Looking to get into VC? 4 Questions you need to ask before you start your search

By: Stephanie Manning, Director of Platform, and Isabelle Phelps, Investing Associate

In this series, “Get a job in VC,” we’ll cover how to break into the VC industry, including how to approach the search, paths into venture, resources for your job hunt, and more.

Our team often gets asked about how to land a job in venture capital. And whether in person, through LinkedIn, or in response to a cold email, we’ve offered our best advice to folks on how to enter this small and specialized industry.

But, the truth is, every candidate is different, every fund is unique, and there’s no one, straightforward path into a role in venture. Because there’s no exact formula of work experience and soft skills that can guarantee a role in the industry, we often tend to consult on basic first steps, while offering insight into how firms hire and for what roles, as well as how to holistically approach the job hunt.

While we’d like to be able to dive into each conversation and answer every question about the industry, thinking like a startup, we thought of a more scalable solution: a series of posts designed to help candidates set themselves up for the best chance of landing a job in venture capital.

Is venture capital right for me?

Not surprisingly, the first question we tend to get is “how do I get a job in venture capital?” But, before even getting that far, you must consider this: what do you want to get out of a role in the space?

We suggest candidates first ask themselves why they want a VC job to begin with in order to organically hone in on what expertise and interests will make them suited for the role. By first asking “what unique skills and experiences would I bring?” And, then, “in which type of role or firm would these skills be especially valuable?” By using that framework, you set yourself up for a more targeted search across the varied functions and firms in venture capital, and can start to craft the narrative about why you are the right person for that role.

Once you have a sense of what you want out of the role, the next step is to identify the right functions and firms for you. The industry is on track for over 300 new funds to close in this year alone, per Pitchbook data, and with that, more available opportunities than ever in the space. With that frenetic pace, identifying which kind of venture job is right for you before you start your job hunt will help you focus your search and set you up to be a more thoughtful candidate.

1. Are you interested in an investment or platform role?

The first thing you need to decide is which function you believe you’re better suited for: platform or investing. Investment roles are what we think of when we talk about someone being a VC. They’re investors who spend their time meeting with founders, evaluating markets, doing due diligence, writing checks, taking board seats, and working with the founders and companies they invest in.

Isabelle, an associate on our investment team, is focused on identifying and evaluating new investment opportunities, as well as supporting existing founders everyday.

Platform is a newer function that’s gained popularity within the last five years as a competitive advantage for firms and their founders. Platform covers a broad range of post-investment support and services and can mean different things at different firms. At Lerer Hippeau, it includes programming, events, recruiting help, and brand and content strategy.

Stephanie, our director of platform, oversees a team comprised of a senior talent manager and content and brand manager, who work together to provide resources, services, and support to founders and their teams as they scale from seed to Series A and beyond.

2. Do you want to join an early-stage fund or later-stage growth fund?

Early-stage investing is what we do at Lerer Hippeau. We’re usually the first institutional check into a company. At this stage, some companies are pre-product or pre-launch and many are too early to have substantial traction or profits. At this point, you’re investing based on people, markets, and ideas or technologies.

Later stage funds are much more data driven. Late-stage companies have substantial operating and financial data, and your job as an investor is to evaluate the company, the model, and the opportunity for incremental value or growth.

3. Are you interested in a specific area of investing?

Lerer Hippeau is sector agnostic which means the team is made up of mostly generalists who learn about new markets and industries as we evaluate companies in those areas. Our team has varied backgrounds — corporate strategy, marketing, finance, media, etc. — and our portfolio is split evenly across consumer and enterprise companies.

Other firms, though, focus on specific verticals, geographies, or other interest areas. Neighboring funds in New York focus on female founders, enterprise technology companies, New York-based companies, and more.

4. What kind of team culture are you looking for?

This question is often overlooked, but it’s incredibly important. Just as an investing relationship is long-term and based on shared principles, you want to find a firm that has a culture and mission you want to join. Some venture firms are very flat organizations while others are hierarchical. Some are more collaborative while others are more structured in terms of who writes checks and sits on boards. How individuals share fund returns (i.e. carry) may also impact culture and collaboration. If you’re interested in platform, always ask what role you play in the investment process. Do you get to participate in partner meetings? Or bring new companies to the table?

In answering these questions, you’ll get a better understanding of what to look for and what to ask while networking and interviewing for roles in venture capital. And then, you’ll be able to share specific and authentic reasons for why you’re best suited for that particular position and that particular firm.

In the next post in our series “Get a job in VC,” we’ll explore the many paths into venture. Stayed tuned for more.

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