5 Years Ago He Hated His Dead-End Job. Now He’s a Billionaire

5 Years Ago He Hated His Dead-End Job. Now He’s a Billionaire
Most people miss the most important part of how Ryan Graves joined the ‘three comma club.’
IMAGE: Getty Images

A little over five years ago, Ryan Graves was stuck in a dead-end job. Now he’s a billionaire. Here’s how it happened–and how his story can inspire you to make great changes in your life.

The old job.

It wasn’t terrible, really–it wasn’t as if he were outside in the rain or carrying heaving objects all day, or toiling in a coal mine. Graves was three years out of college, working as a database administrator for GE Health Care, probably making about $109,000 a year (if the data at GlassDoor is accurate).

Still, it was “unglamorous” work, he later recalled according to Daily Finance. “The corporate career–20 years in the same company–was not really my thing. I can’t be the GE guy.”

The fortunate tweet.

If the name Ryan Graves sounds familiar, you probably know the most famous part of his story. In 2010, Travis Kalanick, who had just co-founded a company called UberCab tweeted that he was looking for people join his team:

Looking 4 entrepreneurial product mgr/biz-dev killer 4 a location based service.. pre-launch, BIG equity, big peeps involved–ANY TIPS??

— travis kalanick (@travisk) January 6, 2010

Graves replied:

heres a tip. email me 🙂 graves.ryan[at]gmail.com

It worked. Graves joined Uber as its first non-founder employee–in fact, as its first CEO, although he’s since stepped aside for Kalanick. (He’s now senior vice president of global operations.) More important, perhaps, he’s a billionaire.

What happened in between.

Of course, there’s more to the story. The short version is that while still working at GE, Graves decided in 2009 to apply for a job at Foursquare. As Daily Finance explained:

He spent hours each week cold-calling bars around his adopted home of Chicago, explaining the benefits of Foursquare, showing business owners how the app worked, and encouraging them to sign up. And he didn’t even work for Foursquare.

That’s the kicker: Foursquare didn’t actually hire him. It turned him down–and yet he didn’t let the rejection faze him.

Instead, as the story goes, he simply faked working there, and signed up 30 businesses to the company, and then “emailed that list of new customers to people connected with Foursquare, including investors.”

It’s not who you know…

Foursquare ultimately brought Graves onboard officially. (According to Daily Finance, he was hired outright, but on his LinkedIn profile, Graves says he was a business development intern at the company from October 2009 to January 2010.)

At the same time, he became a master networker, going to events, but more fortuitously via social media–all of which led to the Kalanick tweet, and his response, and his billion dollars.


October 10, 2015 / by / in , , , ,

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