How to Break Into Venture Capital

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Venture Capital - Sand Hill Road“I’m an engineer with a 3.6 GPA at a top university. I have a full-time investment banking offer lined up at Credit Suisse, and I’ll be working in their tech M&A group. Do you think I can I break into venture capital?”

While venture capital receives less attention than private equity and hedge funds, I’ve gotten many, many VC-related questions over the years.

In this 2-part interview (part 2 on the job itself, lifestyle, hours, and pay right here), we’re going to speak with an investment banker who broke into venture capital.

In part 1 – focused on recruiting – you’re going to learn:

  • How to make the move from investment banking to venture capital
  • What types of people VC firms look for and the 3 entry points into VC
  • The role of headhunters in the VC recruitment process
  • How resumes and interviews for VC differ from banking and PE
  • How to position yourself to break into the industry

How It All Got Started

Q: Can you tell us about your background and how you got into finance in the first place?

A: Sure. I studied engineering at a top university in the US - I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do afterward, so I applied to Master’s programs and took a combination of math, finance, and engineering classes once I got into my top choice.

Since it was a target school and the market was much better back then, banks and consulting firms came to recruit at my school and I interviewed for everything from engineering jobs at companies like Google to consulting and finance positions.

Ultimately I had become more interested in business, so I went to a well-known tech banking group.

Q: Right. We’ve been over how to break into investment banking about 597 times before, so let’s skip over that and talk more about getting into VC.

Did you know you wanted to get into the industry in the beginning, when you first started out in banking?

A: No, I barely knew anything about the buy-side and exit opportunities in the beginning. At bulge bracket banks you get exposed to this early on because headhunters start calling you 6 months into your time on the job, but at smaller and regional places you don’t get as much exposure.

By the time I started thinking about exit opportunities, I had been working for a few years and had already been promoted to Associate – so I didn’t want to leave right away.

After I had been an Associate awhile I started looking more seriously at buy-side job postings on sites like Glocap and I began to contact headhunters in my area, but at that point I still wasn’t set on VC.

Q: You mentioned job posting sites and headhunters – don’t you have to network a lot to break into VC?

I always thought that networking was even more important there because the firms are so small and they have less money to spend on recruiting compared PE firms or banks.

A: Networking and cold-calling Partners yourself can be helpful – and especially when it’s a bad market you need to do more of it.

But a lot of it depends on what type of firm you want to work at. The biggest and most well-known VC firms – think Sequoia – use headhunters, as do many late-stage VCs. The smaller the firm and the less capital they manage, the less likely they are to use headhunters.

I didn’t network that much because I had a brand-name school on my resume, I was already in banking, and I was aiming for late-stage funds that actually used headhunters.

Venture Headhunters

Q: Right, so let’s talk about headhunters in the VC industry. I’ve written before that in private equity – at least in the US – the 3 major recruiting firms are SG Partners, CPI, and the Oxbridge Group, with a few others also contributing. Are those 3 active in venture capital as well?

A: SG Partners doesn’t do much early stage VC recruitment, CPI had a good number of VC openings, and Oxbridge I can’t speak to because I didn’t work with them too much.

Glocap had a good number of VC openings across different types of funds, and I used them quite a bit – I’m not sure how good they are for PE or hedge funds, but for VC they were helpful in my search.

Q: Interesting. I dealt mostly with SG, CPI, and Oxbridge when going through private equity recruiting but I guess it’s different for venture capital.

What do recruiters look for when you apply to VC jobs? I’m assuming they act as the “initial screen” and then recommend you for interviews depending on their impressions of you?

A: Yeah, that’s accurate. What they look for is not too much different from what headhunters in private equity or investment banking look for: they want people who are well-spoken, have good deal experience, and show the potential to source investments themselves.

The last point in particular is really important for the buy-side because even at the Associate level, you’ll be expected to cold-call executives and find interesting companies yourself.

Q: Are they looking for any particular type of person? For example, do VC headhunters value banking experience more than consulting or business development experience?

