The power of your network in obtaining a venture capital job is significant. Entering into a venture capital career absolutely depends upon how well you network. In fact, some openings in venture capital firms will never be traced to a job advertisement. Instead, many VC positions are filled via a game of “who knows who” in the industry.
Effectively marketing yourself in the venture capital world is the key to unlocking the gates to a lucrative venture capital career. There are several strategies that can put you on the radar of the VC partners.
Start with Your Own Rolodex
The business contacts already in your network can also be an excellent asset for breaking into a venture capital career. Utilizing these relationships can lead you to introductions with a venture capital firm that has synergies with your background. However, keep in mind that patience is the key with this strategy. Business people and especially venture capitalists are busy professionals, and although it may be months before you can actually schedule a face-to-face meeting, the rewards will pay off for your patience. We’ll assume that you need more than your own contacts to find your venture capital job, so let’s explore other avenues.
Capitalize upon Personal Online Marketing
There are three fundamental skills associated with a venture capital career: strong analysis, excellent communication, and sourcing ability. You can cultivate and demonstrate all three of these characteristics before you enter the venture capital interview process – giving you an edge in your job hunt.
The internet can be an excellent way to start marketing your skill set. The VC world is pretty connected online, with both firms and individuals publishing and commenting on popular blogs. With this in mind, create your own blog with a venture capital and early stage company focus. Write about start-up ventures and explain your thoughts on the latest VC funding. If your writing is both relevant to a particular industry and insightful, it could be your foot in the door for a venture capital job interview.
Case in point: Union Square Ventures is known for asking VC job applicants to forgo submitting a resume, but instead demonstrating how you are connected online, such as your personal blog, articles, and companies with which you work. Essentially, they want to see your passion for early stage companies and knowledge for how the venture capital game is played.
Dozens of insider blogs on venture capital have been launched. Netscape co-founder Marc Andreessen has one called Pmarca, a site with plenty of insider information including an article entitled The Truth About Venture Capitalists that has become a highly recommended read in the VC and start-up communities. Another resource that gives you a glimpse into the world of venture capital firms is TheFunded.com. This site provides reviews of venture capital firms, including the good, bad and ugly. This site in particular, founded by technology entrepreneur Adeo Ressi, has caused quite an uproar.
If you are active in the VC blog circles, contributing compelling comments, articles, and links, this can help you get an introduction to the right partner. Today, a combination of your LinkedIn profile and your online endeavors may just replace your resume altogether.
Take Steps to Get You Closer to a Venture Capital Job
Although the educational and professional backgrounds of individuals in venture capital careers are diverse, there are steps you can take that will bring you closer to VC firms. For most candidates, it is difficult to obtain even a VC entry-level job directly out of college, as the ideal candidate has hands-on financial, sales or product development experience.
If you are current obtaining your MBA, consider internships that will expose you to venture capitalists, either directly at VC firm or potentially for a company inside the VC’s portfolio. Using the MBA program Alumni network is a great way to get introduced to venture capital partners. And, perhaps most important to the MBA student, you should get actively involved in your school’s venture capital club. The key is to get exposure and build reputation inside the industry, and thus, when positions do arise, your candidacy will be at the forefront of their consideration.
Keep in mind that not all individuals in venture capital took the same route. While some indeed were involved in banking before they obtained their MBA and landed a VC job, others took an entirely different route altogether. For example, they may have founded their own company, or perhaps was involved with a start-up company that enjoyed great success. Thus, there are many creative ways for you to develop your network.
Talk to the Head Hunters
Executive recruiters that specialize in venture capital jobs can be a great asset and, if you have the right skill set, can be your quickest path to a VC career. Recruiting is a pretty simple process – the recruiter’s job is to fill a venture capital job opening. They will use many different networks to make that happen and don’t really care where the final candidates come from, as long as they are in a position to make the introduction. Find a couple of recruiters that work in your area of specialty and get to know them. Be sure to stay in touch as they are exposed to many opportunities each month and can put you in position for success very quickly.
Fish in the Stocked Ponds
Venture capitalists are a highly networked group and participate in VC events. You can take advantage of these gatherings to make contacts and directly develop a network in venture capital. At these events, it is important not to position yourself as a typical candidate with resume in hand.
Ideally, if you have a specialized field or forte, attend a venture capital forum that focuses on that particular industry. For example, if medical technology is your specialty, attend the Annual Medtech Investing Conference. If renewable resources are your focus, then register for the Annual Renewable Energy Finance and Investment Summit. A list of VC meetings is available from the National Venture Capital Association.
Another great source of face to face networking possibilities comes from professional organizations, such as the Angel Capital Association . Organizations like this have an extensive network, bringing together private investment firms and many of these associations sponsor meetings attended by venture capitalists and entrepreneurs.
These types of events are aimed at networking, so the VC’s are primed for making connections here. Networking at these events does not simply mean passing out your business cards to as many venture capitalists as possible. It is important to approach these events with a strategy. Carve out your niche and demonstrate value in the conversation. Discuss industry findings and, most importantly, investment activity with the industry niche.
Strategically building your network to make connections with venture capitalists is a powerful strategy for breaking into a fruitful VC career. Keep in mind that although the field is competitive, VC firms always keep their eyes open for candidates that can hit the ground running.