Recruiting for the VC job I didn’t get

It’s hard to raise money from a VC. It’s harder to get a job at one.

Update: we are no longer accepting applications for this role. Thank you!

I know, as I did the rounds a very long time ago when I started getting antsy at Microsoft. Even today, there just aren’t that many funds relative to the number of startups or tech companies, and therefore very few jobs. My most memorable interview was with Jeff Bussgang at Flybridge Capital in Boston. It lasted about 20 minutes and, as is often the case, there was no official open role. Just like any good startup, VCs are always on the lookout for great talent and my background was interesting enough to get me a meeting.

To say I bombed the interviewed is an understatement. He asked what trends, sectors, and companies I was most interested in, and why. I rambled for a few minutes before he politely interrupted me. He could tell I was technical and passionate about new trends, but it became clear to both of us during my bumbling monologue that my next move wasn’t an associate at a VC. Everything I said made it clear I wanted to be hands on in a startup. “You would go crazy wanting to jump into the companies, and that’s not our job,” I remember him saying. The next step for me, assisted by a gracious rejection from Jeff, was to create or join a startup. It took me a few more years to depart Microsoft, but once I did I never thought I’d take another look at VC again.

Here I am, over a decade later, a new VC with what is fast becoming Europe’s top performing venture fund, recruiting for the very role I was so memorably rejected over a decade ago. If I tried to map a path after my rejection to get here, I don’t think it would have worked. Most of the top investors I know “ended up” in VC. Very few rise through the ranks straight out of university or business school, and I think that’s for good reason. It was less than a year ago that I started to think about VC as a next step in my career. Time will tell if I’m any good at this job. But, what has always worked well for me is putting myself out there at points in my life when I was curious about different paths, and ultimately following whatever I was most passionate about at the time. I say this as context for those interested in venture long term. Joining a top firm straight out of business school is not a pre-requisite for becoming a partner at a top fund later in your career. It works for some, but many use the associate opportunity to learn a lot in a short period of time, then go off and join or build a startup with a phenomenal set of experiences, and at least one investor excited at the possibility of backing you in that journey.

I’ve been in the job for a few months, looked at roughly 100 startups, and made one investment (announced soon). It’s a lot of work learning about new industries, networking, taking a lot of meetings, and ultimately competing with our top funds to win a deal. I love it. But it’s definitely not for everyone. Going back to Jeff’s rejection, it wasn’t the right path for me earlier in my career. A great candidate for a role like this wants to work harder than they ever have before, is passionate about finding the next great business, can bury themselves in research for days on end, and enjoys meeting new people (often). They live and breathe startups, can synthesise trends, have the sort of genuine curiosity that naturally draws them to all the places we need to be like hackathons, demo sessions, meetups, founder events, conferences, etc.

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The right candidate is in an intense learning phase of their career and knows it, is not solving for compensation, job title, or work/life balance, and is keen to work on as many projects and take in as much information as possible.

Many firms describe a role like this as either “pre” or “post” MBA. As someone who went down the MBA path, I don’t think that distinction is entirely necessary for the reasons I listed above. If you’re interested, I’ve listed the more typical job description details below and would love to hear from you.


Update: we are no longer accepting applications for this role. Thank you!

Northzone is seeking an associate for its London office. The associate will work directly with the firm’s partners and the broader investment team.

About Northzone

Drinks to celebrate Spotify’s IPO after a Northzone team meeting in Berlin

Northzone is an early stage technology venture capital firm based in London, with offices in Stockholm, Berlin, Oslo, and New York. For over 20 years, we have been chosen by exceptional entrepreneurs as a long-term partner for growth. We are early stage investors in Spotify, iZettle, Klarna, NA-KD, Avito, Lesara and over 100 others, with over €1bn under management and are one of Europe’s top performing venture capital funds.

Responsibilities

  • Lead deep dive research and develop subject matter expertise in key focus areas
  • Represent Northzone in the UK startup community, including meetups, hackathons, and demo days
  • Assist in various administrative activities across Northzone, including investor reports, events, and other logistics
  • Source new investments for target sectors and markets
  • Lead due diligence for new investments
  • Provide various support for our portfolio

Qualifications

  • At least two years of experience at a technology startup, VC or PE firm, investment banking, or management consulting
  • Demonstrable curiosity in the global startup ecosystem
  • Existing connections to the UK tech community
  • Strong communications skills, including the ability to prepare and deliver management presentations and public speaking
  • Self-starter, capable of sourcing and executing projects independently
  • Completed undergraduate or graduate degree (or, at least, a really interesting story for why you dropped out)
  • Right to work in the UK

Application

Please send a short email highlighting why you’re interested in the role, one or two experiences or projects you feel are most relevant, your LinkedIn profile, a start-up in the UK you’re most excited about to the year Northzone was founded @northzone.com.

Associate roles are heavily sought after and we anticipate a high volume of submissions, especially after posting this on Medium (which perhaps I’ll regret based on advice from my peers, but feels like the right move). Persistence is great in our industry, but please don’t call or send flowers. I will respond to every qualified application received. If you don’t have the qualifications outlined above, you may not receive a response.


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