A: I would frame it a little differently. There are 3 entry points into venture capital:

  1. Pre-MBA: You’ve done banking, consulting, business development, or product management before and now you want to apply what you’ve learned to invest in tech companies.
  2. Post-MBA: You’ve done any of the above or maybe you’ve been an engineer or marketer or anything else, and you’ve gone to business school to re-brand yourself.
  3. Operating Partner: You’ve been a VP of Sales at Oracle or another tech company for 10 years, and you’ve had a lot of success and risen to a senior level. Your boss or another colleague knows a VC, and you get a referral like that.

Of these methods, #3 is the most difficult to use when breaking in because you actually have to be successful in the real world.

At the pre-MBA level, they like bankers with good deal experience or anyone with product management / business development experience at tech companies because you have a lot of insight into how companies operate.

Consulting backgrounds are also good, but some are more helpful than others – advising tech companies on strategic partnerships is a lot more relevant than doing HR consulting, for example.

At the post-MBA level you see people with a wider variety of backgrounds getting in – you just need to go to a top school and have access to recruiting channels there.

Pedigree also matters quite a bit – not so much in terms of the specific bank you worked at, but more so with the university or business school you attended. VC firms are very traditional and they get tons of resumes, so they like to take the path of least resistance and filter by school name.

Stuff Venture Capitalists Like

Q: Interesting. I guess it’s unlike private equity, where you pretty much need to have been an investment banking analyst before breaking in at the post-MBA level.

We’ve talked about the entry points and what recruiters look for, but what about venture capitalists themselves? What characteristics do they look for in recruits?

A: It depends on what type of VC firm you’re applying to – Early stage? Late stage? – and what the firm’s focus is – Sourcing? Due diligence? Portfolio company work?

Each firm focuses on different things, so they look for different qualities in recruits. Let’s take a firm that’s very heavy on sourcing – an example would be Summit Partners, where you do a lot of cold-calling as an Associate.

A firm like that would assess how presentable you are in front of a CEO, how articulate you are, and how confident you are in making presentations and talking to people. In an interview, they might even ask you to make an impromptu presentation to them.

The closer a firm moves to the “private equity” side of the spectrum, the more important due diligence and deal execution work becomes.

So those types of firms expect you to know a lot about coordinating lawyers, accountants, and bankers, analyzing a company’s financial statements and creating financial models – similar to investment banking.

Early stage firms place more of an emphasis on sourcing, market sizing, and investment thesis development – e.g., how many people will adopt Mobile TV? When will it hit the “tipping point?”

Interviews at those places are very subjective and consist of chatting about the industry, recent trends, and companies you’re interested in.

Finally, some firms focus more on working with portfolio companies – they’re not as common as late-stage or early-stage VC firms, but they do exist.

They’re more interested in people with strong operating backgrounds and anyone who has experience creating and managing products, developing partnerships, marketing to customers, and so on.

Q: Wow, I didn’t realize there was so much variety just within venture capital. Most people just think of trying to find the next Twitter or Facebook when you talk about VC, but there’s a lot more to it than that.

You mentioned what types of people different VC firms prefer to recruit, but is there anything that all firms really like to see? Any common mistakes that recruits make when pitching themselves to VCs?

A: I’d say the biggest point is having a strong opinion on a given company or industry. Lots of people walk into interviews and just casually chat about the tech industry without expressing a specific opinion.

That’s fine if you’re an investment banker, but on the buy-side you’re making investment decisions and you need to be very opinionated about what industry is going to take off and what companies you should invest in.

You need to be ready to go in there and say, “XX is awesome because of points #1-6, and they’re going to be huge in 5 years – we should invest in them.”

The other mistake a lot of people make is focusing too much on a company’s products rather than its market position and how it stacks up against the competition. Even though VCs invest in technical companies, investing itself is still a business decision driven by the market rather than technical product details.

Q: Right, that makes a lot of sense. It’s just like how too many IB and PE hopefuls focus on their hyper-advanced LBO models rather than the business results of the deals they worked on.

What’s important to emphasize on your resume or CV when applying to venture capital jobs?

