Grew up on a farm, now i'm in VC. Q&A: Associate at East Coast Strategic VC Firm

Currently approaching my 1 year mark at a strategic VC firm focused on emerging deep tech. The learning curve was steep and i'd like to give back.

**Background: **

Short version: I attended a southeast non-target, moved to northeast and have 1 1/2 years at multi-family office / hedge fund, 1 year in UHNW PWM, and i've been in VC almost a year. Ask me about breaking in, making lateral moves, and the learning curve / strategy in VC.

Long version:

  • Undergrad: I grew up on a farm in the midwest, father was a day trader on the side and mother a small town attorney. I attended a non-target public university with a poorly ran career center and lackluster business program. I had very little guidance in terms of opportunities and possibilities within finance so I used WSO to glean info on areas of interest and educate myself on the recruiting / interview process.

  • 1st position - Multi-family office / hedge fund: Moved to the east coast after undergrad to take my shot at finance. I didn't always know what i wanted to do so i didn't do any internships in college (didn't really know i needed to). Moving to the east coast, my aim was to get my foot in the door and get some experience to make sure finance was really where i wanted to be. I somehow landed an analyst role at a boutique multi-family office with around $2B AUM. Their strategies were hedge fund esque and also underwrote investments for larger LPs and smallish institutional clients.

  • 2nd position - UHNW PWM: Decided portfolio management wasn't for me and moved up the LP food chain to a consulting position at a ultra high net worth advisory group covering the east coast. Average client had $500M+ in net worth. This experience gave me visibility into what LP's look for in an investment, some clients had their own family office & VC firms which i interacted with heavily.

  • 3rd position - Strategic VC: Leveraged that experience to land my current roll at a prolific strategic VC firm ($600M AUM). The firm has been around several decades and has an international presence. Focus is in emerging deep tech. I've been here almost a year and have learned a ton. There was a steep learning curve and i'm finally in a position to give back insight to the WSO community.

Questions:

  • Breaking in from a non-target
  • Private wealth management: pros & cons
  • Lateral moves & networking within broader "finance" industry
  • Breaking into venture capital
  • Venture capital learning curve
  • Emerging & deep tech investing

Looking to give back to a community / forum that has helped me in the past. I believe if you use a community resource you're then obligated to contribute back in some way eventually. This is my attempt to do so.

Comments (8)

  • Analyst 1 in PE - Other
May 29, 2020 - 1:50am

Could you share to us your experience in breaking into venture capital? How was your networking experience?

Most Helpful
May 29, 2020 - 4:41am
EdmundBerke, what's your opinion? Comment below:

I was told once that where you end up is a result of three things, your desires, capabilities, and opportunities. Of the three you can really only control two, your desires and capabilities. From undergrad my desire was to work advise small / medium companies but didn't know in what capacity. I figured PE would be the thing to aim for, so I took steps towards gaining the relevant capabilities, keeping in mind it'd take several years in less prestigious roles.

Re: Networking:

1) Make a good impression: From my first job I made it a point to make good impressions and make sure I came across as interested, even if I wasn't. This led to solid recommendations from employers, some even making calls on my behalf.

2) Put in the work early: While you can only control your desires and capabilities, you can set yourself up well for opportunities that do come by being ready for them.

a. Do your homework: Become knowledgeable in your field of interest, know the language, current trends, and who the relevant players are so you can make intelligent conversation when the time comes.

b. Seek out easy to gain experience: I interviewed extensively, even at positions I wasn't excited about just to gain the reps. My UHNW advisory gig was a result of a useless interview I took with a head-hunter whose colleague reached out a year and a half later.

3) Strangers have what you want in life, don't be afraid of them:

a. Use the tools in front of you: I paid the $30 / month for LinkedIn premium and cold messaged mutual connections in the industries of my interest in my city, dropping names when needed, this landed me several interviews I wasn't qualified for. I'm in one of the biggest U.S. metros yet when you do your diligence and talk to folks out there the city becomes a lot smaller.

b. Work on your EQ: Emotional intelligence is a highly underrated professional skill and it only improves with increased interaction with people and some self-reflection. Seek out professional interactions, even if you're not overtly in need, take the time to talk, who knows when a person might come back into your circle down the road. In a highly competitive field where everyone has the same resume, personal connections tip the scale, even if it's just mentioning a mutual friend or interest.

Re: Breaking into VC: I interviewed at 20+ PE focused firms in my city over the course of a summer. Then one day I read a job description that was transaction heavy that would allow me to gain more relevant capabilities, so I applied. After I got a call back I did my research into the firm and realized it was actually a well known shop. All that to say, breaking into VC is a matter of putting in the work early and being ready for when the opportunity comes because they're sparse. I landed here because I was able to adapt to meet the desires of a potential employer and communicate my value without coming across as an ego-maniac.

Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.
  • 8
Jun 21, 2020 - 9:15am
ngotran1999, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you very much for sharing! I am a non-finance major but interested in VC. I am thinking of reading finance textbooks and taking online courses. Do you have any advice in terms of skills and knowledge to work in VC? Thank you.

Jul 17, 2020 - 6:40pm
EdmundBerke, what's your opinion? Comment below:

ngotran1999

Know the jargon. Show that you're adaptive and can learn new skills quick. Being able to make intelligent conversation on a portfolio company's technology that you have no clue about is key, so basically being a good BSer i.e. catching on quick.

Cap tables and capitalization structures are very important. Knowing what a standard deal looks like and what is normal to see on a term sheet is also valuable. There is a lot of legal terminology in VC so that's also key.

Everyone in VC will tell you to read Venture Deals by Brad Feld & Jason Mendelson and you should. This is a great starting point to understand the jargon.

Measure What Matters by John Doerr - great for understanding what good management looks like.

Secrets of Sand Hill Road by Scott Kupor - To understand how to engage the VC community

The Innovator's Dilemma by Clayton Christensen - To understand what it means to disrupt

Range by David Epstein - Interesting read on why generalists are more successful

Any book on the industry you're focusing on.

Newsletters: Strictly VC, Axios's Pro Rata, John Gannon VC Careers, Mergers & Inquisitions, Pitchbook News, David Teten Blog, Techcrunch / Crunchbase, CB Insights

Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.
  • 5
Jun 21, 2020 - 11:15am
Hölder, what's your opinion? Comment below:

Thank you for doing this. Could you give us a rough idea of how lifestyle is at your VC fund (and if you think this experience is applicable to the industry in general) and how it compares to your previous roles?

I'm currently working up to getting the FRM and then networking for positions more on the asset management side of finance but I've made peace with the fact that due to my personality and interests (side projects, organizations) I'll never be a billionaire hedge fund pm who works from 7 am to 11 pm to generate infinite money, so I'm very interested in mapping out positions outside of CB where a more manageable schedule can still add value to the business.

Jul 17, 2020 - 6:11pm
EdmundBerke, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without.
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