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:
- Internet profile – clean it up
- Narrow your focus – do your research on target firms
- View your network as a resource to gain access
- Engage with the right recruiters
- Specific – personalize your approach
- Timely – respond quickly and work around the VC’s schedule
- Off limits - don’t ask for coffee meetings or advice
- 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.