Let’s Stop Talking About the Sexism in Venture

As much as I deeply respect Reid Hoffman, I feel his call for VCs to take a “Decency Pledge” completely misses the point about sexism in venture capital.  The venture capital industry is one of the few industries in the world where the number of its senior women decision-makers declined over the last decade. That’s right. Declined.  Today less than 7% of partners in venture firms are women.

The headlines of the last couple of weeks have simply highlighted what happens when the number of women in an industry drops below a critical mass. Investors turn a blind eye to the misogynistic behaviors of their CEOs and portfolio companies. VCs lose their own sense of decorum and are lewd, demeaning and predatory to women entrepreneurs and colleagues. And women and other minorities are the victims of a conscious and unconscious bias that drastically diminishes their fundraising prospects. So rather than working in an industry of inspiring innovation that dreams of the possibility of a brighter future, we find ourselves wading through a slimy cesspit of harassment, debasement and discrimination. 

This is not who we are. This is not all we can be.

But the problem is that talk about venture’s sexism problem and talk about the lack of women in venture, is not in fact changing the ratio. Talk is becoming a substitute for action. If you are really serious about diversity in your firm and in our ecosystem, here are 7 practical ways you can help drive diversity this year.

1. Hire. More. Women.

I know. Stupidly simple. But at the end of the day, this is the only way to fix the problem. If you are one of those firms that have only a handful of women, having diversity in your firm is almost a responsibility to your investors. The next decade or so will be marked by ever accelerating shifts in technology and consumer behaviors. And even if venture barely has any women decision-makers, in other industries the buyers for your portfolio’s products are increasingly women. To assess how a product, marketing strategy or sales approach will appeal to these buyers you are going to need the opinions of both genders around the table; a diverse set of eyes looking at the same problem.

If you don’t know the right women investors to draw into your firm, resources like Parity Partners specifically tackle this problem and will not give up until you find the right woman (or better – women) for your team.

 2. Set a Diversity Goal

Only firms who set short and mid-term goals around diversity, are serious about the issue. The rest aren’t. 

If you are currently an all-male firm, your diversity goal may initially be modest. Here are some examples:

  • to get to 20% women investors within 18 months
  • to ensure the next 3 investor hires are women
  • to have at least one female GP when you go out to raise your next fund
  • to accelerate the development and promotion of 2 women associates

At AlphaPrime, we have a strict 50/50 gender policy. I’m not going to lie: this can be a minor inconvenience at times. Recently we decided to expand our bench of venture partners. Within 10 minutes, we had identified 6 great male candidates in our sector. It took about a week of telephone calls and unconventional thinking to identify the same number of exceptional women candidates. In the end, we’ll have no problem bringing on equal numbers of both. Like I said – a minor inconvenience - but not an insurmountable one.

3. Amplify Women’s Voices

The Washington Post first reported that women in the Obama’s Administration were using a simple rhetorical technique to reinforce points made by other women. When a woman made a good point, another woman would repeat it, and give credit to the originator. This technique is called “amplification” and makes the idea harder to ignore or to steal credit for.  The only tweak I suggest is that men and women should both amplify the voices of women.

Social media makes it easier than ever before for us to amplify the voices of women VCs from other firms. I have a list on Twitter of “womenVCs” and on a daily basis I trawl the and retweet woman VCs sage advice or observations.  Feel free to use my list (@claudiaiannazzo) or create your own.

4. Host an Access Dinner

Last year Beezer Clarkson from Sapphire Ventures, and Ed Zimmerman from Lowenstein Sandler hosted an incredible dinner. They invited women GPs who were fundraising and sat them next to institutional investors who were seeking new manager relationships. After the dinner, they also shared the contact details of all the attendees. It was an extraordinary act of kindness: providing access to investors who are often incredibly difficult to get their attention. It was also an incredibly shrewd move: both hosts were rightly etched in the minds of their future co-investors and clients as having a genuine commitment to diversity and simply being “good people”, the kind we all want to deal with in the future.

Host a similar dinner or invite women VCs to your AGM with limited partners. Or simply introduce them to other fund investors. The kindness will come back to you with interest.

