How a job at AngelList got me access to the best network in Silicon Valley (and more)
I spent 2016 working full-time at AngelList in the Analyst Program.
It was a fantastic experience and I couldn’t recommend it more. Another graduate of the program (and good friend) Alex Pack has written a superb overview of his time there, which I’d recommend reading if you’re considering applying.
While I don’t have a ton to add to what Alex wrote, I do have a different background than him and chose to pursue a different path after the program.
I often get asked about whether the program is the right choice for people who don’t have an investing background (I didn’t) or aren’t sure that they want to become an investor after the program (I chose not to).
The short answer is yes — this article is intended to explain why and is hopefully helpful to people considering applying.
My first job out of college was at a (then small) startup called Handy. I joined as Chief of Staff and spent almost two years helping to scale the business, but spent my last year there focused heavily on growing the supply-side of the business (recruiting cleaners to join the platform).
I was really frustrated with the tools that existed for workers to find gigs through on-demand platforms and ended up leaving Handy in early 2015 to co-found a platform focused on solving this problem.
By the end of 2015 there wasn’t really a clear path ahead for the startup I was working on and so I began looking for my next role. I stumbled upon a posting about the Analyst Program and was immediately intrigued.
I didn’t know much about venture capital and had even less an idea of what fund operations, syndicates, or SPVs were. However, I was a huge believer in the AngelList mission as AngelList had been an invaluable resource in connecting with potential job candidates and investors.
What I got out of the Analyst role
How to be an angel investor
The Analyst Program puts you in a great position to start angel investing part-time:
- You’ll have an incredible network as you’ll have worked on 100+ transactions over the past year.
- You’ll have built up a huge amount of pattern recognition and have a ton of experience reviewing deal documents and so will know things like whether a given price for a seed round seems reasonable.
- You’ll be well acquainted with the AngelList platform (which is probably the best way for young angel investors to get leverage)
- You’ll have a strong legal background. I reviewed 100’s of legal documents (cap tables, SAFE’s, etc) during my year at AngelList. This broad exposure to high volumes of contracts and documents taught me how to efficiently parse 100 page legal documents, identify the important parts, and negotiate with lawyers.
Earlier this year I was fortunate to lead an SPV via AngelList into a pre-seed round of an old coworker’s company (the round is still unannounced).
If you had told me two years ago that at 25 I’d be able to lead a six-figure SPV into a venture deal I would’ve laughed, but the analyst program makes it possible.
How to think and act like an entrepreneur
One of the things that makes AngelList so unique is its culture that emphasizes self-management and asking for forgiveness rather than permission.
I read the posts that AngelList had published on their internal culture before joining and was initially skeptical — however, AngelList’s cultural manifestos are true in practice and not simply a PR tactic.
This means that the burden is on you to pick what you want to work on and get the resources for it. Do you think a certain part of the business needs more focus?
Great, go spend time improving it. This is a great opportunity for people who aren’t sure that they want to go into investing because it gives you exposure to other parts of the business.
I ultimately ended up focusing a lot of my time outside of deal operations on capital growth because it aligned closely with what I had previously enjoyed working on.
When a chance to work on raising AngelList’s next managed fund — the Access Fund — came up, I leapt on it. I ended up spending three months spearheading fundraising efforts for the fund, which gave me a crash course on product marketing, including exposure to:
- Customer segmentation: AngelList has a large number of data points on each investor in its database — past investment history, employer, location, etc. I used these data points to create customer personas and build a model that qualified investors based on how likely we thought they were to invest in the fund.
- Sales: I built sales funnels for each customer persona, organized conference calls for interested investors, and personally made 100’s of sales calls.
- Email marketing: I had minimal email marketing experience but working on capital growth taught me a ton about things like writing copy and A/B testing open rates.
This meant that when the end of my 12 months in the program came due, I was leaving with extensive marketing experience (which helped me land my current gig).
The analyst on a given deal is the central point of communication between syndicate leads, founders, and investors and is relaying information between these parties on a daily basis.
Given that AngelList operates in a regulated space and analysts are often communicating important decisions (like why the AngelList funds decided to pass on an investment), the Analyst Program teaches you to communicate professionally and succinctly.
This is an undervalued (and increasingly rare) skill in the technology space — anyone coming from an internal facing role in a tech company is likely used to largely communicating casually via Slack (and with emojis and gifs).
This isn’t how most of the business world communicates and knowing how to do so is highly valuable.
“Communication is the most important skill any leader can possess” — Richard Branson
Access to the best network in Silicon Valley
The Analyst Program is designed to be a year and so analysts are expected to find another role towards the end of their 12 months.
While there’s no one clear exit path, the program lends itself closest to going into venture capital afterwards. I decided against pursuing a role in venture as I knew that I really wanted to go back to an operating role focused on a combination of analytics, growth, and strategy.
Graduating analysts are in an incredible position to land their next job. Between Naval, other deal team members, and syndicate leads, the AngelList team and its affiliates have seeded 100’s of companies in Silicon Valley (and elsewhere).
There was not a single company that I was interested in talking to where I couldn’t get a warm introduction. You also leave AngelList with a great understanding of the venture ecosystem and how to evaluate companies, which made narrowing down my list much easier.
I joined an AngelList portfolio company, Phil, where I currently run business operations and focus on analytics and growth.
The program not only helps you search for jobs but also diligence potential opportunities. When I was considering joining Phil, people at AngelList introduced me to a partner at SoftTech (who invested in their seed round) and at Crosslink (who led their Series A).
Speaking with these investors and understanding why they backed Deepak and the team was incredibly useful in helping me make a decision and is something that very few candidates have the opportunity to do.
While I had an incredible experience at AngelList, it’s a very unique place and not for everyone.
- AngelList is incredibly light on structure and if you’re not self motivated and comfortable operating with a lot of ambiguity, you’ll probably struggle.
- Analysts are ultimately responsible for making sure deals close and that can involve a lot of unglamorous work (think tracking down missing wires, helping investors navigate the product, etc).
However, I had a phenomenal year and would strongly recommend the program. The entire AngelList team is amazing and people like Simon, Graham, and Kapil make it a truly incredible place to work. I can’t thank everyone enough for making my time there so meaningful.