How do I get an Interview in VC?

by Derek Loosvelt | March 31, 2009

VC firms are inundated with requests for interviews and informational interviews. The time of venture capitalists is precious. If a VC firm lets it be known they have a single summer internship available, they can expect 300 resumes from people at the top 10 business schools. Now that you're more aware of what you are up against, here's a glint of hope -- as a whole, venture capital firms are always hiring.

So what can you do? Network. Ultimately, networking and schmoozing is the key to a job search in every industry, but it is even more so in the VC industry. Building contacts in the industry is key to finding out about jobs and getting an interview. It helps to have a strong recommendation from someone the VC respects.

The other way to get an interview is to have deep industry experience. This takes a few years, so it's not for the impatient.

Another way to up your chances at an interview -- do your research. Target a niche attractive to VC firms. Read the trade press or go to a large trade show and catch up on the buzz.

By far the best way to approach a venture capital firm is via a simple introduction to one of the professionals. "Johnny Trustworthy suggested I contact you about", will make a big difference. Part of your job should be finding people who are in a position to make this introduction. All VCs work with lots of lawyers, bankers, portfolio companies, and boards of directors. Poll your network to see who might know at the right people at these outfits as well as the VC firms themselves.

Then get access to VentureOne (a Reuters product) or VentureXpert (a Thomson Financial product). These databases are very expensive, but you should be able to get access at a local business school or at a friend's investment bank or venture capital firm.

VentureOne and VentureXpert chronicle investments reported by venture capital firms across the U.S. They give you the name of the company invested, which VC firms made the investment, how much was invested, and a short description of what the company does. By studying the information, you may glean an indication of what are currently considered hot investments. You might also start to see patterns where certain names of firms are repeatedly attached to companies that interest you. This info will help you focus your list of preferred venture capital firms.

Then hit the Web to find out about each of the companies in that space, the VCs that invested in them, and the opinions of journalists who write about the niche. Develop your own ideas about the market and find other private companies that haven't yet attracted investors. Trade shows are among the best way to research companies. Once you have developed ideas backed up by research, you can approach and impress a VC.

Kauffman Fellowship

Another way to get a post-MBA job in VC is the Kauffman Fellowship (www.kauffmanfellows.org). The $1 billion Kauffman Foundation was created by Ewing Marion Kauffman in 1992 to support youth development programs and to accelerate entrepreneurship in America. The fellowship is one of the foundation's innovative programs. Its mission is to increase the number of well-trained venture capitalists in the U.S. by placing and paying for top candidates to work as associates in prestigious venture capital firms. It is an excellent program, and has been responsible for a significant percentage of the next generation of venture capitalists over the last few years. Kauffman fellows now represent their own alumni group within the VC industry and use that network to help other alums.

Filed Under: Finance


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