VC Interview Process for Post-PE Hire?

Hey everyone. Currently a 2nd year at an UMM PE fund. Had a conversation with a headhunter earlier to talk through opportunities and indicated interest in talking with a few growth equity and VC shops. Also expressed that I'm not actively looking to leave, and it would take a really strong connection to leave & perceived strong fit given I'm learning a lot in my current role and have been having an OK experience. But gave them my resume anyway.

A different HH at the same firm reached out a week later saying a VC fund wants to give me a 1st round interview. I'm a bit surprised as I didn't communicate I'd be interested in interviewing, but had a few questions:

1) Should I turn down the interview until I learn more about the fund and role or should I just take the interview in stride and use the process to get to know the details?
2) How rare are VC interviews to come by with a PE background? (4 years out of undergrad now)
3) How does comp and the experience look for someone coming from PE to VC or growth equity type VC shops? Is it only worth joining a top shop (eg A16Z, sequoia?)

Would be great to hear from anyone who made or who has considered the transition!

Comments (4)

Most Helpful
Oct 4, 2022 - 11:21pm
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

My thoughts are

1) Should I turn down the interview until I learn more about the fund and role or should I just take the interview in stride and use the process to get to know the details?

To the extent you have time, I think it's appropriate to ask the HH some polite questions. I'd spin up a faux narrative that you love what you're doing, doing well and on track to move up etc, but have always been interested in some earlier stage investing given xyz (personal interest, exposure you got on a deal, etc) sounds like you might have already done that which is why you got the opportunity. I'd ask about who the fund is, where they're located, what they're doing, fundraising progress, high level comp, what they're looking for, etc, and then likely just take the first round interview and take it moderately seriously. Might as well for intel gathering.

2) How rare are VC interviews to come by with a PE background? (4 years out of undergrad now)

Early stage stuff is rarer, more growth or late stage is a little more standard, but in my experience, it's usually rare that any early stage fund is going through an established headhunter to find a role, it must be one of the bigger VC funds, a more growth-y stage fund that wants someone with a PE background, or a new/early stage fund that is mis spending their money and trying to get a "junior" with a brand name resume. This obviously isn't the complete universe of the types of VC funds that use headhunters, but it's typically less of a headhunter industry aside from the big funds in my experience.

3) How does comp and the experience look for someone coming from PE to VC or growth equity type VC shops? Is it only worth joining a top shop (eg A16Z, sequoia?)

I would think you'd take a significant haircut across the board, even at the bigger shops. If you are seriously interesting in moving over to a growth/earlier stage role and you get a top 5 or so name brand VC firm, it's definitely worth considering. My gut is that on a cash comp basis you're looking at like 70-80% of what you're making now. If that's the case you'd have to argue for more in carry and ideally a title bump too. Some VC firms have a much flatter hierarchy, where PE VP = Principal and if you do well and bring in a couple of deals, you can be Partner on the next fundraise. I'd look to see if you can get a level bump, especially if it's not at a really strong name brand fund.

Last thing I'll leave you with. In my experience both early stage investing and now working on my own early stage startup, I'd say that typically PE investors don't make a great transition over to early stage investing. Frankly, a majority of the skillset that you've built won't be applicable and instead you'll be valued on your network, relationship building, and tech/product/operating experience of which you'll have little to none. I never really understood how bad of early stage investors bankers and trad PE folks are until recnetly. Just 0 understanding on what it takes to build a business. That is likely why early stage firms tend to hire from operating and mixed backgrounds as opposed to banking. Where you will likely fit better is a later stage/growth fund or perhaps a fund that is large and invests across a number of stages. With all that said, if you're seriously looking to make the jump, it's not a super common opportunity so no harm in exploring.

Oct 4, 2022 - 11:45pm
JohnnyEtho, what's your opinion? Comment below:

This is very helpful. Thanks for the reply, I'm also in a similar situation coming from UMM PE and have had a few earlier stage opportunities. 

Three quick follow-up questions, if you have a moment:

  • Is carry typical for someone post-PE, and do you typically not know until the offer stage? I asked the HH about comp and career progression and they were very cagey, just said something along the lines of "this is a top fund so compensation will be very competitive", but agree with your instinct that it's probably hard to match the PE VP comp (500+ cash)
  • Are these interviews carried out discreetly as you move forward in processes, or will they start running references and reaching out to your current fund?
  • Without deep familiarity in the space, how do you actually get a sense for which funds are truly top, well performing funds? Outside of the household names in VC (like Sequoia, A16Z, Benchmark, GC) and Growth Equity (like GA, Insight, TA)
Oct 5, 2022 - 9:29am
mrharveyspecter, what's your opinion? Comment below:

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