How to get a job as a Venture capitalist

I get an email or two a week from folks wanting to be a Venture Capitalist. Usually its to ask for introductions to a VC firm or to forward their resume. Most of these folks have a technical background and some have an MBA. Since most people sending the email dont ask me how they could really get a job at a VC firm, I thought I’d outline that for them.

There are broadly 3 operating roles in a VC firm – General Partner (GP), Associate / Principal (AP) and Operating partner (OP). There are other roles such as Venture partner, but those are fairly rare. Limited Partners LP’s) are not part of a VC’s fund’s operating roles, they are investors in a VC fund.

Most VC firms have between 2-5 GP’s, and 2-5 AP’s and 1-2 OP’s. (source: PDF)

GP’s take the most risk, since they raise the fund from institutional investors so they tend to get the highest salaries and profits the firm makes from the investments. To be a GP you should have enough capability to raise funds (the most important aspect) and deploy those funds to provide a better return (which is: invest in startups and ensure they have great exit). Most GP’s (over 60%) I know have a degree from a top notch school (think Harvard MBA, Stanford MBA or in India IIT and IIM). Please see list of VC firms (below) in India. My analysis of GP’s in those firms indicates unless you have been an entrepreneur before with a successful exit OR from a IIT / IIM, with over 10+ years of experience OR you can raise money from other investors, your chances of being a GP are very low (less than 10%). Unless you can raise money to be a fund on your own, you will have to spend 10+ years being an AP and then graduate to being a GP.

AP’s are usually junior folks, and of the ~120+ AP’s in the list of firms below, more than 69, (> 50%) are from IIT, IIM, McKinsey backgrounds. So if you are a fresh grad or someone with 2-5 years of experience, and not from a top school, your chances of getting into a VC firm as an AP are not high. Its not impossible, but there are only 400+ firms in India and so a max of about 1500 AP positions, which means a best case of about 700 (<50%) positions. The good news is over the last 5-10 years the % of IIT, IIM grads as AP’s has dropped from over 80% to less than 60%.

Operating partners are usually CFO’s or Legal advisors, so your technology background wont qualify you for a role there. More likely a legal degree or a CPA / CA certification is required.

So how do you get a job as a VC if you are not from a top school or you dont have ability to raise money?

1. Be an entrepreneur first: Most VC’s who are not from top schools end up being one because they made money for the VC firm that invested in them. If you are an entrepreneur and you raise money from a VC firm, and then have a successful exit, the chances of you becoming a VC improve dramatically. Surprisingly, even if you dont have a successful exit, your chances of getting into a VC firm improve many fold. If you had a successful exit however, you can possibly raise your own fund, and write your own ticket.

2. Help rich investors make money: As I point out before a key part of being a VC is the ability to raise money. Most folks who I get emails from are like me (15 years ago). I did not have the network to raise funds at that time and neither did I have a lot of money myself to start a VC fund. Raising money from other rich people involves them trusting and knowing you (they are friends, family, etc.) OR you having made money for them before. I suspect like me, most of the folks emailing me dont have very rich uncles and aunts, so the best strategy is to help rich folks get richer. This might include introducing them to startups which need investment and then exit to make your investors a profit, or making money for them via the stock market and generating enough returns to both satisfy them and to make a tidy sum for yourself.

3. Work yourself into that role: VC’s dont recruit by going to campus interviews or by posting on job boards. If they do, be vary, and run away. Most good VC’s I know only hire from their network or trust a executive search firm to help them get the right AP candidates. Get to know and help executive search (Kornferry or Stanton Chase) recruiters get other candidates (for other roles) and keep your name on their radar. They might come to you when a VC job comes up.

The other approach is to network with VC’s so they will let you know when their firm has an opening for an AP. To be on their radar, help them source and talk to great entrepreneurs and send them good quality companies to invest in. Alternately if you have an uncle or aunt at a VC firm, you can get that AP role fairly easily.

Of course the easiest way to be a VC is to bankroll the fund with your own money, if you have that much money, then this post is largely useless for you.

List of VC firms (sorted by no particular order), where I have a connection, so if you want an intro, I can help you.

Bessemer Venture Partners
Saif Partners
Cannan Partners
Venture East
India Innovation Fund
Nexus Venture Partners
Inventus Capital
Footprint Ventures
IDG ventures
Ojas Ventures
Naukri InfoEdge
Nirvana Ventures
Everstone Capital
Epiphany Ventures
Seed Fund
Silicon Valley Bank
India Internet Fund
New Silk Route
Lightspeed Partners
General Atlantic
Ascent Capital
Reliance Venture Asset Management
Intel Capital
Matrix Partners India
Rajasthan Venture Fund
Norwest Venture Partners
Clearstone Venture Partners
ePlanet Capital
Artiman Ventures
Catamaran Ventures
Battery Ventures
Blume Ventures
Mayfield Fund
Andreessen Horowitz
First Round Capital
Union Square ventures
Khosla Ventures

11 thoughts on “How to get a job as a Venture capitalist”

  1. And there are two more ways if someone wants to try becoming a VC right out of B-school – 1) Find a Corporate Strategy or Corporate Development role at a large company that does significant M&A activities. I have often seen people crisscross between Corp Dev. and VC world because both require some overlapping skillset such as due-diligence, deal analysis, financial modeling and finally executing the transaction and, 2) Get access to quality deals and bring them on the GPs table. VCs often call this a proprietary deal-flow and they like this because; a) someone has already screened them so it saves them time but more importantly b) they know they are looking at something exclusive first-hand and don’t have to compete with other VCs which could allow them to transact on their deal terms and negotiate 1:1 with the entrepreneurs without the pain of looking at competing term-sheets and dilute their viewpoint of the deal.

  2. I am into Ca and Cs both…currently into ca final and articleship. I want to know how I can enter a VC firm. Thanks

  3. Hi Mukund, the post was really insightful. I am on a lookout for job in VC space. If you can help, then it will be really great. Thanks. Let me know how can I send you my CV.

  4. Hi Mukand, the post is very useful for someone who is not from a top B school and want to enter into VC space. I am also engaged in few small deals where I arrange a small ticket money for few business man’s whose credit scores are not very good. But I am facing some problems in such deals as most of the arrangemnts are informal in nature. But still I managed to close two deals recently. Any suggesstions, how can I move forward to learn more into deal structuring or to move my skillset into same line.

  5. Hi Mukund Sir,
    Very insightful article!! I am IIT/IIM graduate. Currently I am looking for an internship/job in any fund. Can you please connect/introduce me to any?

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