5 things I learned from interviewing Boston VCs on getting in the industry
My name is Margot and I want to work in Venture Capital.
Getting into the VC world is a difficult task, leaving non-business school graduates in a place of limbo. I’ve been interested in working at a VC firm from my early days marketing at my first startup.
While working at my first startup, I was constantly surrounded by conversations around funding, influence, advice from investors, and business goals. I learned about seed rounds and the importance of great connections. At my next startup, I learned more about investor influence and advice, the power of a knowledgeable board, and the importance of mentorship. I studied exit strategies and the dangers of a high churn rate, as well as detailed market research and user testing. The company’s co-founders, both brilliant entrepreneurs, created an open learning environment. This allowed me to soak up knowledge about what being VC backed meant for a growing startup.
I resolved to be a part of the VC world. Helping inspired entrepreneurs grow into strong companies that can change the way we live our lives is an exciting and motivating career goal. I know that I can help startups shape the future — the question is where to start?
Not having a traditional business degree meant that I started without many of the strong connections that MBA grads have been able to foster for years. I decided to push for interviews of VCs in the Boston area, asking them everything from how they got into the field to detailed questions about the VC environment. Thanks to the openness of the Boston business culture and the honest feedback I heard during these short talks, I learned so much and want to give a big thanks to C.A. Webb, Sarah Sherburne, Sarah Downey, Charlie O’Donnell, and Meredith Sandiford for the advice and knowledge they shared with me.
One main part of each conversation focused on the importance of face-to-face connections and showing up. Making yourself available to industry events such as meetups, workshops, and panel discussions, shows that meeting like-minded folks and learning more about the VC world is high on your priority list. Luckily, Boston provides many opportunities to make connections with entrepreneurs and investors, such as MassTLC functions, The Capital Network events, BostInno’s suggested events, and the Boston New Technology Meetup, just to name a few.
Getting to know people and building your network will help when advocating for yourself in the presence of an opportunity. A strong online and physical presence can help with connecting others to the resources they need to succeed. That’s a skill that can be useful for investors who want to enhance their deal flow — excellent community relationships are incredibly helpful to new entrepreneurs.
Share your vision
No one will know what you want unless you tell them. Reach out to everyone you know, ask if they know anyone in VC, and get together with those folks. Tell others your dreams and keep growing your skill set. Ask for introductions and always be prepared with questions. When an opportunity comes that may be a fit, folks will remember your passion and will reach out to you. Until then, you’ll be able to connect with people who share your views and can help you get where you want to be.
Move forward at your current job
No matter where you currently are, be the best at what you’re doing. Your reputation as a hardworking, passionate, knowledge-hungry professional can lead you to great places. Glowing recommendations from current employers are taken seriously, and the better you are at your job, the more opportunities you will have to meet folks who can move you forward.
Say yes to new avenues in your current position and ask to be invited into meetings that can help you get a glimpse into other parts of the organization. If you’re not in the business department, but there’s a meeting that might interest you, ask to sit in and listen. You’ll learn more about the business practices in your company, and your determination will show higher-ups that you’re serious about learning and taking on more responsibility.
Grow your personal brand
Our online presence allows us to be seen as leaders in our field. Build trustworthiness and influence by identifying your audience and creating value for them. Finding your niche and what makes you valuable to VC firms will allow you to create content that stands out of the crowd. Whatever that niche is — write about it, tweet about it, share articles about it, and speak about it. Making connections with like-minded folks and amassing knowledge about your subject will show others that you’re an asset and a leader in your field.
Support budding entrepreneurs
Being a part of the VC world means being able to find the entrepreneurs and products that will shape the future. In order to do that, we have to use the products that are just coming out and fighting for their chance to be the next big hit. When a new startup launches their product, get in there and use it. Whether it’s a new social network (hi Peach!) or a technology innovation, test it, write about it, and if you like it — promote it. Entrepreneurs will thank you for your feedback and your help growing their product, and followers will trust your judgement for picking out potential disruptors.
Everywhere you look, you can find new companies doing exciting things. From ProductHunt to Kickstarter and Angel.co, there are so many places to seek out budding startups and motivated entrepreneurs. Being helpful to these folks and connecting them to potential users, promoters, mentors, and investors will grow your credibility and influence in the industry.
One step at a time
Asking Boston VCs for coffee allowed me to learn so much about the field and get my foot in the door. As a community builder myself, it was the only way I knew how to get in — by building community with folks of similar interest. I’m taking their advice to heart. If you’re a Boston entrepreneur, investor, tech employee or enthusiast — I’d love to hear from you about your experiences, challenges, achievements, and goals. Shoot me a DM—let’s get a coffee and chat about it.