Want to Work in VC? Here’s How

Posted on Oct 29, 2010 | 64 comments


I’m often asked by people, “how do I get into VC?” and I normally respond by saying, “there is no easy path. It’s often a combination of luck, relationships & timing.  Often these jobs aren’t even publicized.”

Well, I know 3-4 VC jobs that are publicly available.  GRP Partners is looking to hire two analysts (maybe even three) to join our practice in Los Angeles.  There is no “exact” specification I can give you for what would constitute the successful candidate because it could be somebody from a wide variety of backgrounds.  At the highest level we’re looking for somebody really intelligent, digitally native, financially numerate and interested in startups.

This person was almost certainly graduated from a top 20 university and probably with excellent grades & test scores.  Why?  Well, aside from it showing discipline and intelligence – we always get flooded with emails when we recruit and when you have to manage volume you need to go for obvious filters.  If this isn’t you, we’d probably still have a look if you did something truly exceptional – probably at startup or tech firm.

The chosen candidate will probably have worked for a very reputable firm that is either in technology, consulting, investment banking, media or a startup.  If you worked for firms like McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Goldman Sachs, Google and the like you’re probably more likely to rise to the top of the stack.  Or if you did something really interesting / innovative in a startup company.  Are we elitist?  No, we’re pretty down to earth people here.  And none of our partners actually worked for any of these firms.  So it’s not a “non starter” if you didn’t.  But every time I do recruiting I get so many applicants that don’t come close to the spec that I feel I have to put up at least some filters to avoid people unlikely to be hired from putting in too much work.

The likely candidate will probably have graduated with an undergraduate degree in the past 5 years.  We’re willing to accept people who were graduated only 2 years ago and would maybe consider somebody who was graduated around 7 years ago.  But we’re not likely looking for somebody who has too much experience, like 10+ years.  That wouldn’t be a fit for what the role is and you wouldn’t be happy.  Every time I do recruiting I get somebody who says, “I’m willing to take a step back in my career to work in VC.”  This isn’t likely to appeal to us.  But I would never take any option completely off the table.  We’re open.

We want somebody who is ready, willing and able to debate tech with us.  Where do you think things are heading?  What is the future of social media, digital television or mobile computing.  We also have a very strong financial services practice so we welcome people with this interest area, too.

We want applicants who are either in LA or have a compelling reason to be in LA.  Please make that clear in your cover letter.  Yes, we require a cover letter.  While it might sound antiquated to you, I want to know that you’re committed to this application rather than just chucking in your resume.  I will not consider applicants without a cover letter.  Plus, show me you can write!

What is the timeframe?  Now.  Yesterday.  We need help.  I’m already 2 weeks late in writing this blog post as my partners keep reminding me ;-)

So how do I apply?

  1. Send an email with your CV & cover letter to VCAnalystRole@gmail.com – make it clear whether you are in LA or if not why you want to be in LA.
  2. Please do not email either me directly.  This will be considered negatively.  It adds sooo much overhead to my effort
  3. Be patient.  We like to get a flow of applicants in before processing.
  4. When the process has closed I will update this post to say so.
Position: Analyst
Background: GRP Partners is a Los Angeles based Venture Capital firm with additional operations in London and Paris.  Since 1982 our partners have invested in some of the leading global brands you know today including Starbucks, Costco and PetSmart.  In the technology space we have backed Overture (acquired by Yahoo!), LastMinute.com (acquired by Travelocity), DealerTrack (NASDAQ: TRAK), Bill Me Later (acquired by eBay) and many others.  We manage nearly $1 billion.
Role: We are looking for an analyst to join our team on a full-time basis.  The analyst will be involved in the following activities:

  • Tracking investment opportunities / companies
  • Analyzing industries / companies
  • Assisting on company due diligence
  • Monitoring & reporting on company performance
  • Responding to portfolio company requests
  • Contributing overall with marketing and community outreach activities
Must-Have Experience / Attributes: We are looking for an individual with at least 3-5 years’ experience in a leading strategy consulting, investment banking, venture capital or technology or media firm.  You must possess the following experience / attributes:

  • Graduated from a top-tier undergraduate school with top-notch grades
  • Excellent analytical capabilities
  • Natural networker with a proven track-record of establishing broad relationships
  • Self starter
  • A knowledge of and interest in how technology is changing the business landscape
Compensation: Excellent cash, bonus + carry ($ depending on experience)

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    I have this hypothesis of sorts that many VCs and even PE firms approach hiring and investing with some of the same thinking.

