Q&A: Consulting -> PE -> Early-Stage Startup -> B-School

Hey folks - long-time lurker on WSO, and in the spirit of the other great Q&A's that have been posted here recently, would be happy to share the perspective of a younger professional who's gone through a few different career iterations. Title says it all, but for more context:

  • Top-10 Undergrad, STEM / Social Sciences
  • 2 years generalist consulting (went through typical PE on-cycle process)
  • 2 years generalist MM / UMM PE and closed a few platforms
  • Approaching 2 years as a "jack of all trades" at Series A / B startup
  • Heading to H/S/W, hard stats in line with typical ranges; hoping to explore a couple entrepreneurial ideas of my own but likely to pursue growth equity investing post-MBA

Let me know what you're curious about and would be glad to share my $0.02 (and it's worth exactly that, by the way), preferably in the comments but also by DM if it feels suitably personal.

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Comments (8)

May 11, 2021 - 2:01pm

thanks for doing this and cool background

1) What was your story you pitched for bschool? 

2) What is your plan of attack recruiting for growth investing roles? I.e., directly for them through ocr or networking?

3) why growth investing and do you want to make it a long term career (may have been answered in 1)

4) when did you find time to study for GMAT and when did you realize you wanted to do business school? Is bschool necessary to go from startup exit to investing?

Most Helpful
May 11, 2021 - 4:36pm

(1) You don't have to do this, but my story was tied to a particular niche sector interest that I have and wanting to have a multi-stage career in that space (first as an entrepreneur, and maybe later in social impact or policy). And if I were to become an investor, I'd like to focus on that particular space. That said, I've seen / heard of all manner of stories get into schools - go with whatever feels authentic to you (and I think that holds true more generally in life, too).

(2) To my knowledge, post-MBA recruiting in general is very much network driven - I believe some megafunds and other shops here and there do come to campus, but by and large, the numbers are generally geared towards personal networking. (Which is what the MBA is supposed to provide time for.)

(3) I personally really like investing and absent building a startup of my own that I have huge conviction of my own in, I lean towards investing's mix of personal interest, compensation, and "security" (for lack of a better term). That said, I guess I'm idealistic (naive? foolish?) enough to not want to spend my entire career chasing money and would love to have the chance to use my private sector skills in a more socially-oriented way (and it helps that my primary sector of interest is very much geared towards being able to do that). Besides the networking and time to explore and step back, the long-term versatility of the MBA is where most of the degree's value comes for me personally - although that's not to say that you need one at all to be successful, especially now with the increasing optionality of the degree.

(4) For whatever reason, I've never had trouble with standardized testing, so I was able to take it just before starting work and did very well on it. In that sense, I suppose you could say that it's always been on my radar (and it has), but consulting still has a very strong MBA culture and starting my career there strengthened that interest, and over the following years, I refined what I really wanted to get out of the experience. That said, it's much more of a want than a need, and I suppose I could be persuaded to take the right growth investing seat instead.

May 11, 2021 - 4:46pm

To answer your question, it might be helpful to explain why I did consulting and then private equity in the first place. I went into consulting with the mindset that I'd leave after 2 years and focus on developing as much of a "general management" toolkit as I could, but I'd always been intellectually interested in finance and the projects / pieces of work that I was most interested in were what you could generally describe as "strategic finance" (tying strategy to capital allocation and financial measurement). From there, private equity felt like a natural next step and a really good way to complement what I had learned in consulting. With that said, I increasingly found that (1) I had a sector that I was interested in that is still broadly in the early stages of a tech transformation, (2) I spent a lot of time working in startups in college and I really liked it, (3) I enjoyed investing but not the process-heavy components of PE (e.g., lending process, legal, QoE, etc.) and realized that I liked meeting with management teams and evaluating business models more, which points heavily towards venture and growth stage investing. All of that pointed towards the benefit of spending time at a startup, and I was fortunate to find one that I really meshed with.

As far as which positions you better - if your goal is just to get to a startup and stay there, then you don't need to be an investor and you can just do consulting / banking (or go straight into entrepreneurship). More than anything, I do think it's more important to have a problem that you specifically want to solve. That said, lots of great startups have been founded by former PE folks (Warby Parker / Harry's, Stubhub, Bonobos, etc.) and I do think that the more commercial (rather than advisory) focus of private equity very much lends itself to thinking critically about how you'd build a business and position it for success.

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May 11, 2021 - 4:56pm

Thanks for doing this! Your ideas are your ideas and I wouldn't want you to divulge too much secret info on a public forum, but could you speak to some of the entrepreneurial endeavors you're looking to take on during your MBA? Once again, you!

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May 12, 2021 - 1:57pm

I'd love to have a conversation about startup ideas. But unfortunately revealing them publicly might be personally identifying. :)

Definitely encourage you to develop a sector passion / interest and really get in the weeds of the problems that are being solved (and it's not enough, by the way, to say something like "healthcare access" as great as that is - something more specific like "building platforms to connect patients with nurses and healthcare practitioners for in-home visits that complement telehealth visits with doctors")

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