How to break into VC

NYNY's picture
Rank: Senior Chimp | 28

I am a sophomore at a top university (but that is a non-target for finance). I am majoring in math+econ, and have a solid GPA (3.62, will bring it up). I am doing an internship with BAML Global Wealth Management, and am looking into a consulting internship with MBB within the next year, hopefully. My question is, how can I break into VC? I have a solid understanding of how VC's work, having worked at an entrepreneurship center for over a year and having attended many venture forums. I'm guessing I should probably keep going to these forums and do some heavy networking with the MD's that attend, but how can I position myself as a good candidate for an internship or even an analyst position, given VC's seldom seem to hire "young" people? Should I offer to work for free for a summer?

Comments (80)

Jan 29, 2010

try and found your own company first. vcs often have entrepreneurs

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We are excited to formally extend to you an offer to join Bank of Ameria

Jan 29, 2010

In my experience VC's want engineers or MD's (medical doctors)... people that can evaluate potential products. Surprising as it is, there are a lot of MD/MBAs out there that are taking over the med device VC world.

Jan 29, 2010

there are a tiny group of VCs that hire straight from undergrad, but these are purely for sourcing jobs (eg Insight in New York).

You have one of two routes: Like PJC said (his first real post ever), entrepreneurship is the primary path into VC, and the one that will give you a real shot at a partner track. You can't really add value in VC if you don't know a particular industry down cold and if you haven't built a product or business before. Consultants and IBs don't last more than two years in VC typically.

Path 2 Pre-MBA after your MBB, IB or product mgt stint at Google, you can work for a fund in a 'pre-MBA role.' As the title implies, this is a two-three year and out type position, with the expectation you do something else following your stint...

Jan 29, 2010

Sorry bud, but you do not have a solid understanding of how VCs work having worked at an entrepreneurship center for over year and having attended many venture forums. That's like saying you're looking to make the jump to the NBA after having been a JV high school player in South Dakota, and the fact that you've attended many NBA All-Star games in addition to being a sub-par high school player makes you qualified to go pro. I agree with what everyone has said so far, either start a company and do really well, then you can become an EIR at a VC firm; or go to IB where boutique/smaller VC shops and growth equity firms hire (i.e. Summit Partners, TA, etc.). It's very hard to get into VC straight out of undergrad, but some venture firms do this; usually though, these people went to targets, graduated with a 4.0, summered at a top group, top shop in IB, went to space with Lance Bass, AND have great connections. Don't offer to work for free; it's viewed as desperate.

Jan 29, 2010

What's up Peter Chung? haha...how's life been since Korea?

Jan 29, 2010

Still at Carlyle...but in the back office

Jan 29, 2010
eiffeltowered:

there are a tiny group of VCs that hire straight from undergrad, but these are purely for sourcing jobs (eg Insight in New York).

What would a path be like for an undergrad who starts out in one of these sourcing roles in VC or growth eq? Do they typically exit somewhere after a 2-3 year stint, or continue at the same firm in a more typical "Associate" role?

Jan 29, 2010

This being my long term goal, I've done quite a bit of research. Like said above, really the fastest you can get to VC is through an associate role at a growth equity fund (TA, Summit). At most firms, associates or junior directors are typically late 20's early thirties. From what I've observed, +75% have had some IB m&a or tech coverage group experience. McKinsey here and there, but mostly BB IBD initially with a engineering or finance background. Then a leadership or development role at a large tech company such as Yahoo, Google, or any other company where they have realized outstanding accomplishments. About as many MBA's vs non MBA's. So a quick road map for a typical VC is as follows (for tech): Engineering or finance--> IBD tech or m&a--> Biz development or tech company leadership (VP of this or that)-->maybe VC.

Also keep in mind that VC is by far the smallest in size of the buyside world. I've heard it can be almost impossible to break in without having your name already on the radar.

