Disclaimer: I’ve never been hired by a venture firm.
Ok, now that’s out of the way, here’s the advice I give folks who have 2–3 years of work experience and are looking to get an entry-level role at a venture firm (typically called an Analyst or Associate).
“Hi, thanks for reaching out. Since I need to prioritize my family and my fund, I might not have time to jump on a call to answer your questions about breaking into venture. Instead I’ve written some stuff down — take a look and if you have any follow-up maybe we can handle over email. Good luck!
So I’ve found that when you’re not already ‘in the door’ at a firm (ie went to school with the senior GP’s kids, worked at a startup they backed) that there are four different types of “qualifications” they are seeking. Each one can be more or less important depending on role or firm, but generally let’s say these four matter and you need to be strong in at least two of them to distinguish yourself against other applicants.
Qualification #1: You know how to do something specific that is valuable and needed often in pursuing a deal or servicing the portfolio.
You’ve got some operational superpower. Maybe it’s statistical analysis, growth marketing, or deck making. Whatever it is, it helps diligence opportunities, win deals or service the portfolio in ways that make the founders and GPs feel good. In exchange for doing this repeatedly, you get to learn the rest of the business.
Qualification #2: You have access to a particular network of potential dealflow that is additive to the firm’s current strengths.
The school you went to. The company you’re currently working at. The cultural group or demographic you’re a part of. Some other ‘birds of a feather’ community you’ve cultivated. You have access and relationships with a pool of talent that will produce founders.
Qualification #3: You understand a specific complex technology that is a current or emerging investment theme for the firm.
Synthetic bio. Blockchain. Real AI. Climate sustainability. All of these areas require real understanding of core underlying technology, not just pattern matching against a business model applied to a vertical. If you are deep in an area that is heating up at the point where a firm wants to investigate or build out a practice area, you’re in a very good position.
Qualification #4: You have an emerging track record as a good angel investor.
Yes, I know in most cases it’s easiest to become an angel investor if you have money or are already connected to the venture industry as someone’s scout. This is the *least* important of the four (some firms won’t even care) but I’m keeping it here because it will be a qualification that at least some applicants bring to the table. So if you aren’t yet versed in this area, knock it out of the park in some of the others.
There you are, the 15 minute phone call we were going to have instead summarized in an email. If you want to chat more, or want me to keep you in mind for anything that is opening at friends’ firms (Homebrew isn’t currently hiring), please reply back telling me which of these superpowers your possess, or telling me a different qualification you have that doesn’t fit under the umbrella of these four.
Notes and More
📚 Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer And Venture Capitalist (Feld; Mendelson) is the best book to read if you want to understand venture capital, term sheets, etc
📦 Things I’m Enjoying
🏗 Highlighted Homebrew Portfolio Jobs
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