A: You don’t want to seem like you’re a hedge fund, PE, or quantitative finance guy or girl – they want people who are interested in startups and technology.

Deal experience is fine to list but you want to focus more on how you worked with CEOs and other executives and the market sizing / business development work you did.

They don’t want to look at your resume and see tons of numbers and obscure acronyms everywhere.

In the Interests section, you want to list items that are related to technology (or bio-tech / clean-tech if you’re applying to those types of VC firms).

VCs would rather have presentable people with a passion for technology than number crunchers with no interest in startups.

Q: Ah, ok. So if you’re applying to VC jobs, you can use the deal experience resume template but you might have to modify your descriptions a bit. What about the interview process for VC firms – how is it different from investment banking and private equity?

A: It’s very informal. They’ll say, “Come in for lunch and let’s chat. We’ll see who’s around and they can sit down and meet with you.”

You’re just going in to have casual conversations with the Partners – compare that to private equity interviews or investment banking interviews, which are more structured and technical.

They might respond quickly or they might drag out the process over many months – there’s never a rush unless you have an exploding offer.

VCs pay less money than PE firms, so they can’t just throw wads of cash at you and expect you to work 80 hours a week for them.

They are obsessed with cultural fit because they don’t want people who are in it only for the money – they want people who are genuinely passionate about technology and finding exciting companies.

This is in total contrast to banking, PE, and hedge funds, where many people only do it for their year-end bonus.

Q: So I’m guessing you never received modeling tests during the recruiting process?

A: Nope. Even at late-stage firms I didn’t get modeling tests – though again, if you move closer to the private equity side of the spectrum they might be more common.

One other point I would raise: we’ve mostly spoken about VC firms that invest in technology companies.

But if you go to one that does bio-tech, healthcare, or clean-tech investments, you may get more detailed technical questions on the technology itself – they may ask you about fuel cells or different types of solar panels, for example.

Final Thoughts

Q: Great. I just have a few more random / miscellaneous questions that we haven’t gotten to yet.

I get a lot of questions from engineers and science majors who are interested in leveraging their backgrounds to break into venture capital – what would you say to them?

A: Either do investment banking or consulting first, or get an MBA from a top school. There are just too many other engineers who want to do venture capital and you won’t stand out unless you have some kind of “validation.”

I have a few friends who didn’t even do banking or consulting before business school but who are now going to VC firms – just because they got an MBA from a top school.

Q: Right, using business school to re-brand yourself is a proven strategy and it’s almost a necessity if you want to move into VC without that pre-MBA business background.

Some people argue that you have to have been a successful entrepreneur or operator to be a good VC – do you think that’s true?

A: No. The VC industry – just like investment banking or private equity – has many artificial barriers to entry, but in reality lots of people could do the job.

If you look at one of the top VCs in the world – Mike Moritz at Sequoia – he was a journalist at Time before getting into the industry.

He’s an outlier, of course, but I’ve seen lots of data showing that there is no correlation between operating experience and being a good investor.

It’s a “gut feeling” type of business, and having experience starting companies doesn’t mean you’ll be great at investing in companies.

Q: Another common argument is that you need a lot of connections to break into VC, because they want people who can tap their networks to find great companies.

If you look at the websites of some VC firms, the Associates seem to fall into that category – they’ve worked in a certain industry for a number of years and have a huge Rolodex. How important do you think connections are?

A: I don’t think it’s that important at the junior level.

Most firms don’t expect you to come in as a former investment banking analyst with a huge Rolodex – connections are more important if you’re moving in at a more senior level or you’re going to a “premium” firm like Sequoia or Kleiner Perkins where they want people who can hit the ground running.

Q: Awesome, thanks for your time. We could keep going but this is already quite long, so let’s pick up with part 2 next time.

A: No problem.

Next In This Series:What Do You Do as a Venture Capitalist?” – What you do day-to-day, how much you get paid, how you advance, and what our interviewee liked and disliked about the industry.

About the Author

is the Founder of Mergers & Inquisitions and Breaking Into Wall Street. In his spare time, he enjoys learning obscure Excel functions, editing resumes, obsessing over TV shows, and traveling so much that he's forced to add additional pages to his passport on a regular basis.