Jan 30, 2010

For a GE career track, best to start at a TA, Summit or TCV...i think either 3 give you street cred. You need to have demonstrated deal sourcing (banging the phones) capability and profitable deal generation. This usually leads to MBA (H/S/W), and from there I've seen most either go back to GE (either at the first 3 or at different funds), try something new like HF or PE

Best Response
Jul 21, 2011

It is tough to break in. You need to get into the door someway. A great way is to meet a partner, impress them and then work for free. Do due diligence. Source deals even if it isn't your job. Send promising entrepreneurs their way. When you do due diligence, be quick and thorough, and beat their expectations. Prove that you are smart and competent. If you know your shit, know how to network and get lucky, you may land yourself a position.

Additional things to do:

Read a ton: read hacker news, VCs blogs, Tech Crunch, books on business and technology

Write a ton: write on Quora, write a blog, leave comments, analyze new tech IPOs. Show what you are capable of.

Build a brand. Help startups, give advice, make connections, do cool initiatives, organize events, do startups.

You have to hustle. I have a non traditional background (no college degree, no banking experience, no successful startups) and have broken into the VC world. Yes, I did get lucky but I also worked hard and smart. I also love startups, like I spend a lot of my free time reading about them, consulting for them, going to events about them, etc. Yes you may be able to fake that, but you should really fucking love startups because that is what VC is about, helping cool startups succeed. Yes, you also have a fiduciary duty to your LPs but the way you succeed is investing in the best startups and then helping them succeed.

You will have close to no chance landing a job by applying for an open position, too much competition. You need to build a connection, prove yourself and slide through the back door. Good luck

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Jan 29, 2018

This x 1,000,000

There is no conventional way. The fact of the matter is, if you have to ask, you won't get in. Everything @SVOasis said is correct. It could take years of networking or experience to get a shot. I do not believe you have to be an ex-entrepreneur to be a VC. Breaking into VC will be more of a strategic culmination of your time rather than a LinkedIn message.

Do what @SVOasis said, "Read a ton: read hacker news, VCs blogs, Tech Crunch, books on business and technology

Write a ton: write on Quora, write a blog, leave comments, analyze new tech IPOs. Show what you are capable of.

Build a brand. Help startups, give advice, make connections, do cool initiatives, organize events, do startups."

PM me if you want an extensive list of resources.

Array

Jul 21, 2011

Penn State
Communications

happy to give advice; no asking for referrals please

Jul 21, 2011

You don't.

Tried doing that my first year out of college, "lol go work at and sell off one of our PCs and we'll talk".

Jul 21, 2011

Plenty of people get into VC after undergrad, it's definitely possible, but not easy. Most of the people who get the full time gigs spent their junior summer interning at one of the top firms.

Jul 21, 2011

What's the best to do to break into VC after ones first job? IB then VC ?

Jul 21, 2011

Go work at or start a startup. It is invaluable experience in the eyes of VC firms. Theres so much more to VC, especially at a seed or series A level, than spreadsheets and financials.

Rise early, work hard, strike oil.

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Jul 21, 2011

You need to tailor your experiences to what VC firms want. So as ChEm3 said, go work at a startup, start your own business, be proactive on campus and take on leadership positions. VC guys want to see not only someone who can do the work, but someone with a lot of energy and drive. The key word to focus on is entrepreneurship - make your resume filled with as much entrepreneurial experience as possible

Jul 21, 2011

Where would be the best school to work at a startup or make one? Stern? USC? ND?

Jul 21, 2011

Stern is better than ND by a long shot for VCs and entrepreneurship.

But I just want to point out that starting a company for the sole purpose of joining a VC after graduation is a terrible idea - it will be a waste of time and resources, and VCs will be able to see through it.

Startups are an all-consuming way of life. Success often comes through pure diligence, pursuing 'unscalable' methods of expansion until you can reach critical mass. Startup founders work 24 hours a day. They dream about their companies in their sleep, sketch out concepts and wireframes in classes, think about marketing strategy on the train and practice their funding pitches in the shower.

Make a company because you want it to succeed. It should be for an idea that energizes you with a team that makes you a better person.

Also, if you want to join early-stage VC or be an effective member of a startup team, please learn to code. There are a billion resources you can use.