    I wonder if there are similar frustrations shared by those who want to join a VC firm and those who want to be funded by one. There are some pretty set criteria by most firms (from what I've observed) about who they will hire and who they will fund.

    It is understandable that no matter how creative a VC might be as an individual, when you are investing someone else's money, you don't have the luxury of a lot of creativity. It also seems that there is not a lot of creativity in hiring in this arena — but here I don't know if it is the risk factor or the lack of time and if the latter, this is very understandable given what most VCs seem to juggle. It takes a lot of time and energy to be creative in hiring and there has to be some incentive to do so. The pool of outstanding talent who want to enter the VC world is just too robust for there to be immediate incentive to go “outside the box” to any great extent.

    The old adage is “if it ain't broke don't fix it.” I guess the question is whether or not there is anything “broken” in these processes — and if there is anyone thinks so beyond those who don't have the slightest chance of getting the job (in spite of their ability to do the job) or those who don't receive desired funding.

    At least with the latter, there are alternatives to VC funding if the business proposition is truly viable.

  • Tech Start Up Guy

    Are you guys open to Non Finance background but more of senior software guys who know lot of technology or the back ground degree has to be in Finance. This role would sound very interesting to software guys who have interest in start ups.

  • Geekette

    Mark, I challenge you to find other criteria with which you screen candidates. The 10-20 (school/company) box is so narrow, so cliche. I know you're busy and you'll get mounds of applications, but I think with a bit more thought, you could probably come up with a better yardstick for the “package” (smarts, personality, work ethic, etc) you're looking for. Surely, a guy as creative as yourself, who apparently appreciates different backgrounds and ponders diverse topics, from VCs to Bcc woes to conference hoes, can come up with more inspired criteria? Maybe even a wholly different way of screening/hiring that others might emulate?

  • Josh

    What is the damage so far? That email inbox has to be absolutely blown up. Also, how many people have emailed you directly despite you telling them not to? In my hiring adventures, I find it comical how many people will directly ignore directions because they think they are a special snowflake.

  • https://www.lookstat.com/ Rahul Pathak

    Absolutely true as well. The letters that made us pay attention were the ones that looked like they were written for our company, and for the job we posted.

  • Anonymous

    Mark – for either of these positions, what is the expected career path? Is the expectation that after a few years analysts should/would find roles in portfolio companies? Is there a path to partner? Or find opportunities at other VC firms? I know these typically vary from firm to firm, so would be good to know specifically for these two opportunities.

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com JohnExley

    Admittedly I did not read each comment so it's possible someone already mentioned this, but I think it's awesome that not only does your blog inform/educate/spur discussion with aspiring entrepreneurs (me), current entrepreneurs, VC's, industry peeps, etc….but you have two direct benefits:

    1) Deal flow
    2) Recruiting for your VC firm

    The fact that you are/were able to make a 'job posting' simultaneously valuable as an informative blog post is sweet. You demonstrated what it takes to qualify to work in venture capital while also directly attracting talent to both your firm and your friend's at CAA.

    Taking advantage of your blog is also cheaper and perhaps a more focused vehicle for recruiting than a job posting somewhere I imagine? IMO, this would be a great post to use as an example to the hypothetical investor who doesn't understand why she/he ought to blog.

  • http://hirethoughts.blogspot.com Donna Brewington White

    I agree, this is very cool. Mark and others like Fred Wilson are putting a new face on VC. For another outstanding VC hiring example, if you haven't already done so, check out the blogs from Union Square Ventures from their searches earlier this year — one of the most organic, transparent and authentic hiring processes I've observed. Still taking away lessons from that one.

    Starting with http://www.unionsquareventures.com/2010/04/usv-is-hiring.php and then the various updates as well as companion posts at AVC.com. Their hiring process felt like a community event and drew me even further into the closely related (AVC.com) blog community.

  • James

    Mark,

    Just introduced to your blog today, although interestingly had a good conversation with one of your partners (SD) not long ago regarding a similar topic (getting in to VC/PE).