5. Share the Stage: the Panel Pledge

A number of investors are increasingly taking the panel pledge. Not only do these investors refuse to sit on panels that only have men, but they proactively suggest to panel organizers qualified, exceptional women who could add some balance to the panel. This diversity rounds out the discussion, but also highlights the role models to more junior women in the industry, giving them a visible reminder that it is possible to get to the top of the industry.  A shout out to Evan Nisselson of LDV Capital who ensures that 50% of the speakers at his annual Vision Summit are women.

6. Share the Column: the Column Pledge

Same issue as the panel pledge. Make it a condition of being quoted on record, that the journalist also quotes at least one other woman from the industry.  From reading ReCode, TechCrunch, New York Times, Washington Post and many others, I’m not aware of any VC taking this approach. I’m not aware of any journalist taking this approach either. Come forward and be the first.

7. Support Women’s Development

If you do have women in your ranks, make sure you keep them. The best way is to develop them. On-the-job training is always the best path but for the trickier training -  how to build your personal brand, how to build a specialist network, how to resolve office conflicts, time management etc - consider sponsoring your staff member to the P3 Program. The P3 Program is a 12 month professional development course for women in financial services, delivered by some of the biggest names in the finance world.

For those of you who invest in funds – if the firms you are investing in cannot demonstrate at least half of the items on this list, they are paying lip-service (at best) to diversity. Ultimately, as the landscape changes, these homogenous firms will be disadvantaged in accessing and assessing the new era of investment opportunities. Eventually this is going to translate to poor returns to you and your own stakeholders. By investing in funds that don’t make meaningful diversity steps, not only are you complicit in their behavior, but you may eventually be harming your own financial interests as well. 

On the face of it, Reid’s “Decency Pledge” (not to be a sleaze-bag, to call out the bad behavior of sleaze-bags, and not to do business with them either) sounds like a good idea. But the problem is firms sign up to it, then pat themselves on the back that they’ve been “good guys”, and done all that is required. Unfortunately, other than a couple of insanely inappropriate comments perhaps not being made in public, nothing meaningfully changes. It’s not the vocabulary of the industry that’s the problem. It’s the gender of the industry. 

Instead, we should be calling for a Diversity Pledge: where a firm commits to having 50/50 parity at its most senior levels within a certain number of years. AlphaPrime has already made this pledge which is core to our firm values. What’s your target?

We all need to move beyond talking and into action.


About the Author

Claudia Iannazzo (@claudiaiannazzo) is a managing partner and co-founder of AlphaPrime Ventures, a New York based venture capital firm investing in technologies that protect people and assets. Claudia has been investing in and working with technology companies for over 20 years, and has facilitated more than $10 billion of acquisitions, divestments, IPOs, investments, alliances and partnerships for public companies and new ventures around the globe.

Since starting her first company in compliance management while at University, Claudia’s career has spanned 5 continents, working on a broad range of safety and security initiatives, ranging from patrol boats in Vietnam, to remote location logistics, to NATO and other defense programs as Head of Commercial for the Weapons Systems division of BAE Systems. She has also been a commercial executive with numerous multinational companies, including Infosys Technologies, Tabcorp Holdings and Fosters Group.

Today, Claudia lives in New York with husband, daughter and two dogs, and spends her days investing in the next generation of innovations that keep her family, friends and city safer from emerging threats. Claudia is also a co-founder and Board member of Parity Partners, an organization driving diversity and inclusive leadership in the investment industry.

 

 

Crossing the Rubicon and joining an emerging venture firm

How to weigh up the opportunity to work at an emerging venture firm if you don’t have the typical venture background

You have a higher chance of winning an Olympic medal or becoming a runway model, than you do of landing a job in venture.   Sadly, there are roughly 600 analyst or associate roles that are offered in institutional venture capital firms globally each year. There are even fewer principal roles (below partner) available.  

As a result, the top end branded firms (think Sequoia, KKR, Accel, Bessemer, Battery, NEA, Insight …. you know the names) often have their pickings of the candidate pool and they can, and justifiably are, incredibly tough to get into. These firms can stipulate only the highest GPA scores and schools for their graduate intake, or only take associates who have at least three years institutional investing or top tier investment banking experience.  Or sometimes they will only take founders who have delivered a certain profile of exits. 

Which means, if you come from a non-traditional background (eg out of corporate or industry, without an investing track record, or some other background that does not strictly fit the mold) these premier firms are often not open to you. That’s not to say you don’t have a role in venture, or can’t have a successful investing career, but if you want to get into venture capital, you are going to need to change your thinking.

