How do you get started working in business development? There is no business development college degree or clearly defined career path.

Those who find themselves doing this for a living typically arrive in unconventional ways. Like the role itself, getting started often requires a combination of hustle and adding value.

In this post, we’re going to kick off a series, “Career Journeys,” exploring how different Business Development professionals arrived in their roles.

Whether you’re just starting to explore business development, or if you’ve been in the space for a decade, these stories will help shape how we define it, and make it work to add value to those around us.

Dom Perri swims with Sharks

When Domenic Perri was getting started, he didn’t set out to build a career in Business Development — he landed in it. Perri, whose notable career spans business development and corporate development roles at Dropbox, Tesla and Juniper Networks, and is now a venture capitalist, started out in the right place at the right time.

“Around the time I was graduating college, I was working for TD Bank in Toronto and was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my career and where to go next,” Perri said. “This was also the beginning of the dot com bubble – an exciting time in the tech industry.”

Firneo member, Dom Perri, Partner at Vertex Ventures US

Perri got a fortunate break, working alongside a young founder by the name of Robert Herjavec, whose startup BRAK Systems, was one of the first network security integrators in North America. Nowadays, you can see Herjavec grilling young entrepreneurs as a Shark on ABC’s Shark Tank.

So at the start of Perri’s career, he found himself in the growing tech industry alongside the enthusiastic and motivated Herjavec. This trial by fire led to quick personal growth and a host of opportunities.

“I got to work alongside Robert for three years. It was a lot of fun,” Perri said. “I learned a ton from him. He had me flying all over the country, helping build the company, getting customers, and partnerships.”

Perri’s fast growth with Herjavec ultimately led him from Canada to New York City, then eventually to Silicon Valley where he led BD and corporate development at Juniper Networks.

At Juniper, he facilitated more than 10 acquisitions, and dozens of strategic partnerships that improved their networking and security products, helping the company grow to over 10,000 people. He parlayed this success into subsequent roles as Head of M&A Integration at Tesla and Head of Business Development at Dropbox.  Today, Perri is a partner with Vertex Ventures US, where they make early stage investments in the very kinds of companies where his own career journey began.

Ultimately, his success can all point back to a fortunate start getting his foot in the door. However, what he did with the opportunity was most critical. It’s easy to say someone had a fortunate opportunity, but when faced with a challenge to sink or swim, Perri quickly learned to swim.

Once he had an opportunity, he used it to learn, grow, and accelerate the companies he worked in.

“As I look back, I was very resourceful, very determined,” Perri said. “And I think that really helped power through difficult times, which then allowed me to continue moving forward … into these great relationships.”  

My background wasn’t in fashion. I didn’t graduate from fashion school…to pivot to another industry was fairly difficult.  And just like a lot of industries, it was very relationship-driven.

Dennis Yu learns to sell by selling himself

While Perri found himself in the right place at the right time, others breaking into BD have to force their way to get the foot in the door.

Dennis Yu’s foray into BD & Partnerships in the technology industry took some unexpected turns.  Yu, who was previously the Head of Business Development and Strategy at, left an unsatisfying career to pursue his passion for the fashion industry

Firneo member, Dennis Yu, Associate Director of USC Marshall

“I worked for Merrill Lynch for a while as an associate for financial consultants.  And you know, I wasn’t really having much fun.  It’s one of those situations where I had to ask myself, if I stay around, chances are it may be a very profitable career.  But do I want to go through that?”

Yu’s passions aligned with more creative pursuits.  His family’s experience in apparel manufacturing gave him a new calling.  There was just one problem: he had no experience.

“My background wasn’t in fashion. I didn’t graduate from fashion school…to pivot to another industry was fairly difficult.  And just like a lot of industries, it was very relationship-driven.”

Yu knew that if he wanted to break in, he’d have to start building relationships the old fashioned way.  “I knew sales would be a role where I could more easily get in because I’m not a designer. I don’t have the technical skills.  So I could get in as a sales rep.”  All of his prospective employers in the apparel industry would be gathered at MAGIC, the fashion industry’s biggest trade show held twice annually in Las Vegas, and so that’s where he went.

“I put on my Ralph Lauren pinstripe suit, I printed out 50 copies of my resume and I went booth to booth to the companies that I want to work for – Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Calvin Klein.”

Despite his hustle and drive, “nothing happened”, Yu said.  Undeterred, he returned to MAGIC for the fall show.  This time, his persistence proved to pay off.

“I came across this company called RP 55.  It’s a medium sized company that’s based in Virginia and they were making denim jeans at that time. I spoke to the owners the first time around and I walked to the booth again and I saw the owner talking to his partner at that time.  I say, Hey, Mike, I’m here again to say ‘Hi.’”

“I remember he took my resume and he turned to his partner. He said, this kid came to me twice in a row.  I’m going to hire this guy.”

When no doors were opening, Yu learned to sell himself before he could sell anything else. This breakthrough then led to a massively successful career in multiple industries.

Starting Your BD Career

Business Development is about finding and maximizing opportunities. If you are pursuing or attempting to build upon your career in business development, it will depend on your ability to identify opportunities and make the most of them.

And more importantly, your success will depend on relationships. That’s why we have the Firneo community to network and learn from BD pros like Dennis and Dom. To apply to join, head here.

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