How I landed three internships in venture capital
When I started my path into venture capital, I didn’t know where to start in my internship search. I cold-emailed over 100 firms but found little success. Two years later, I’ve now interned at two fantastic firms, Bowery Capital and Tribe Capital, and will be joining the team at Spectrum Equity this summer. After some hands-on R&D, I found three hacks to landing your dream role in VC. The crux of it is providing differentiated value, creating a personal brand, and bringing meaningful experiences.
- Find ways to add value and expertise.
Before reaching out to your favorite VCs, think about the knowledge you’d be able to bring to the team. Every investor has a few sectors where they hold an unfair advantage relative to other investors (i.e. founded a company in the space). Their expertise can be as broad as enterprise SaaS or as narrow as PropTech marketplaces. An understanding of general principles you can apply toward evaluating any given investment is valuable, but specialization is key in venture capital. For example, if you’ve become an expert in payroll APIs, you may be a great fit for a firm focused on vertical fintech with an undeveloped thesis in payroll. Personally, I love companies like Republic and Pipe that enable investments in alternative asset classes. Despite this space being niche, becoming an expert will pay dividends if this sub-sector continues to grow at a rapid pace.
In addition to sector expertise, consider role expertise. Venture roles span across investing (sourcing, diligence, and capital deployment), platform (post-investment support to portfolio companies), operations (organization, HR, day-to-day execution), network (fundraising, LP management, and portfolio management), and finance (reporting, budgeting, and cash management). Each role requires a different set of skills and will vary significantly between firms, so you should do some research on the firm’s organizational structure to see where you fit best. For example, whereas an investing role requires sector expertise, a platform role often prioritizes skills like community-building, public relations, or business development. If you’re a social media junkie with profound knowledge of SEO, a platform role where you support portfolio company branding might be the best way to maximize your value to the firm.
Wherever you decide to build your database of knowledge, always consider what you’d like to optimize for in the future, whether it be becoming the foremost expert in Web3 social infra or the world’s best fundraiser.
- Build your personal brand through content creation and derive relationships from it.
Venture is notoriously a relationship-driven industry. Investors share deals with their closest contacts. Founders reach out to firms they trust. Limited partners (LPs) invest in funds where they’ve had long-lasting connections with the fund managers. And most importantly for an aspiring venture intern, firms often hire people they know. Since the venture community is so small, connections are everything and can even be used as a proxy for hiring — you will see the best companies and people (i.e. job candidates for portfolio companies) if you have a large, genuine network. Those who see the best deals and people are often the best VCs! Getting your name out there goes a long way in the industry.
Given the new world of infinite leverage, content creation is both an easy and scalable place to start. Nearly every VC is active on Linkedin or Twitter (my favorites are Molly Fowler and Logan Bartlett!), where they post threads on industry trends, company-building, and the occasional VC joke. Hence, post content that ties well into your knowledge base — if you’re passionate about payroll APIs, write something great about payroll. Creating true insight is a great way to organically build a network.
Aside from creating public content, sending the inside scoop to a few firms could be extremely valuable. The “inside scoop” might be tipping them off to a great deal or making an introduction for a portfolio company. I personally enjoy sending deal lists (i.e. a shortlist of my favorite companies raising a round) to good friends at other firms. Given the competitive nature of the venture world, especially now, providing this type of help is appreciated.
- Develop operating experience with a high growth startup
Gaining early operating experience is invaluable to any VC firm. By working alongside founders of great companies, you start to build a sense for what makes a great team, culture, and product. Developing this taste is essential to becoming an investor. Operating experience should provide you with an unfair advantage and help you answer key questions as an investor like: What metrics should this company be hitting at this stage? Do they have enough account executives and sales reps to execute on their go-to-market (GTM) plan? Is their product roadmap feasible?
Prior to Bowery Capital, I worked at ThetaRay, a B2B anti-fraud payments startup, on their business intelligence team. I learned the basics of how to generate top-of-funnel leads, manage enterprise relationships, and build a scalable go-to-market strategy. My experience at ThetaRay helped me significantly as an investor on the Bowery team, given their thesis on accelerating product market fit for B2B business software through their growth & business development team.
Ultimately, each person’s path into a venture can be wildly different. Having just touched the surface of VC over the past 2 years, I’ve seen the number of opportunities grow exponentially: the creation of critical roles like platform and ops, the emergence of dozens of new funds, and a new flow of capital, unlike anything that has ever been seen before. A venture role now is more dynamic than ever. However, with the aforementioned advice, you can enhance your chances to break into this selective, yet rewarding industry.
Below is a guide of resources I used throughout my internship search journey! Highly recommend checking them out.
Where to find VC internships:
Nathan Ho is a junior at UNC majoring in business administration and an intern on the investment team at Tribe Capital. Prior to joining Tribe, he interned at Bowery Capital, Standard Metrics, Bamboo, and ThetaRay. He will join Spectrum Equity this summer, where he will focus on growth equity investments.