The funds that will hire you are typically newer firms, less proven, less well-known, with less assets under management than their more established siblings. These firms often can’t afford to pay at the top end, and the value of any carry component is often less in real terms (simply because the size of their managed capital pot is proportionately smaller). And yet these firms offer a very different experience from their “top tier” cousins. They can be less rigid in their expectations, staff are often given significantly more varied work and responsibility, and there is certainly a much greater ability to influence how the firm operates and its future strategy. If you prove that you can do the work, you can accelerate to more senior roles as the firm grows and considers its next tier of talent when forming subsequent funds.

If you are a non-traditional candidate, and agonizing over whether to the take the offer in front of you from the emerging firm, versus the hypothetical offers you don’t have from a group of top-tier firms that you would like to work at, be careful that you don’t pass up the chance of a lifetime. Here’s how to make the decision:

  • Stop obsessing about brand: You need to stop focusing on the “brand strength” of the firm in your decision making as this is largely irrelevant if you are not a candidate for the top tier firms. There is very little difference in brand equity between joining a well-known, tier 2 firm, versus joining a relatively unknown new firm.
  • Focus on the partners: In a small, emerging firm, it is essential you work with the highest caliber people. If you do not feel that every person in the firm is head and shoulders smarter than you, then this is the wrong room for you. You need to be working for exceptional thinkers, who can challenge your own analysis because they see ley lines you don’t see, and who you will listen to and respect because they are brilliant.
  • Consider the firm’s capacity to teach: If you do not come from a venture investing background, it’s essential that this role teaches you the business. That’s not just how to source deals, but also how to diligence them properly, negotiate terms, value different opportunities, manage startup crises, and ultimately learn the fundraising. Look carefully at the exact role you are walking into - will the partners be teaching you the ropes or are you simply one of the worker bees on the phones? Will you learn in this role the skills and networks you need to get a more senior role in this, or another, firm?
  • Make sure there’s a tone fit:  You need to ensure you are working with people who share your values and work ethic. Emerging venture firms by their nature are small teams. You are going to be working closely with each person, over long hours, and often under stressful conditions. The people in the team have often made significant investments in the firm (as well as opportunity sacrifices) to be there. As they deeply care about the outcomes, you are going to see each of these individuals at their very best and their very worst. If as a team, you do not share a compatible work tone, values and style, the relationship can sour quickly!
  • Make sure they have crossed the Rubicon[1]: Despite the headlines, it is very difficult to succeed in venture. Firms where investing partners have a full-time or part-time gig doing something that is unrelated to the business of the firm, generally do not succeed. You need to work in a firm where all members of the team have crossed the Rubicon, and have no choice but to succeed or die. No one can have any backup plan other than making investors great returns and raising the next fund.  Make sure that the partners are deeply and exclusively committed to the firm’s success and their venture reputations.  It is exceptionally hard to be successful without this dedication.

Finally, in order to break into venture as a non-traditional candidate, you are going to need to learn to take risks - on the firm, on the compensation path, and on your own ability to learn and succeed in this ecosystem. Unless you work for a corporate venture capital group, working in venture will never give you the job security of working for a big brand. If you are struggling to take the risk of jumping into an emerging firm despite all the other elements being there, venture capital may not be the right home for you.

Venture capital is the riskiest asset class there is. And every venture firm founder took significant risks to start and run their firms.  Just remember as you look at your offer - there’s no such thing as a sure bet. Breathe deeply. Then jump!


[1] When Julius Caesar’s led a legion to cross the Rubicon River in 29BC to make his way to Rome, he deliberately broke the law on imperium which forbad a general entering Italy which exercising command of an army. The penalty for this infraction was death for the general and for all troops following their command. By crossing the Rubicon, Caesar and his troops passed the point of no return. They needed to succeed or die. The same is true of the most successful venture firms. 


About the Authors

Claudia Iannazzo (@claudiaiannazzo) is a managing partner and co-founder of AlphaPrime Ventures, a New York based venture capital firm investing in technologies that protect people and assets. Claudia has been investing in and working with technology companies for over 20 years, and has facilitated more than $10 billion of acquisitions, divestments, IPOs, investments, alliances and partnerships for public companies and new ventures around the globe.