And finally VCs hire differently than PE and IBD. Recruiting is primarily done through connections and referrals - get to know your entrepreneurial community. Working at startups (made by other people) and getting part-time internships in VC will help you further.

VC is even more about networking than the other fields on this forum. Keep that in mind - meet as many people in as many places as possible. If you hustle enough, the right opportunity will come along.

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Jul 21, 2011

To get into PE, do most come from IB work experience first? How is it possible to enter PE right after undergrad? -- I hear its extremely difficult but possible.

Jul 21, 2011

Definitely agree with a majority of what 7X said. Starting a business with the goal of moving to a VC without a successful exit is retarded.

What I would counter though is the need to learn to code. Personally, I was one of those kids who taught themselves how to code in high school, but I decided to stop in college. I've tried to go back into coding, but the landscape changes so fast that it is pointless to half-ass, learn how to code. You really need to thoroughly enjoy it and constantly be tuned into the ever changing tech landscape.

That's not to say you can't be successful in a start-up! Businesses need vast array of talented people to become valuable.

Jul 21, 2011

I would highly recommend cold calling shops and meeting people in the industry.

Jul 21, 2011

Hands down its entirely about connections. I've got an acquaintance who is the MD of a startup VC( firm to use him as an example), and they don't even have a structured recruiting process. He finds new employees through referral or by calling up people that he knows who might be interested in a gig.

Part of it seems to be due to the nature of the work. It's for the same reason that consulting internships are hard to come by: it's generally difficult to predict what the project requirements will be in June and July during November of the previous year.

Jul 21, 2011

really, they like neither
as a VC partner once said to me, this is not a job that you find, it's a job that finds you.
They look for people with the kind of industry experience that cannot be acquired if your plans were to get into VC in the first place

Jul 21, 2011

Look at the profiles of some of the Analyst/Associates at a firm like Bessemer Venture Partners and they either have an entrepreneurial background or a few years of IB/Consulting experience. I've seen a few Equity Research guys that covered Software/Tech etc break through but that's rare

So I guess the next questions is: what exactly do you do ? The answer to that would influence answers to your other questions

Jul 21, 2011

IB experience will help but youre going to need the entrepreneurial factor, attend the NY tech meetups, or go to Fred Wilson and Chris Dixion's talks at NYU and Columbia. Start a website with a buddy selling used Ferragamo loafers. VC isnt as simple as IB-->VC.

Also i'll note that most of the respected and successful VC's dont have an IB background, or have a short time in IB compared to other experiences. Being an entrepreneur gives you the leg up, operational experience is key to many of these firms as they focus on small niches of investments (SaaS, Web 2.0, biotech...) its hard to pick out a great company if you dont know the ins and outs.

Later stage VC is a different animal though, much more IB relevant.

Jul 21, 2011

Im on the same boat buddy. I have a 3.8 from a non-target school and have not had any past internship experience. Im a junior so i really need a good internship for this summer... Let me know if you come across any helpful information

Jul 21, 2011

^^^ Me too. Can you forward my information with yours as well? Also, can you help me negotiate a $100 K internship along with 30% commission. K, thnx, bye.

There are lots of threads on this. Do a WSO search please. No offensive, but the odds are really against you guys. There is a great thread on how someone broke into VC from Undergrad. That's a good starting point. Be more proactive than posting a thread online before Spring semester your junior year is my advice.

Jul 21, 2011

connect with ppl on linkedin, push your family/friends' finance connections..also since you are targeting VC, you should see if you know anyone working at a VC funded company (biotech, pharma, tech, etc.) and network from there

im not against cold calling vc/growth stage firms since they cold call people all time

I'm making it up as I go along.

Jul 21, 2011

I believe Bessemer Venture Partners and Insight Venture Partners hire a few full-time analysts, with the latter even accepting summer interns.

Jul 21, 2011
randyross:

I believe Bessemer Venture Partners and Insight Venture Partners hire a few full-time analysts, with the latter even accepting summer interns.

