About seven years ago, I wrote a post on breaking into venture capital and I continue to point the five or six people a week who ask me how to break into venture.
Today, I want to add two addendum to it, based on the work of two up and coming women in the NYC tech community.
Yesterday, Amrit Richmond announced her new employment at RRE as Director of Community & Platform. The key to her getting the job was that she had essentially started doing the job long before it ever got announced. She had been running social media part time for a smaller fund and had built up a following with her own tech newsletter. No one was paying her to write the newsletter, but most of the team at RRE was already on it.
When Amrit was applying, I told her she was a lock for the job. When she asked why, I said it was because if anyone was better qualified, we'd already know about them by now. The candidates for venture capital roles are already out there and usually in plain sight and there simply wasn't anyone out there doing what Amrit was doing who wasn't already fulltime at a firm.
Another case in point, Spark Capital just hired Kate Bolin--someone that had been interviewed at a portfolio company of theirs that had made a good enough impression that they labeled her as someone to stay in touch with.
If you need to introduce yourself to a VC firm, you're probably not getting the job.
The opportunities, however, are different than they used to be. At the early stage, the ranks of the non-partner investor are disappearing. VC firms are going back to being mostly partner driven shops, where dealflow and decisions stay up top. They are, however, staffing up with specialists. Like lefties out of the bullpen, VC firms now have recruiting partners, pr and marketing experts, technologists-in-residents--and USV even has an on board activist. If you can't walk into a firm and tout a specific skill that is a benefit to portfolio companies, you're going to have a very tough time getting in.
And no, analyzing startups is not a portfolio company benefit. That's a benefit to the VC firm. To the company, as a recently minted MBA with no startup experience who wants to run the 4th year numbers, you're just a pain in the ass.
One thing that I see too many people moving from the finance world doing, both in attempts to get into VC and to startups, is relinquishing the resources they have at their old job. They can't wait to get out of their bank or consulting firm, but they forget that they have connections to something that startups want desperately--money. If you want to break into the startup world and you come from investment banking, don't forget the one thing that your resume says that actually speaks to entrepreneurs--you know potential investors.
Christina Bechhold didn't forget that--and so she co-founded her own angel group. It's a group of her peers from the professional world--up and coming titans of finance and consulting with good salaries and not a lot of dependents. She and her co-founder Graham Gullans went around to all the other early stage investors in NYC to learn best practices, and present themselves as a good potential co-investor. There's really no easier way to get into venture than to find some money, reach out to smart folks to learn, and start writing checks. Being good at it takes a bit of luck, hard work, skill, etc., but in a city like New York, with it's access to capital, "getting in" shouldn't be the hard part.