Since starting her first company in compliance management while at University, Claudia’s career has spanned 5 continents, working on a broad range of safety and security initiatives, ranging from patrol boats in Vietnam, to remote location logistics, to NATO and other defense programs as Head of Commercial for the Weapons Systems division of BAE Systems. She has also been a commercial executive with numerous multinational companies, including Infosys Technologies, Tabcorp Holdings and Fosters Group.

Today, Claudia lives in New York with husband, daughter and two dogs, and spends her days investing in the next generation of innovations that keep her family, friends and city safer from emerging threats. Claudia is also a co-founder and Board member of Parity Partners, an organization driving diversity and inclusive leadership in the investment industry.

 

 

How to Land A Job In Venture Capital, Part 2

In Part One of “How to Land a Job in Venture Capital”, we discussed how to build a resume with the capabilities that are attractive to VCs that are hiring.

The next step to opening the door is to get in front of the right people in the right firm. This is not achieved through a Linkedin campaign or random emails to firms. Remember that venture capitalists and venture firms are under siege – from hundreds, sometimes thousands – of entrepreneurs trying to get their attention. Your resume will land in the very same inbox, which means you need to step up your game.

Here are eight tips from a range of VCs who have hired team members in the last two years, on how to be hired as a new INVESTOR:

  1. Internet profile – clean it up
  2. Narrow your focus – do your research on target firms
  3. View your network as a resource to gain access
  4. Engage with the right recruiters
  5. Specific – personalize your approach
  6. Timely – respond quickly and work around the VC’s schedule
  7. Off limits -  don’t ask for coffee meetings or advice
  8. Relevant - seek to be relevant if the VC is not hiring

1.    Internet profile - clean it up

Before you start applying for roles, make sure your public profile is consistent with the career and story you are telling potential VCs. Few people look at resumes today; most simply check your online profile before agreeing to speak with you:

  • Update your Linkedin profile. Yes – you need a good online brand that shows how you’ve built capabilities that VCs need to succeed. Take the time to build a pithy profile that succinctly explains the key attributes you are likely to bring to a role in venture.
  • Ensure your social media footprint is professional. The partner at VC firms will look at how you present yourself on Twitter, Facebook and other forums. Make sure there are no embarrassing posts and entries – these could send warning flags to hiring managers who believe that once hired, your profile becomes their profile and brand too.

2.    Narrow your focus - do your research on the venture firms

All of the nearly 800 venture capital firms in the U.S. have different investing profiles and a lens through which they view their mandates: whether it’s the sector they invest in, their stage focus, or their geographic location and focus:

  • Identify the funds that are based in the geographic areas you are prepared to live in. It is very unlikely that a venture firm will open an office in a new location with a person that they haven’t previously worked with. Given that the firm will not come to you: you will need to move to them. Or find a firm that’s already in your geography.
  • Identify the funds that have sufficient assets to hire someone at your level. Most venture funds charge annual management fees of 2% of assets under management to their own investors. These “management” fees are intended to cover the cost of the venture team, office space, travel, and other expenses associated with managing a portfolio of companies. You need to consider whether the firm has sufficient fee revenue to hire you after accounting for these expenses. For entry-level positions you should prioritize firms that have at least $25 million AUM. Smaller firms usually don’t have the capital to take on more resources.  For more senior roles, the AUM needs to be larger to justify additional personnel expense.
  • Identify the funds that invest in the sector and stage that you are interested in. Most funds state their investing lens on their websites. If they don’t, it’s possible to infer their investment focus by looking at the last three years of their investing focus (which you can often see on Crunchbase).  If you prefer working with companies that have proven and validated product, then you don’t want to align with a seed-stage investor.  You need to target the funds based on your interest and expertise.

3.    View your network as a resource to gain access

Use your network (see Part 1 of this blog series) to get a warm introduction into your shortlisted venture firms. Use LinkedIn to identify who can introduce you into a specific firm and ask your contacts to connect you with the most senior person at the fund as possible. This is the value of your network.  Without a network you may not have any connections to a firm, and cold solicitations typically go nowhere. As venture funds usually have small teams, hiring decisions are made by the partners, who often consult with the other team members.

 4.    Engage with the right recruiters

Globally, there are a handful of recruiters that recruit specifically for venture firms. Those recruiters maintain and recruit from databases of potential candidates, so you should put your details in their databases (usually accessible online). Recruiters may acknowledge your information online, but they typically won’t interview you unless they have an engagement that potentially matches your skills and their client’s expectations.