This is true. I remember seeing a Bessemer OCR listing my senior fall, and my junior spring I interviewed at Insight even though I knew I was returning to my BB firm. Had a number of friends interview there, only one made it through.

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Jul 21, 2011

Also very interested. Anyone know any more places like Insight Venture that have summer interns?

Jul 21, 2011

Lots of smaller VC's offer internships. Can't name specific firms but they are definitely out there if you look hard enough.

Jul 21, 2011

Undergrad to VC is considerably more rare than to any other field because of a couple of things - there are far fewer firms that are willing to take an unskilled person, and when they do, the analyst would typically just cold call companies all day asking if they want investment (which means there would be not so much in the learning dept. to apply to anything in the future), it would make you so that your options would be more limited compared to IB or w/e else you've considered, and there is speculation over whether the VC model is sustainable over the long run. We are currently in a tech bubble, and when it bursts the VC scene will contract even further. If you want to potentially be in VC for the long run, or be on the board of a company your company invests in as a startup as a board member or something then thats an option.

For tl;dr: specializes and limits you, you don't gain the skills you would in other places etc. etc. I've heard variation on the comp but generally around 70-80k plus ~25k per deal sourced (which you may not do in a 2 year stint). If you come in after banking, youll be an associate.

"...all truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident."

  • Schopenhauer
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Jul 21, 2011

Don't worry about any of this for now. First, look at VC job descriptions on Glocap; you will need a science degree in 99% of cases (either life sciences: bio/chem/biochem/bioeng/chemeng/etc. or tech: electrical eng./computer science, etc).

Switch majors or get a recognized concentration in your field of interest (minor in CS for example if you like tech VC). Be realistic, what did you learn in Econ that is applicable to real life? Now imagine sitting side-by-side with an electrical engineer that can actually build a computer from sand and write and operating system if he's asked to. Put these guys through 2-years of IB and they become lethal (technical + financial skills). If they have a genuine business instinct and a passion for their sector, then they MAY stand a chance.

Don't mean to discourage you, but it is the toughest industry to get into. And you need to have at least what I mentioned above. You can still do it, act fast.

PS: The reason I took this negative tone is that when I was in college, I got the same spiel from someone in VC and it pushed me to succeed. Now I'm in VC.

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Jul 21, 2011

How does the process usually work moving from 2-3 years of IB to VC? Do any VC firms actively recruit from big banks, or is this something where you have to search 100% on your own? Basically, how do you make the jump from bulge bracket analyst to VC associate?

-Andrew

Jul 21, 2011

Yes... if your from Stanford.

Jul 21, 2011

Super duper hard. Actually, damn near impossible.

Jul 21, 2011

Some misinformation here. A lot of VC firms hire pre-MBAs with no VC experience. One of my buddies worked as a consultant before going to a VC firm. The top notch ones will hire serial entrepreneurs and you'll actually see a lot of entrepreneurial experience from most VC guys. Several bankers go into VC as well pre-MBA. I work near a firm (Battery Ventures) which hires a lot of them.

However in my experience, VCs use less headhunters and usually hire through a network. It's best to reach out and express interest.

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Jul 21, 2011

There are some firms that do recruit at pre-MBA level, but they won't be easy to break into. You'll need a combination of luck/experience/networking.

Jul 21, 2011

I have heard of consultants/bankers moving into VC pre-MBA, but what about if you are coming from undergrad... is that possible?

Jul 21, 2011

Yes

Jul 21, 2011

thebigbambino, can you elaborate?

Jul 21, 2011
claire15:

thebigbambino, can you elaborate?

Just like private equity, there are plenty of funds that take pre-mba analyst/associates, literally tons. Most of my team did a solid undergrad, 3 years of IB or consulting then were hired as analysts. There is no required departure time for my fund but I know a lot of PE shops that do 2-year associate programs and then expect you to go do your MBA. Heck even funds like General Catalyst take pre-MBA people.

Now, how to get to these pre-mba VC spots is a different story entirely.