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121 Comments to “How to Break Into Venture Capital”


  1. Student says

    What would your marks need to be like to get into VC or IB aswell?

    Thats assuming you went to a top university.

  2. intern says

    Basically, am I wrong by saying that PE is not too much different from VC ? I mean, PE funds ultimately want to enter and exit the company at favourable terms, but isn’t that what VCs are generally trying to do i.e. provide capital ?

    • says

      They both invest in companies, but the difference is that PE works with much later-stage companies. VC works mostly with startups and growing companies while PE is for mature companies that can actually carry debt.

      The other difference is that PE is more about financial engineering and getting the numbers right whereas VC is more about what companies you think will really take off.

      The cultures are also much different because PE is more traditional bankers and VC is closer to what startups are like.

  3. Howard says

    Hey M&I,

    I know you HATE GPA questions, but this is something that I couldn’t find easily on your website and I’m not sure what the answer is. I go to a UC school and I took classes over a semester at a community college to get credits so when I came in, I could knock off a few requirements. However, my UC transcript does NOT account for the grades I got at my CC but only the units, when I write down my GPA to employers, should I only write down the GPA my current college reports or cumulative GPA from all colleges? Thanks.

  4. John says

    Hi Brian,

    I am a Junior from UCSD (financially and socially dead school) and I am just happy that I have a summer internship with a boutique i-bank in Bay Area for the summer.

    After summer, I plan to apply to MM like houlihan lokey and TWPG (doubt twpg will still be around) during school year and after school.

    However, my GPA is on low 3s and I feel like my summer exp will not set me that apart when it comes to MM and BB selection.

    Any suggestions for me? Thanks

    • says

      If you have a lower GPA the only way around that is a lot of networking – you can’t hide it or lie about it, so you just have to get in around the official channels.

      • John says

        well do you think someone with mediocre gpa from public school with prior experience is regarded more fit than someone from ivy with right gpa with no experience?

        • says

          Hard to say on that one. More than GPA, your school name matters – so I would say you’re at a slight disadvantage even with prior experience vs. the person who has none but has a brand-name school.

  5. says


    Thanks for an excellent interview and for covering the VC industry.

    True to its nature, VC seems to have an entrepreneurial entry-policy. If you can justify your own worth, you will break in.

    That said, I think we should probably highlight that the most common thread between all venture capitalists is a hard science/ engineering undergraduate degree.

    I know you hate the concept of defined career paths, but it seems to me that the path of least resistance is to have a science/engineering background at undergrad, then a top class (probably only H/S would cut it) MBA. Fair?

    • says

      I don’t necessarily agree with that – especially at the Partner level a lot of the VCs out there are from a finance background and haven’t done anything truly technical before.

      Having the engineering or science degree helps but it’s certainly not required – I would say passion for technology and being presentable are more important than in-depth knowledge of a certain field (unless it’s something like biotech where you actually need advanced knowledge to make investment decisions).

      • says

        It’s not an absolute requirement but showing technical aptitude – not just industry interest – can make a big difference. A CS or EE degree is the easiest way to do this at the junior level, but being a coder or a tech entrepreneur is another way, regardless of formal educational background.

  6. oxbridge says

    hey brian, i’ve been reading your site for a while now since my second year at uni. i attended a top100 non target university, managed to do quite well, and was accepted into oxbridge for one of their graduate masters programmes – not an mba. do you think it would be okay to just list oxbridge in my cv and completely not state my alma mater

    ps – i am not from the united states

    • Dave says

      Followup to that question; I’m also about to do a Masters in Finance in Europe, undergrad is also in commerce, but definitely am interested in the science/technology/energy side of business.

      Do VC’s, from your knowledge, hire guys like that without the scientific base or the work experience?

  7. tony says

    Hi Brian,

    I’m very much interested in how specialized PE and VC firms go about recruiting associates (not tech or healthcare but more along the lines of Education Management or Education Services). For instance, to work for a PE or VC firm that focuses it’s investments in the Education sector, is it necessary to have experience in that particular sector, because as I understand, there aren’t many investment banks that really have a coverage group dedicated to something like Education. so the relevant deal experience isn’t really existent.

