Venture capitalists are employed by VC firms and corporations (such as Google, Intel, and Novartis) that have VC departments. Venture capital firms are located throughout the United States and the world. Many U.S.-based firms are headquartered in California and on the East Coast. Some top U.S. firms have offices in foreign countries.
“Even if you have a desired skill set, it’s not easy to become a venture capitalist,” advises Inc. “It takes networking, business acumen, plus founding a startup (or two), in order to be seriously considered.” There are several ways to work your way into a career at a venture capital firm:
- You could start from the ground up after obtaining two or more years of experience in a related industry such as management consulting, investment banking, or private equity, OR entering after graduating from college with an MBA (some firms hire workers who are currently pursuing an MBA). You’ll work as an associate, sourcing deals, performing due diligence on potential investments, and supporting the portfolio companies. Others enter at this position after working for a VC-funded start up.
- Obtaining extensive experience in the Information Technology, engineering, health services, or biotech sectors. After at least five years (and the completion of an MBA), you would enter the firm as a principal or partner.
- Successful entrepreneurs may be asked to join a venture firm as a partner in their 30s or 40s.
Venture capitalists hold the top spots at their firms so there are few advancement opportunities. Very experienced and skilled partners can move into the position of managing partner, or decide to leave their current employers to launch new VC funds. Some venture capitalists become well-known in the industry by presenting at investor events, speaking at entrepreneurship conferences, serving as mentors, and being active on social media. Some become professors at business schools.
Tips for Entry
You can break into the field by working in lower-level positions at a venture capital firm. A list of venture capital firms and corporate venture groups that are members of the National Venture Capital Association can be found at https://nvca.org/about-us/members.
To get noticed by a venture capital firm, raise your visibility in the start-up community by speaking at entrepreneur events, participating in accelerator programs, and being active on social media (e.g., blogging, Tweeting, etc.).
Obtaining operating experience at an early-stage, venture-backed company will make you a good candidate for employment at a VC firm.