interviewing_05Every great career starts with a successful interview. You can excel in school and network all you want, but if you blow the interview, none of your other efforts will pay off. It’s easy to underestimate a venture capital interview. Often, you might hear others tell you, “Just be yourself.” It sounds like good advice to soothe your nerves, but the reality is that conducting a winning job interview requires a well-constructed plan. Will you be prepared?

While a venture capital interview involves some unique strategy, it’s important to review the basics first. In any interview, the entire discussion is framed by two simple questions: 1) What is the firm’s business, and 2) how can you help them? Everything else is just details, variations of answers to those two questions. [click to continue…]

Whether you just finished college or you are making a career transition, it’s inevitable that this question will come to mind. Maybe you read the biography pages of several of your favorite venture capitalists and noticed they had MBAs, so you decided you should get one too.

Just because MBAs have the same three letters in their acronym, they are not all created the same. MBA degrees are subject to the winner-takes-all effect that permeates many aspects of life. If you have an MBA from a top-ten school like Harvard or Stanford, your degree can help you get a job in venture capital. On the other hand, if you went to Middleton College in rural Oregon because you wanted “MBA” on your business card, this could actually work against you. Seth Levine from VC firms Mobius and Foundry said, “I know of several firms that simply won’t even consider associate candidates that haven’t attended a very short list of top schools. In fact, going to a non-top 10 business school could actually hurt your chances vs. not going at all.”

The Job Search Digest Private Equity/Venture Capital Compensation Report revealed that the premium for MBAs is not all that significant. MBAs usually earn more in base salary, but they get a smaller bonus. The net result is only a minor difference in compensation.

Enrolling in any academic program is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Going to school is expensive. As any good businessperson knows, one should also consider the opportunity cost. Instead of spending all that time to get an MBA from Nowhere University, you could use your time and money to start a business. If that is not feasible, you could work for a start-up. According to Seth Levine, working for a start-up is extremely helpful in developing the experience you need to become a successful venture capitalist.

If you already have your MBA, one thing you can do is apply for the Kauffman Fellowship, a two-year program that will put your venture capital career on the fast track. The Fellowship’s website describes it in detail, “While working full-time at an investment organization (including venture, angel, accelerators, policy, corporate, and impact), Fellows receive a structured curriculum with an individual development plan, executive coaching, facilitated mentoring, and peer learning and networking – all with a focus on giving back and on one’s responsibility as an emerging leader in the industry.”

One of the most important parts of the Kauffman Fellowship is the networking. The more contacts you gain and the more you surround yourself with the right people, the better your chances are of achieving success in a highly competitive industry. Praveen Sahay, a Kauffman Fellow, remarked, “Ask any venture capitalist how they became one and most will say, ‘I was in the right place at the right time.’” In other words, they were lucky.

You can increase your odds of meeting the right people by putting yourself in new situations in productive environments. For example, Kevin Bitterman, a general partner of Polaris, completed his PhD in the laboratory of David Sinclair, who was the co-founder of a company funded by Polaris. Many opportunities are hidden and are only disclosed to a select few. Flagship Ventures offers a summer internship which is never advertised; instead, they ask people “if they know anyone who would work.”

Crunching the numbers is only part of the business. Success in the venture capital industry is reserved for people who know how to interact with others, hold their attention, and gain their trust.

How to Pave Your Own Path in the Venture Capital Industry

August 19, 2015

One thing venture capital has in common with other industries is that getting in is a catch-22. Before they come knocking on your door, you have to knock on a thousand others. Whether you are coming straight out of school or making a career change, you are still new to the industry, and that means […]

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The Venture Capital Team

June 23, 2015

What are some other roles in venture capital firms besides associate, principal, and partner? As is true with most business, there are many roles that make up the team. Usually an entire staff supports the daily operations. A venture capital firm needs accountants, human resource personnel, and information technology managers. This support team has regular […]

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The Venture Capital Career Path

May 13, 2015

The typical career path at a venture capital firm is as follows: associate, senior associate, principal, and general partner. There is no single formula to get a venture capital job. An MBA can help, but a lot of people have MBAs. Some don’t have MBAs and still get hired. Rishabh Kaul is an associate at […]

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Venture Capital Firm Structure

March 31, 2015

Venture capital firms are typically structured as limited partnerships. The VC firm is the general partner, but there can also be more than one. A general partner takes an active role in managing the businesses in the fund. They have extensive business experience at the executive level. Working at a VC firm means you will […]

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What Is Venture Capital?

February 18, 2015

When some people think of venture capital, they think about internet startups in the 90s tech boom. While this is still part of the industry, venture capital has expanded to alternative energy, biotechnology, social networking, and software.Every year, venture capitalists invest around $20 billion in about 3,700 companies. Venture capital firms need to create talented investment […]

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Increase in Venture Funding to Life Science Startups

December 23, 2014

There are different ways to gauge the temperature of venture capital investment activity at any given point. One of them is to track the amount of money going into the life sciences sector which includes investments in biotechnology and medical device companies. Despite the potential for blockbuster returns, venture investments in life science companies are […]

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Non Traditional Investors Contributing to Increase in Venture Investing

November 12, 2014

Despite a subdued third quarter in which venture capital investment decreased by nearly 30 percent from the second quarter, the corresponding figure for the first nine months of this year has already exceeded that of full year 2013. According to a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association, venture capital investment in the […]

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Venture Capital Pouring Into Digital Health Startups

October 1, 2014

Venture capital firms are seeing opportunities in start-up companies that develop specialized software to collect, analyze and manage healthcare data. This universe of companies, commonly referred to as digital health companies, are witnessing an impressive growth in venture capital funding. According to data published by research firm Rock Health, venture capital funding for digital health […]

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