    The debate regarding the value of the 'top-X' school criteria in filtering out potential applicants is one that I've certainly though a lot about, and feel like perhaps this is the most appropriate venue to offer my questions/thoughts.

    From the perspective of applicants, especially those feeling particularly maligned by the 'top-x' school requirement, it is worthwhile to consider what exactly the role you're being asked to fill is comprised of. Consider: I and two partners run a $250 mm fund making early-stage tech investments. What do I want to spend MY time doing? Focusing on the 5-10 deals that come across my desk that matter. Spending time with Mgmt, REALLY understanding the business model, the drivers, the personalities … the competitive landscape (both of the potential portfolio company and of competing investors), and finally of the key drivers/aspects of the deal that are critical to both myself and to mgmt, aligning those interests, and ideally closing on investments I can go to sleep feeling good about. [Not to mention dealing with portfolio companies when it goes bad, or perhaps dealing with current or future LPs.] The commonality here is that a majority of my efforts will be RELATIONSHIP driven, and will mandate an ebb and flow of intellectual focus that doesn't fit well (yet is often more demanding than a structured set of roles and responsibilities).

    Yet what do I want from a potential hire? Some relief? NO. I see my ability to have success in the aforementioned roles as the reason that I'm doing what I'm doing in the first place. What I typically want from a new hire is someone who is bright enough to figure out somewhat complex tasks (industry/market, deal structure, technology, legal, etc …) yet is also innately wired /driven to perform in a structured achievement environment. Resume comes across my desk – dude's got a 4.0 from Harvard and 2 years post grad in Goldman's TMT M&A Group – know what my conclusion is? That he is the smartest guy on the planet, destined to be the world's best investor? No. My conclusion is that he has shown an impressive ability to achieve success in a highly structured environment – which is exactly the role I want to put him in. Thus in this context, the 'top-x' school filter makes sense.

    But again, to return to the maligned applicant from a non 'top-x' school, it's worthwhile to consider exactly what you are looking for. If you want to be in VC because it's cool, prestigious/impressive, or offers income potential comparable to I-banking with far better hours, then yeah — you're probably at an inherent disadvantage to your clone who went to a 'top-10.' You guys are both competing to fill the 'structured/external goal-oriented role'. But if you really are extremely passionate and can realistically and confidently see yourself operating in MY role as described above, then the 'top-x' school issue becomes FAR less important. To be a successful investor you need to think in an innovative, unique way — if the best deals were blatantly obvious, they would no longer be good deals. The same is true for getting into VC. Be creative. Be persuasive. And be politely persistent. Ultimately the best investors are going to be doing the same thing.

    [Disclaimer: I'm a 4th JD/MBA at a non 'top-x' biz and law school, with a 'top-x' undergrad degree. Started the grad school deal shortly after graduation, so no real full-time experience. That said, I'm the MD of our universities' venture fund, and so occupy an interesting quasi-professional role. Despite my thoughts, I too am working my ass off looking for a post-grad full-time position in VC, so needless to say, take my statements with the proverbial grain of salt.]

  • HistoryInAction

    Indeed, indeed re: capitalization, thanks! I passed along your 'delight' to some friends within the Caltech Alumni Association network. Hope you get some excellent candidates!

    With a slight difference in my current situation, I'd be interested in applying for myself, but for now, it was time to pass the word along.

    -Craig

  • http://www.johnexleyonline.com JohnExley

    Donna, thank you! Yeah I try to read Fred Wilson obsessively…haven't missed too many posts since summer but whew he blogs like crazy. I really only read 4 sites daily: Suster, Fred, Brad Feld, and TechCrunch.

    Thanks for the links, I'll check 'em out!

  • http://twitter.com/aaroncray Aaron

    well Marky mark just saw this reply…An ass? it's a joke Mr. Sensitive

    I'd relax on the name calling chief. I seem to remember a certain VC destroying a newb entrepreneur on stage at a twiistup and someone in the audience pointing it out(me) and that VC apologizing afterwords for taking their criticizing a bit too far.

    Anyway sorry if I hurt your feelings I was just poking fun. Rock steady!

    p.s. I don't post anonymously.

  • Aaa

    Mark, I've got no start up experience but in place of this would something along the lines of 'paying off my parents mortgage count' count as a solid alternative?

  • Fs2117

    Hey, Mark — any updates on the search?