Sunday Stories: From Zero to 100 in the First Year - The On Deck Business Development Fellowship

Sunday Stories: From Zero to 100 in the First Year - The On Deck Business Development Fellowship


Traditional Go-To-Market is getting weaker.


Direct sales and marketing are struggling to deliver ROI.


Meanwhile, co-innovation, co-marketing, and co-selling are gaining traction. This is relatively new territory. How many people know how to successfully partner with other companies to acquire and serve customers?


Who will lead the charge into the era of ecosystems?


Careers are built better together

In 2016, Erik Torenberg started On Deck. It began as a series of dinners for individuals who were struggling to figure out where they wanted to go next in their professional lives. An organic community formed and grew until they launched their very first fellowship in 2019.


The idea was to aid entrepreneurial-minded individuals in finding their people; to build companies and careers by first building up a network. You could call it an ecosystem for success in startups.


Turns out, people are hungry for it. On Deck rapidly expanded to offer several different fellowship programs covering most of the core roles at startups.


One of their newest fellowships—On Deck Business Development (ODBD)—has received a lot of attention from current fellows, as a community that fosters organic learning, growth, and networking - and maybe even a partnership or two.


The era of ecosystems is upon us. ODBD wants to make sure the people who will push partnerships forward are ready, equipped, and supported.


Nurturing partnerships, cultivating an ecosystem, and pressing fast-forward on careers


"Ask ten people what business development means and you’ll get ten different answers; It’s a broad term and has its own unique definition across different businesses, industries and even countries."– Randi Kay, Program Director, ODBD


It’s hard to succeed when you’re not even sure how to define your role. Business Development, Partnerships, Alliances, and Ecosystems are some of the terms used to describe the fast-growing role of building out indirect sales and re-imagined go-to-market for SaaS companies. A lot of people populating these roles aren’t quite sure where they sit.


Are they predominantly sales? Marketing? Customer Success? Product?


It’s a bit of each, and something unique too.


ODBD’s Director Randi Kay saw the need to help this emerging class of professionals define, refine, grow, and succeed in their highly entrepreneurial roles.


As a Business Development leader, you forge a unique path by constantly learning on the job and recreating the wheel when it comes to best practices, playbooks, innovative tactics, and sourcing the best talent.


Yes, you’re forging new paths and processes. But that doesn’t mean you have to go it alone.


In this landscape, it’s challenging to find like-minded peers who have similar sets of experiences and insights for taking your business to the next level. ODBD seeks to solve that challenge.


In the era of ecosystems, partnership roles are changing fast. A community of peers is a crucial element to working through the challenges. ODBD facilitates peer-to-peer interactions and confidential sessions with subject-matter experts to provide invaluable insights and ideas on how to overcome hurdles and leverage wins.


Just-in-time learning

A lot of training programs and schools involve cramming a bunch of info about something with no immediate relevance and hoping it comes in handy later. Call it just-in-case learning.


ODBD is a contextual approach, helping those who need to figure something out right now to solve a problem they’re immediately dealing with. This just-in-time learning approach is far more effective.


Working in BD or partnerships, you’re constantly facing new problems. Others in the company rarely have a playbook for you. That’s a big part of ODBD: giving you direct access to external inspiration from leaders who’ve been in similar situations, and helping you build your career toolkit to solve challenging problems.


Fellows have access to On Deck’s entire ecosystem ranging throughout multiple programs. They can get the knowledge and connections they need, right when they need it.


Our North Star is to build a thriving community that enables people to meet the right people, at the right time. Also known as serendipity.


You are who you hang around with


ODBD is a deliberately intimate, curated set of high quality BD leaders. The current cohort includes members such as the Head of Enterprise Partnerships at DoorDash, Head of BD at GoPuff, and Head of Startups at CERN.


There are plenty of people ready to spam you with DMs or pitch you on shallow partnerships that consist of little more than getting leads from you. You don’t want to waste time chasing low-quality partnerships, or building a career on shallow, transactional relationships.


But if the old adage about becoming the sum of the people you spend the most time around is true, where to go to find solid peers?


Partnerships people often feel alone in their companies. Many don’t have an official department, and are seen as sales cast-offs, or an afterthought on the growth and revenue roadmaps.


One of the core value propositions of ODBD is to fill that void and provide BD pros with a support network outside the walls of their own companies.


Our Fellows are some of the smartest and most ambitious people that I’ve met. They believe in the power of community and the connections that they are making have led to some amazing peer mentorships, job opportunities, partnerships, and friendships!


Who better to partner with than fellow fellows?

Already, several ODBD fellows have sealed high-value partnerships to drive revenue with other members - in just the first three months of the program.


Bruno Guerra Cunha was part of the first official partnership between two Fellows. ODBD Director Randi shared on LinkedIn,


In their own words, ’On Deck became a bridge… for us to find lots of common ground. In today’s remote-first world, relationships are so important and it makes such a difference when you feel like you know the other person well. On Deck felt like we were meeting in person - it really helped accelerate our relationship, and build this partnership’.


Momentum of the movement

Things are just getting revved up for the program. The inaugural cohort launched at the beginning of 2022, and the second cohort launched in May.


They started with 100 fellows and expect to double by the end of the year.


More than a one-shot experience, ODBD is building a lifelong resource for partnership leaders. They’re rolling out a High-Performance Coaching Program alongside the fellowship to help people go deeper.


The era of ecosystems is just beginning. The demand for talent will only grow. Those working in BD and partnerships today are the founders, funders, and leaders of tomorrow. The early movers who see and seize this moment will win big.


Join On Deck and Join the Best in BD!

We’re proud to partner with On Deck and offer priority application reviews to any subscribers who mention Nearbound in your application.


(On Deck also recently announced On Deck Sales, a community for sales leaders and senior ICs. The first kickoff is on July 12, and spots are filling up fast! You can get a priority app review mentioning


Sunday Stories: From Zero to 100 in the First Year - The On Deck Business Development Fellowship

The era of ecosystems is upon us. ODBD wants to make sure the people who will push partnerships forward are ready, equipped, and supported.

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