We strongly encourage women and minorities to provide their details to Parity Partners. Parity Partners focuses on hiring candidates that will enrich the diversity footprints of firms in the investment industry.

5.    Specific - personalize your approach

When you write an email introduction, ensure that your phrasing and terminology is relevant and targeted at the specific fund you are approaching. Explain why you want to work with their specific fund, versus other funds, and explain what you bring to the table that is relevant to their investing thesis.  Make the case for you.  How will they be better off as a firm with your skills, network and contribution?

6.    Timely - respond quickly and work around the VC’s schedule

Most VCs are scheduling 30 to 60 meetings every week. They are not exaggerating when they say they are busy.  Getting into their calendars can be challenging. Get the partner you want to speak to (or their administrative assistants) to suggest time windows and make sure that one of these aligns with your schedule. Do not get into a long drawn out email train for scheduling purposes: your email and application will quickly wind up in the “too hard to schedule” category, which is code for “too hard to work with”. If you’re in a situation where the date and time haven’t been confirmed within two emails, break the cycle by picking up the phone to speak with the scheduling assistant. Ensure that you’re easy to do business with. 

7.    Off- limits - don’t ask for coffee meetings or ask advice

VC’s are genuinely time poor, and as much as we would love to, few of us have time for casual coffee meetings with every person who wants to ask us for advice on getting into venture.  As one VC put it, “do not ask to ‘pick my brain’… it’s a disgusting expression, and I don’t have time for it” … The best advice we can give you is already contained in these two blog posts.

We vastly prefer the direct approach: say that you are looking for a job in venture, explain the level you are looking for (analyst/ associate/ principal) and explain why you feel you bring the necessary attributes that are relevant to this firm. Attach your resume and LinkedIn profile, attach your market map as an example of critical thinking, and ask the partner for a quick 15-minute telephone call to introduce yourself. If the firm has a potential hiring need, and feel you are a good fit, they will respond. If the timing for recruiting is not right, you will go in their files for future reference.

8.    Relevant - seek to be relevant if the VC is not hiring

If the firm is not hiring now but you can wait, and if there’s a chance that there may be open positions in the future, try to build a relationship with the individual partners. The best way to do this, is to be relevant. Some examples of how to do this:

  • if you are a student, consider interning with the firm
  • share interesting companies with the firm (but be warned – share only quality companies, as the firm will judge you by your deal flow)
  • connect the firm with relevant advisors, specialists or potential investors
  • offer to connect the firm’s portfolio companies with customers or relevant specialists
  • occasionally email the partner relevant industry articles about emerging trends that they may not have read (however, don’t get annoying and send too many, and don’t email them material or sources they would typically read)
  • follow the partner(s) on their social media forums and join the conversation

Obviously, you can only do this with a handful of firms, but we have seen this work in the past. If you provide value to a partner, eventually the partner will feel the need to reciprocate.  It’s the way relationships work. Even if the partner doesn’t have a position for you, they may open up their network to you, which could lead to other avenues of opportunity.


It’s not always easy to get in front of hiring partners: it’s a careful combination of approaching the firm when they are hiring, leveraging the right connections, and using the right approach to sell yourself. The persistence and skills you will use to get a job are the same skills you will use to ferret out interesting companies and persuade them to take your capital over that offered by other firms. Landing a job in the competitive venture field may be the first sign that you can actually do the job of an investor.


To land a job, follow our 8 Step INVESTOR approach.   Be patient –  there are very few roles available in the industry and it can sometimes take years to break in.

VCs play a long game: we seek returns over years, sometimes a decade. Likewise, the right candidates also play a long game in order to find the right firm with which to enter the industry.  


About the Authors

Hilary Gosher (@hilbil175) is a Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners where she leads Insight Onsite, the firm’s team of growth experts who help scale Insight’s portfolio companies. Hilary founded this team in 2000 and has worked with more than 100 software, Internet and mobile companies. The Onsite team leads Insight’s due diligence and has expertise across the talent, product and go-to-market functional areas of software businesses, as well as M&A.

Hilary is currently a Board member or advisor to Datasift, Drillinginfo and Turnitin. Prior investments include Argus Software (acquired by Altus Group), Medidata Solutions (IPO), OverDrive (acquired by Rakuten), Planview (acquired by Thoma Bravo), Primavera (acquired by Oracle), Scriptlogic (acquired by Quest Software), Shunra (acquired by HP) and Vertafore (acquired by Hellman & Friedman).

