One question I get asked all the time by aspiring candidates is, ‘how do I break into venture capital?’
Breaking into technology focused Venture Capital can often feel like an impossible task, especially if you lack the qualifications and experience. There is also not one method, it can depend on the culture, focus and specific requirements of a firm. Technology is the future and venture capitalists recognize this. As technology continues to grow, so do venture capital firms.
In this blog I’m going to talk you through a number of avenues and steps you can take to improve your odds and help you get your foot in the door.
Qualifications and Experiences
Studying a subject such as Finance, Economics, Business, Management, Engineering or Sciences at a top university is always a desired factor. However if you haven’t done this, it doesn’t mean that you can’t work for a venture capital fund.
An alternative way to break into venture capital is doing a MBA at a top business school. This is one of the most common methods for candidates to move into the venture capital space, as it is highly regarded by firms. Another qualification to consider is the CFA. However, to enter into this program you must have a university degree or be in the final year of a university degree program or have 4 years relevant professional experience.
If you don’t wish to do an MBA or a CFA, venture capital firms will also look for candidates who have experience at a technology start-up, working in roles such as Product Management or Business Development. They will also recruit candidates who have worked for either an investment bank or a consultancy firm with a relevant focus.
Building a Reputation in the Industry
Having these skills and backgrounds doesn’t ensure that you will instantly be accepted and recruited into the venture capital sector. There are many other things you can do to improve your profile and your skills/knowledge as a candidate.
It is crucial that you build your reputation within the industry. Constantly reach out to professionals and also recruiters to build your network and learn about the market. If you are speaking with a venture capital professional be prepared to offer something valuable to them. Provide them with a technology insight or a particular product/business that you are interested in and also use any contacts you have to make a positive connection such as introducing a start-up.
It is critical that if you are going to break into technology focused investments that you are passionate about the technology itself as well as working closely with entrepreneurs. Consistently research and try out potential products to boost your expertise. Understanding key trends and how technology works will help you succeed within a potential future role.
Follow venture capital and technology blogs, sign up to newsletters, look at websites and speak to entrepreneurs. A useful method for building your own network and displaying your skills is to create your own blog, website or social media page. This can build your own brand and demonstrate your interest/knowledge in technology. You can use this as a process to begin analyzing companies to expand your capabilities from an investment standpoint. Having a project such as this is great to have on your CV and to talk about in interviews.
Constructing Your CV
In terms of your CV, while previous roles, experiences, deal-lists and achievements are essential, it can be just as valuable to go beyond that and present the networking, business development and partnerships that you have developed. Be sure to express the technology that you are focused upon and remember to reference any extra work that you have done in a relevant field. While the core financial skills are important, venture capital firms value a candidate’s interest and experience with technology very highly.
The types of skills you should present also depends on the type of company that you are interested in working for. If the role heavily emphasizes deal sourcing then you will need to have a high level of presentation and networking capabilities. They will focus on how confident you are and your ability to demonstrate your communication skills. Candidates within the execution phase of deals should be able to present a proficient level of modelling and due diligence skills.
As well as this, candidates should have experience of working with lawyers and accountants. In a portfolio management based position, candidates with an operational background are highly regarded, such as candidates who can manage products while developing strategy and marketing. However, as you progress your career many roles within venture capital will require candidates to be well rounded and be involved in the whole investment process.