How to find a VC internship

As recent graduates working in venture capital, one of the most common questions we get from students is how to find a VC internship. It’s rare to see a public posting for venture roles, and firms often hire at odd times. If you are able to get an interview, it’s tough to prep as the online resources available for traditional finance or tech interviews often aren’t applicable to VC.

The venture industry can seem like a black box — if you don’t have connections, it’s tough to figure out who is hiring and how to get a job. In the first post of our new career series, we want to help fix this by sharing what we’ve learned about breaking into venture.

Tip #1: Try to avoid lofty claims on your resume.

How to Meet VCs

VC firms typically don’t have established intern programs— most interns are hired as a result of pre-existing relationships. A couple of tips to get an “in”:

  • Join relevant student groups. Venture firms sometimes use student groups to prepare market research, analyze an industry, or help a portfolio company with marketing. This is a great way to develop a relationship with a firm and stand out with high-quality work.
  • Reach out to professors. Some professors, particularly those who teach in engineering, entrepreneurship, or finance departments, have friends or professional connections in VC. If you’re a strong student and demonstrate an interest in VC, these professors may intro you to their contacts.
  • Talk to upperclassmen. Reaching out to upperclassmen who have interned in VC or are starting a company is something we wish we had done more. Many of them will pass along superstars to the venture firms they know — from our experience, this is the #1 way that firms hire interns.
  • Find a connection through a portfolio company. Even if you don’t know anyone at a venture firm, you may know someone who works for one of the firm’s portfolio companies and is willing to vouch for you, especially if you intern for or work on projects with them. LinkedIn is your friend here!
  • Work at an incubator/accelerator. If you can find a nearby accelerator or incubator that hires students, we’d recommend giving it a shot! These roles give you a rare opportunity to work closely with startups and start developing your network and investment judgment.
Check out our list of accelerators and incubators across the country here.

How to Find VC Jobs

Establishing a relationship with a VC gives you an excellent chance of seeing opportunities. However, we have a few other tips for finding internships:

  • Check job boards. VC firms are unlikely to post job listings on an individual college’s career platform. However, we’ve noticed an increasing number of VCs using LinkedIn, AngelList, and WayUp to post opportunities for a broader region (e.g. the entire Bay Area vs. Stanford).
  • Develop an online presence. We know students who have gotten internships at venture firms by publishing thoughtful blog posts or articles that catch the attention of the tech community. Andrew Watts’ viral post on how teenagers use various social networks is a great example of this.
  • Apply for student-run venture programs. These programs (e.g. Dorm Room Fund, Rough Draft Ventures, Contrary Capital) typically recruit every year, and can be a great way to form a relationship with the sponsoring firm. You can also sign up to be a campus scout for our newsletter — apply here!
  • Send a cold email. Cold emails have a bad reputation, but we’ve found them to be pretty helpful for students — Olivia got a great internship this way! Try reaching out to a junior person who is an alum from your school. Always include your resume in PDF form (not Word).
If you’re located outside of California, check out CBInsights’s “United States of VC” — it gives an overview of the most active firms investing in each state.

Preparing for an Interview

If you’re able to get an interview, it’s crucial to demonstrate that you’ve done your research. A few things that you should be ready to talk about:

  • Why venture? You’d be surprised how many people answer this question with something like: “I did a banking internship and didn’t like it, so I thought I’d give this a shot.” Take the time to think about why you want to explore VC, and how it’s a fit for your skills and personality. Most VC firms are looking for someone who has a genuine interest in startups and entrepreneurship — you should be able to tell your story and talk about your experiences and choices in a way that reflects this.
  • Why XYZ firm? Think about why the firm’s investment stage and strategy are interesting to you. Bonus points if you can mention specific portfolio companies or team members. If the firm publishes thought pieces, make sure to read these to get a sense of the team’s investment philosophy.
  • Which early stage companies are interesting to you? We recommend pitching at least three that fit the firm’s investment strategy — don’t propose a seed-stage social app to an enterprise growth investor! You should be able to talk about the idea, team, traction, and past funding rounds, and may also be asked about how to size the market or what an exit would look like.
  • What news have you been following? *Insert shameless pitch for our weekly newsletter, Accelerated.* Also make sure to check all the major tech sites (e.g. TechCrunch, VentureBeat, Bloomberg Tech) daily for a week or so before the interview.
  • What themes are you interested in? We recommend that you have a few investment theses to discuss — you should have a point of view on why the spaces are interesting and be ready to discuss the trends that will drive growth. Check out our digital influencer post for an example!
  • What is currently popular at your campus/with the college demographic? It’s helpful to know 1–3 early-stage startups (often consumer apps/marketplaces) that are getting buzz. Make sure to mention traction on campus and your thoughts on if they will succeed in the long-run.
We’d recommend keeping an eye on the App Store’s top free and paid apps, and have thoughts prepared on anything new that targets the college demographic (tbh, above, is a good example of this). You can create a free App Annie account to get a better sense of download trends over time.

How to Pitch Yourself

Particularly at firms that don’t typically hire interns, you should be ready to pitch your proposed role. VCs are very busy, so you can score serious points by being low-maintenance. A couple of things you may want to consider:

  • Sourcing deals on campus. Especially if you go to a school known for entrepreneurship, VCs likely want to have a presence on your campus. You can keep them updated on promising student entrepreneurs.
  • Attending events and passing along intel. As a student, it’s easy for you to go to events that can be closed to VCs, like demo days for CS classes and alumni panels with interesting entrepreneurs. Use this to your advantage!
  • Preparing an overview/market thesis on a space. This is particularly helpful if you are an expert in a space that VCs want to know about, like blockchain. You can help the firm develop a thesis on the space and identify potential investment opportunities.
  • Doing projects for portfolio companies. This is more relevant for seed firms with a lot of early-stage portfolio companies. We’ve known students who have assisted with evaluating growth opportunities, mapping out a competitive landscape, and formulating a campus marketing strategy.
  • Keeping the firm up-to-date on new apps/trends. VCs are terrified of missing out on the next Facebook because they don’t know what the younger generations are interested in. Sending along reports on apps or other services that are taking off among your friends can be incredibly valuable.

Thanks for taking the time to read our post, and we hope it helps you find an internship in VC! We’d love your feedback — you can reach us at justine@crv.com and olivia@crv.com. You can also subscribe to our weekly newsletter, Accelerated, for more tips on finding the perfect job or internship: https://accelerated.carrd.co/

Justine and Olivia Moore

Written by

Venture investors at CRV. Stanford ’16. Subscribe to Accelerated for weekly tech news, jobs, and internships: https://accelerated.carrd.co/