Hilary is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) where she teaches tech entrepreneurship. She held the same position previously at NYU’s Stern School of Business.  She is a co-founder and Board member of Parity Partners, an organization focused on driving gender diversity and inclusive leadership and decision-making in the alternative asset industry.

 

Claudia Iannazzo(@claudiaiannazzo) is a managing partner and co-founder of AlphaPrime Ventures, a New York based venture capital firm investing in technologies that protect people and assets. Claudia has been investing in and working with technology companies for over 20 years, and has facilitated more than $10 billion of acquisitions, divestments, IPOs, investments, alliances and partnerships for public companies and new ventures around the globe.

Since starting her first company in compliance management while at University, Claudia’s career has spanned 5 continents, working on a broad range of safety and security initiatives, ranging from patrol boats in Vietnam, to remote location logistics, to NATO and other defense programs as Head of Commercial for the Weapons Systems division of BAE Systems. She has also been a commercial executive with numerous multinational companies, including Infosys Technologies, Tabcorp Holdings and Fosters Group.

Today, Claudia lives in New York with husband, daughter and two dogs, and spends her days investing in the next generation of innovations that keep her family, friends and city safer from emerging threats. Claudia is also a co-founder and Board member of Parity Partners, an organization driving diversity and inclusive leadership in the investment industry.

 

 

How to Land A Job In Venture Capital, Part 1

The competition to get into venture is intense.

There are approximately 800 venture capital firms in the US[i], employing 5,500 venture professionals[ii]. Given this small number of firms and people, we estimate that the industry recruits fewer than 1,000 roles annually – and this is before accounting for other limiting factors like the firms’ location, specialization and culture, or the level and salary of the open position.

For any one advertised role in venture, it’s not unusual for hirers to receive hundreds of applications, and for the most part, positions aren’t advertised, but filled through word-of-mouth, networking and talent specialists.

So, to get the right role in venture capital and a foot in the door, you truly need to stand out from the crowd.

Specifically, candidates wishing to enter the industry for the first time, need to build a resume that demonstrates three key competencies:

1.      A real-world understanding of how venture works

2.      A proven ability to build specialty networks

3.      A thoughtful approach to analyzing emerging markets and technology

We discuss these in more detail below.


1.     A real-world understanding of how venture works

Venture capital employers are looking for candidates who understand how venture works. You may not have worked in the industry previously, but can you demonstrate your knowledge and passion for the industry?  A few ways to show that you understand the business basics include:

  • Showing work experience (including internships) in a venture firm
  • Taking venture or private equity courses
  • Joining or managing an angel network
  • Investing as an angel
  • Hosting ongoing forums that stimulate and support early stage companies
  • Advising a venture fund or prominent accelerator or incubator program
  • Starting your own business
  • Helping to raise capital

 VCs recruit people who understand how the venture ecosystem works from the inside, know the basic terminology (and maybe also the basic metrics/ calculations), and have proven that they enjoy working with the level of ambiguity and – let’s face it – unconventional behaviors and unusual stresses, that are unique to venture. VCs also want to see that you’ve had first hand exposure to a broad range of entrepreneurs: the good, the great and the terrible, and you have views on how to identify one or the other.

2.     A demonstrated ability to build specialty networks

Whether you are an experienced hire, or seeking a junior role, it’s important to show that you bring an existing network with you. Venture analysts and associates need to leverage their networks to identify and attract entrepreneurs to their firms. More senior personnel are expected to bring domain expertise, and their associated specialist networks that they can leverage for diligence and activation purposes. To demonstrate the existence and ability to build these networks, hiring firms often look at:

  • The scale and demographics of your social media followers (particularly on Twitter, Linkedin, Medium, Facebook and other forums)
  • Whether you are considered an industry maven on a particular topic (demonstrated by your speaking, panel and media engagements, your quotes in media, your advisor and board roles, and articles and books you have published or been quoted in)
  • Your role in managing or participating in relevant industry groups, meetups, associations and hackathons

Your network must include a good number of emerging companies, as well as, professional advisors, technical specialists and angel/ venture investors who are relevant to your focus and interest areas.

