Okay, I Got A Job At A Venture Firm: What Do I Do Now?

Today, our partner Chris Wand is our guest blogger of the day. 

Question: I am a VC, what do I do now? When I left university I got lucky & landed a job working as an analyst for a VC firm. Fast forward a few years & now I’m left wondering what to do. There don’t seem to be any roles in the industry at the next level. I’m good at technology without much development experience & strong on operational metrics without any operational experience. All advice gladly accepted!

Implicit in your question is the statement that VCs aren’t qualified to do anything other than be VCs. And while it’s tempting, I’ll resist the urge to pander to those among us who believe that to be the case…

I’d encourage you to focus on the core skills that you have acquired during your time as a VC and then figure out where else those skills are relevant. Your work experience may not position you perfectly for that next gig, so your challenge is to help your future employer see through your prior job title to understand what skills and passions you do bring to the table.

When I think of junior VCs that I know, their skill sets often include strong quantitative and analytical skills, market research skills, etc. Seeing a lot of business plans and helping analyze various investment opportunities can hone your business sense, and–let’s face it–being a good VC generally requires at least a modicum of people skills (if only to deal with your fellow VCs <g>).

If that sounds like you, then your next jump could take you into consulting or investment banking (both of which rely heavily on quantitative, analytical and research skills). Or it could take you into a junior operating role in finance, business development or corporate development where you’ll have the opportunity to learn the ropes from someone with more experience.

Recognize, however, that when you switch gears, sometimes you end up having to downshift a little bit at first in order to get your foot in the door and prove your worth. Given that you’re still early in your professional career, I wouldn’t get hung up about potentially taking a step backwards. Focus instead on what you’re good at and what you really want to do.

Craft your resume to highlight the most relevant skills, comb your network for any and all introductions you can find (that’s where you’re likely to have the most success), and focus on finding an opportunity that will continue to expand your skills and build your experience, even if it feels like a bit of a step back.

  • I totally agree with your advice since I think that Consulting is the most appropriate next move for a Junior VC

  • Good article. I made that same transition and actually went to work for a portfolio company. It has been an awesome experience to go from the investment side to the operations side. I think that having operational experience helps you to be a better, more perceptive investor when/if you decide to go back to the investing side at some time.
    I’d be interested to see a post on whether or not you guys think operational experience increases the probability of success on the investing side. I’ve heard both sides of the argument, but I’d love to hear you what you guys think about that.

  • Darren, I (along with most venture capitalists that I know—or at least the good ones I know ) would agree that having operational experience is a definite plus when it comes to being a good VC. Among other benefits, it gives a VC empathy for what his/her entrepreneurs are going through, certainly lends credibility from an entrepreneur’s perspective, and better positions the VC to understand the issues a prospective investment is likely to face.
    Operational experience in areas such as sales, biz dev, finance, etc. can also be helpful in guiding one’s portfolio companies through the myriad of issues that startups face. We all know there’s a big difference between academic knowledge and real-world application of that knowledge, so having hands-on experience is critical (especially in the early stages of learning the ropes as a VC).
    All that said, does a VC’s operational experience increase the probability of success for his/her portfolio companies?
    I think it does, both because it can help a VC identify those companies that are more likely to be successful, as well as positions the VC to be more useful to the company once he/she has made an investment.
    Remember, however, that there are *a lot* of factors that contribute to the success of a startup. Most successful startups are, first and foremost, successful because of their entrepreneurial talent, because they’re pursuing the right market opportunity at the right time, and because they have a compelling product/service–not because of their VCs.