Jul 21, 2011

I've met a couple analysts who were pre-mba over the years. Many of whom worked for smaller funds. Most of them were somehow directly related to the fund managers, sons/daughters/relatives/family friends etc. They didn't do much besides try to source deals. Most I met while at angel/venture capital clubs/conferences.

If you're targeting firms, stay away from early-stage/seed capital vc funds. Analysts are pretty useless there.

It is not about the title that you have, it is about how much money that you have.

Jul 21, 2011

Yep. Did 3 years of investment banking covering healthcare before getting hired by a VC fund.

Jul 21, 2011

is the only way to get into VC pre-MBA through consulting or investment banking? or is it possible to get in straight from undergrad with no prior VC experience?

Jul 21, 2011

Yeah it's possible, I did it, although I didn't get in through undergrad, got in a year later (a year of unrelated experience non-consulting/IBD though). Won't be easy though and you'll need some good luck/networking/skills/grades/etc.

Jul 21, 2011

Did three years of tmt banking, started and sold a company and then got into vc, no MBA

Jan 29, 2018

Depends on the firms. Many earlier stage firms will want Product Management or Operational experience.

Many tech banking groups are feeders into later stage funds.

Check out the background of the associates and partners at these funds. Midas list is a good start: http://www.forbes.com/profile/todd-chaffee/

Jan 29, 2018

I'd take a look at this thread in detail. http://www.wallstreetoasis.com/forums/current-vc-a...

Jan 29, 2018

A lot of threads on this already, Dingdong's link should be enough for your to cover through.

Jan 29, 2018

Shoot me a pm

Jan 29, 2018

There are a lot of articles about getting into VC on this website. But generally there are 2 ways to become a partner or director (where the real money is made).

1. Your probably familiar with the BB ibanking (TMT is best)-> 2 years VC -> HSW MBA -> VC Associate then get promoted or bounce around firms. With a solid GMAT I don't see why you can't get into a top tier MSF and follow this route.
2. The other option is to either start a startup and get an exit or work in BizDev and score some big contracts for your company. Basically get operational experience in a startup, get some exits, network, then VC. Due note that although this path is less structured most partners have operational experience. Also, always be networking.

Jan 29, 2018

Very interested in this as well..

Jan 29, 2018

Top VC firms assume you can learn the technical financial skills on the job, what they really want is an individual who understands the marketspace, has an exceptional network and typically sometype of mixed operating/financial/consulting experience. Last but not least is the ability to sell and form relationships. Many of the market leaders (companies) will have multiple firms chasing after them, why should they choose yours?

Jan 29, 2018

from my paltry network, i've heard consulting and operating experience stressed heavily -- modeling experience is indicative of some business knowledge and quantitative ability, but is just about useless in helping a start up grow.

Jan 29, 2018

What are the personal characteristics that they are looking for?

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Jan 29, 2018

You should have analytical skills (what business job doesn't?), persuasive skills, and the willingness to take risks. You shouldn't act impulsively.

Jan 29, 2018

Entrepreneurial endeavors also help. You probably didn't have much time on the side as an analyst, but if you can draw on college experiences with start-ups/small business, that's a plus.

Jan 29, 2018

Usually being part of a successful start up with a half decent MBA will put you ahead of the bankers and consultants.

Do some finance in your lovely bank then get working in the real grit. VC will love you then.

Jan 29, 2018

Here is what I look for...

Intelligence and intellectual curiosity.

Direct experience in a start up (perferably a successful one) and expert level understanding of either technology or marketing (not making logos and brochures, but how to build a business that makes money; e.g. BD, distribution, web, etc.) Both would be golden.

Good academic background (need to see the ability to learn, and stick at something). Modeling is o.k., but reading financial info is more important than being a spreadsheet jockey. Too much jitter in new ventures to be meaningful. DCF..? Yeah, right.

Enthusiasm. VC world is about hope. Need to be passionate about this stuff.

Ability to add value to portfolio companies. Can be all kinds of things...people networks, technology, operations, sales.

Good luck.

Deppster