I had written an article on ‘What do you do as a venture capitalist?’
A lot of you had read that article and appreciated the insights that I had provided. But I also got some mails from readers who asked me how they could get into venture capital.
They were enamored by the very attractive landscape of venture capital and wanted to enter that field.
But they were not sure how to go about it.
So I thought I would write another article on the world of venture capital, where I will try to explain how an analyst working with private equity firms or with investment banking boutique firms can get into venture capital.
I will try to break up this article into the following segments so that I am able to give you a good insight into the world of venture capital and how to land a job with a venture capital firm.
What Kind of People Do Venture Capital Firms Typically Prefer to Hire?
The key is to understand first of all if the venture capital firms look for any particular type of candidates.
For example, do venture capital firms value investment banking experience more than experience in strategic consulting or business development?
If you ask me, I think that here are three key access points into a venture capital firm.
#1. Before you do an MBA
Either you’ve been involved in some kind of banking activities, or any type of consulting or core business development or even product management before and now you think that you want to use what you’ve learned over the years to invest in other organizations.
#2. After you do an MBA
After doing any of the above mentioned activities, suppose you have attended a formal business school to improve on your knowledge and get a MBA degree.
#3. Senior level lateral placement
You have been working successfully with a large reputed organization at a senior or mid level role and are very dynamic. Through a strong network you get a referral for working with a venture capital firm.
Now out of these three above mentioned access points, the third option according to me is the trickiest to bank on when getting in to a venture capital firm as you really have to be very successful in the real world with a very strong network.
If you consider the first entry point, typically venture capital firms prefer to hire investment bankers with good and extensive experience in successful deals or any candidate with broad product management or key business development experience with large companies as they typically possess a lot of insights into how organizations generally operate.
At the post MBA entry level you will see that candidates having a broader range of backgrounds will find it easier to get in. But you have to make sure that you attend a top MBA college and have admittance to the proper recruiting channels there.
Venture capital firms typically tend to be quite conventional and they usually get thousands of resumes, so they typically give a lot of importance to which organizations you have worked with, which school you have attended and what kind of grades you have achieved across your schooling journey.
One thing that you will keep on hearing is that you need a very strong network to break into the venture capital industry, as they want employees who can tap their existing networks to find good opportunities.
But if you ask me, I don’t think it’s that important to have a very strong network to get into a venture capital firm at least at the junior level. But if you are gunning for a senior level job or targeting a very big venture capital firm like Sequoia, then you would be expected to walk-in with a good and extensive network.
In fact I was talking to a friend of mine lately and he told me a very interesting fact that venture capital firms are expected to decline in the traditional markets such as the US and Europe and are expected to grow in new emerging markets such as India, China, Brazil and Canada. So do not restrict your search to only the matured markets but also try to look out for opportunities in smaller but emerging markets.
How Important Is the Part of Headhunters in the Venture Capital Firm’s Recruitment Process?
Most of the time people think that networking is very important in the venture capital industry as the organizations in this field are quite small and they have limited funds to spend on recruiting compared to PE firms or banks.
But I think that a lot of it depends on which type of venture capital firms you want to target.
The big and popular venture capital firms definitely engage specialist headhunting companies, as do many late-stage venture capital firms. The smaller the venture capital firm the less likely they are to engage services of headhunting companies.
Some of the key headhunting companies specializing in venture capital recruitment are SG Partners, CPI Partners Inc, the Oxbridge group and Glocap Search.
What these executive search firms look for in a candidate is not too much diverse from what executive search firms in investment banking or private equity would look for. They typically look for candidates who have good communication skills, have good deal experience, and show the likelihood to source deals themselves.
How Resumes and Interviews for Venture Capital are Different from Investment Banking or Private Equity?
You have to understand that the requirement though it seems similar, is quite unique for venture capital jobs as compared to private equity or investment banking.
So you have to be careful when you write your resume for a venture capital job.
It is fine to list down the deals you worked for. But more important according to me is how you managed to work with top level executive such as CXO level people and the business development work you managed for them.
A venture capital firm is not looking for people with just number crunching abilities but they want people with presentable personalities who are able to work freely with top level executives.
When it comes to interviews, interviews with venture capitalists are typically quite informal as compared to interviews with other financial institutes.
So do not expect a lot of case studies, modeling tests, etc in your venture capital interviews.
Don’t be surprised if your interview is over a breakfast or a lunch session in a fancy restaurant!
Most of the interview will be centered on casual conversation and will not be as technical and structured as a private equity or an investment banking interview.
But venture capitalists are typically obsessed with cultural fit as they don’t want candidates who are in it only for the riches.
They look out for people who are genuinely zealous about exploring and finding exciting opportunities.
If you ask me I would say that the key thing is having a clear and strong opinion on a given situation or on an industry. Don’t beat around the bush. Give specific answers and appear confident.
Most candidates are lured by the big ticket salaries of venture capital jobs. But remember the venture capitalists are extremely smart people and will find you out immediately. What they are looking for is total commitment and dedication.
Below is a table where you have average salaries for different financial fields and you can see that venture capital is the most lucrative profession.
Median Salary and Bonuses for top undergraduate business schools in the USA
Which Is the Best Way to Enter into the Industry?
Well we have seen the key access points and what headhunter firms look for, but what about venture capitalists themselves? What uniqueness do they look for in candidate they want to hire?
If you ask me it really depends on which type of venture capital firm you are planning to apply to – early stage, late stage, what is the focus of the venture fund and so on.
Each venture capital firm focuses on diverse things and searches for unique traits in candidates.
Firms typically gauge how personable you are in front of a CXO level person, how eloquent you are, and how certain you are in delivering presentations.
In fact you might be asked to deliver an unrehearsed presentation to them during your interview itself.
Below is a list of the top 30 venture capital firms in the world that you can target when you are searching for that most coveted venture capitalist job.
I hope you have gone though the article in detail and understood how to get into venture capital.
If you have any suggestions or questions, do feel free to touch base with me and I’ll be happy to clear your doubts.
I would like to wish you all the best in your quest to becoming a successful venture capital professional.