5 lessons I’ve learnt from doing a VC internship
by Jakob Bodensteiner
Know what you´re talking about
Ok let´s start with a very easy and elementary one. Keep in mind that you´re mostly talking to founders who spend every hour of every day with exactly one thing: their business. So if they are not super bad, they´ll know everything about it. You can probably wake them up at 4 in the morning and they´ll still give you a 10minute speech about their CACs, EBITDA margin or product market fit in Indonesia. So don´t ask silly questions. But also, don´t be too shy. If you´re a finance pro, face the founder with some number crunching. If you´re a marketing genius, confront her/him with more realistic CPCs.
Have your basic business skills ready
You might think that the Berlin ecosystem consists of only coders and creatives. That´s wrong! You will almost never be in a room without an ex-top-tier consultant or investment banker. What they both like is Excel and PowerPoint and what they don´t like is being your teacher in that. Take your time and become a pro before or at least pretend (successfully) to be one. Best thing to improve your PowerPoint skills is simply to ask a consultant how the typical slides are structured. It´s really not that difficult, be sure that the spacing is correct and double-check everything. And if you use excel, never (and I really mean never) touch the mouse.
Granted, it´s usually easier to say than actually be confident when push comes to shove. Also, being confident absolutely never means being arrogant. Just calm down and engage in every presentation bullish and relaxed. The internet is filled with more or less serious advice on how you can learn this coolness. You have to figure out what works best for you. My opinion is to have a look at 1. and 2., be prepared, know what you´re talking about and have your set of business skills ready.
Please do me a favor and don´t be that guy who throws around his business cards and updates his LinkedIn every five minutes. But one of the best things in working for a VC is that you meet very interesting, very smart and unique people. I had the opportunity to go to tech events and to meet with great teams at Paua almost every day. It would be a pity, if you didn´t talk and connect to them. That definitely doesn´t mean that you should network because of networking. But from founder to bizdev-intern, from VC to advisor and from designer to deep learning dev, the ecosystem of Berlin is full of outstanding people and just by chatting you will definitely broaden your horizon and simply understand things better.
Have your cake and eat it too
Obviously that doesn´t mean be as greedy as possible, it´s more about being proactive. People don´t want to push you to do something, they want you to be interested and take initiative. If there is a super interesting meeting or event, don´t wait until you get invited (it probably won´t happen), just show your (honest) interest, ask for it and be part of it. Ask for projects you are interested in and ask for feedback. If you just wait for work, you´ll get the boring stuff. Create your own projects, pursue them diligently and add value for everybody! Working at a VC has so many facets: you can deep dive into the coolest tech, meet the smartest founders and executers and get so many insights into how business works. Just do it!
About the author
Jakob has been in the Paua-Analyst Program for six months. After finishing his studies at TU Munich he worked in a Berlin startup before changing the sides to Paua Ventures. Besides analyzing digital business models he introduced the holy fast food Friday. Born a real Münchner he constantly taught the Paua founders lessons in terms of “best Munich soccer club”.