Our advice:  if you don’t currently have these networks, start building them now. It’s never too soon to start, and you won’t succeed without them.

Venture firms that are hiring will be very interested in the value and breadth of your networks. Consider your network a personal asset that you need to cultivate.

3.     A thoughtful approach to analyzing markets

Arguably the most critical skill required to be a successful investor is opportunity identification. This is the ability to:

  • Identify attractive markets,
  • Categorize the emerging companies in those markets, and
  • Determine which companies represent the best investment opportunities within those segments.

At the most simplistic level, venture firms will examine a candidate’s investing track record to see whether the person has demonstrated the ability to invest in successful companies. Most angel investors don’t yet have any exits yet (it can take 8 – 10 years to realize investments after an angel round), and so, when interviewing angel investors, the VC selection process typically reviews the companies a person has invested in to understand the rationale that an angel investor used to select one particular company, over others, in a similar segment.

If you are not an experienced VC or a disciplined angel investor, there is another way to demonstrate you bring this thoughtful approach. We call it “market mapping”. Analysts and associates in disciplined venture funds spend a significant portion of their time reviewing an emerging market, identifying the companies in those markets, categorizing these companies, and then forming an investment thesis about the specific companies to pursue.  These outputs are then presented in a market map (CB Insights has some good examples of high level market maps). To really nail the interview, candidates should present a market map for an area they feel is interesting (ideally, also relevant to the investing lens of the firm they are interviewing with), and explain the categorizations they have identified, the investment thesis (i.e., the ideal attributes for target investments in the sector) and be able to articulate two or three investment opportunities on the market map.


Venture is an incredibly rewarding industry and career, but not for the faint-hearted.

Before considering a job in the VC industry, make sure that you know what you are getting into and put in the upfront work to build a resume that stands out from the crowd:  know the business terms, and build a deep business network. In parallel, develop and act on an investment hypothesis to build a track record that can demonstrate your ability to analyze markets, and act on your findings.


About the Authors

Hilary Gosher (@hilbil175) is a Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners where she leads Insight Onsite, the firm’s team of growth experts who help scale Insight’s portfolio companies. Hilary founded this team in 2000 and has worked with more than 100 software, Internet and mobile companies. The Onsite team leads Insight’s due diligence and has expertise across the talent, product and go-to-market functional areas of software businesses, as well as M&A.

Hilary is currently a Board member or advisor to Datasift, Drillinginfo and Turnitin. Prior investments include Argus Software (acquired by Altus Group), Medidata Solutions (IPO), OverDrive (acquired by Rakuten), Planview (acquired by Thoma Bravo), Primavera (acquired by Oracle), Scriptlogic (acquired by Quest Software), Shunra (acquired by HP) and Vertafore (acquired by Hellman & Friedman).

Hilary is an Adjunct Associate Professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) where she teaches tech entrepreneurship. She held the same position previously at NYU’s Stern School of Business.  She is a co-founder and Board member of Parity Partners, an organization focused on driving gender diversity and inclusive leadership and decision-making in the alternative asset industry.

Claudia Iannazzo(@claudiaiannazzo) is a managing partner and co-founder of AlphaPrime Ventures, a New York based venture capital firm investing in technologies that protect people and assets. Claudia has been investing in and working with technology companies for over 20 years, and has facilitated more than $10 billion of acquisitions, divestments, IPOs, investments, alliances and partnerships for public companies and new ventures around the globe.

Since starting her first company in compliance management while at University, Claudia’s career has spanned 5 continents, working on a broad range of safety and security initiatives, ranging from patrol boats in Vietnam, to remote location logistics, to NATO and other defense programs as Head of Commercial for the Weapons Systems division of BAE Systems. She has also been a commercial executive with numerous multinational companies, including Infosys Technologies, Tabcorp Holdings and Fosters Group.

Today, Claudia lives in New York with husband, daughter and two dogs, and spends her days investing in the next generation of innovations that keep her family, friends and city safer from emerging threats. Claudia is also a co-founder and Board member of Parity Partners, an organization driving diversity and inclusive leadership in the investment industry.

 

[i] http://nvca.org/pressreleases/2016-nvca-yearbook-captures-busy-year-for-venture-capital-activity/

[ii] http://www.geekwire.com/2014/shrinkage-number-venture-capital-professionals-plummets-60-past-10-years-funds-decline-25/