What profile is attractive to VC investors?

What personal, academic and professional profile is attractive to VC investors? Not talking about business specific ideas (as most I imagine great ideas will get funded regardless), but rather than profile of the founder.

My guess:

  • STEM at a good university (as a side note - what about STEM at a ‘business’ university i.e. Math and AI at the LSE/Boccocini

  • Some professional experience in a big name corporation, either for engineering (FAANG) or business (MBB/IB/VC)

  • Some professional experience in a startup, ideally in a CXO chief of staff position or again as a biz dev / engineer

Anything I’m missing?



Based on the WSO Dataset, VC investors typically look for founders with a blend of entrepreneurial experience, deep expertise in a specific field, and strong networks. Here's a breakdown that aligns with your query and adds further insights:

  1. Entrepreneurial Experience: Founders who have previously started a company, been part of a founding team, or played a significant role in scaling a business are highly attractive. This experience demonstrates an understanding of the journey from inception through to scaling and possibly exit, which is crucial for VC-backed success.

  2. Deep Expertise in a Specific Field: Academic background in STEM from prestigious universities, including those known for business like LSE or Bocconi, is valuable. This is especially true if the expertise aligns with the VC's focus area, such as biotech, AI, or software. A PhD or significant work experience (10+ years) in the field can be a strong indicator of deep expertise.

  3. Professional Experience in Recognizable Corporations: Experience in high-profile companies, whether in engineering roles at FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) or business roles at MBB (McKinsey, Bain, BCG) or in investment banking/VC, can be attractive. This experience suggests a level of professional discipline and success in competitive environments.

  4. Startup Experience: Involvement in startups, particularly in strategic roles such as CXO or Chief of Staff, or as a key player in business development or engineering, is highly regarded. This experience indicates hands-on knowledge of the challenges and dynamics within startups.

  5. Networking and Connections: Being well-connected within the industry can significantly enhance a founder's profile. VC is a people business, and having a rich network can facilitate introductions, partnerships, and even funding opportunities.

  6. Passion and Vision: Beyond the resume, VC investors look for founders with a genuine passion for their field and a compelling vision for their company. This can often be the deciding factor in competitive funding situations.

Your guess aligns well with what VC investors typically look for, with the addition of emphasizing the importance of networking and the intangible qualities of passion and vision.

Sources: Growth Eq/Late Stage VC Recruiters, https://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forum/venture-capital/early-stage-vc-101-5-questions-you-better-be-able-to-answer?customgpt=1, Growing up a Technologist on WSO, Investment Banking Resume Template - Official WSO CV Example, What to expect at VC interview?

I'm an AI bot trained on the most helpful WSO content across 17+ years.

There is no one standard one size fits all background that VCs look for in founders. I've been on both sides of the equation and it's largely boils down to a handful of key questions:

1. Does this person have an unfair advantage solving this problem?

2. Do I think this person can maintain focus and motivation in their pursuit of the solution?

3. Do I trust this person?

If you can demonstrate that you have all of these things someone will give you money. But to your point, one of the biggest unfair advantages is being connected to the right people to get in front of investors that will take you seriously. That's why you'll see lots of founders with the backgrounds your describing. They built enough credibility that someone was willing to vouch for them and get a meeting.


Thanks a lot for answering.

Regarding 1), I understand why, but how often does this actually materialise? What does this entail? Is this something like programming ability, or something more specific like research-level domain knowledge of a certain product area?

Most Helpful

Unfair advantages come in a handful of flavors and usually it helps derisk the 0 -> 1 process. Here are a couple examples:

  1. Network density - You're able to market your company much more effectively within your target industry because you have existing credibility built by your connections. This also can translate to product discovery, hiring, and partnerships. Eric Yuan's story at Zoom is a perfect example. He understood the issue with WebEx and was able to leverage his network building at Cisco to bring on a team of 60 highly qualified engineers to build Zoom with him.
  2. Industry expertise - You have a strong, insightful point of view on major trends that allow you to build a solution that more deeply aligns with a major, growing pain point. Parker Conrad nailed this with Rippling since he had a unique understanding of the operations stack and how it all should centralize around employee activity.
  3. Technical knowledge - You have a unique understanding of how to solve a deeply technical problem that would otherwise take years/decades for someone else to develop. A good example is the Anthropic founding team who were all ex-OpenAI including one that was VP of Research.

Founder profiles attractive to venture investors include: 1. STEM education from a good university. 2. Professional experience in large corporations, as an engineer or in business. 3. Experience working in a startup, preferably in a management position or in business development/development. It is also important to have communication, leadership and strategic thinking skills.


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