interns at some of the top startups in the Valley. “We are going to provide the interns with all the skills and training they need to be incredibly successful. We have some bright kids. I’m psyched.”

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, SocialWayne.com chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining BlackEnterprise.com as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and BlackEnterprise.com helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.


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