    • says

      I honestly have no idea because most VCs are focused on tech or healthcare. For those types of firms you would probably have to have experience at some type of education company or be an executive at one of those companies and transition in like that.

      • says

        When you go in for an interview, you should be able to talk about a specialized sector such as Education (you can pick any sector you want). W/in that sector you should be able to discuss recent industry trends from the seed stage to public company level, where you think the industry is going, 3-5 startups that you like, and why. Once you start you will have to do this w/ many more sectors, but in the interview you just have to discuss your capability to do so. You should pick the sector that you are most passionate about and know the most about at the startup level. Employment experience in that sector helps, but is secondary to passion at the entry level.

  8. MBA Candidate says

    Hi Brian,

    I have a non-traditional background, and have worked for eight years in apparel and textile industry. During this time, I have worked as a Head Designer in a prominent retail chain, a freelance consultant for non-profit groups and the latest being as a founder of a for-profit social enterprise. I am now heading to a top US B-school, and post MBA, I want to work with Venture Capitals that are working with (particularly interested in for-profit) social enterprises. I have a Bachelors degree in Engineering and a Masters degree in Design. I know that breaking into VC industry is difficult, and on top of it, I fall in the older age bracket with no relevant experience in finance or IB. Thus I want to get your views about the realistic chances I might have to get a break in the VC industry. I would really appreciate your views.


    • says

      I think you actually have a good background for breaking into VC – the only issue is that there aren’t too many firms focused on retail or social enterprises. But given your background and a top MBA, you can definitely break in.

  9. Jessie says

    Hi Brian,

    I’m an international student about to enter my senior year at an Ivy. Wondering whether you know anything on how friendly VC firms are to internationals? Will they hire if they have to sponsor an H1B work visa?


    • says

      Usually small places hate dealing with visa issues because of limited resources – maybe at large VCs you would have better luck.

  10. Kenneth says

    Hello Brian:

    I have an Engineering background in Manufacturing. I had some steel industry experience but mostly in maintenance & reliability. I am currently employed at a Municipal government doing a similiar job. I’d like to break into VC or PE, preferably VC. I am planning to do the MBA this Fall or Winter 2011. I am not from the US. I am from Canada. Is the VC industry in pain here in Canada? Which MBA school is the best for VC? Where can I network my way up? and How? Should I go for some Bio-tech courses? Or business skills are more important? Thanks.

    • says

      I don’t think VC is big in Canada – my guess is that it’s concentrated in Vancouver and Toronto but there are far fewer firms than in the US. The best MBA for VC is probably Stanford because it’s in Silicon Valley. If you go to a top program networking is helpful for VC but not absolutely essential as the person in this article pointed out. Classes don’t matter much.

  11. Kurt says

    The article mentioned product management; would you happen to know more about working/breaking in that industry? Or any other good “hidden” sources to read?

    I’ve seen some companies require a technical background and some don’t and that some prod mgmt roles also differ from others even with the same title. (kind of like corp dev vs biz dev sometimes) Any more information would be very helpful!

    • says

      I don’t know much about product management but usually companies hire relatively technical grads and find people who understand both the technical and business/marketing sides. I’ll see if we can do an interview on it.

  12. VCquestion says

    Hey Brian, I have a question for you: what do you do after VC?

    I’m fairly early in my carrer in banking but I have been contacted to interview with tech VC fund of a very, very famous buy-side financial institution. The job interests me a lot as I have a real passion for tech and deal experience in the subject, been working in entrepreunerial settings, etc… But ultimately I know that I’d like to move to something bigger again, be it dedicated tech banking or tech PE.

    Do you think this will be hard to do… I’m affraid that if I do get the offer and accept it I might be stuck in VC/small caps for my entire life.


    • says

      Stay in VC, move to a portfolio company, sometimes move to something related like PE but that is hard. If you want to do IB/PE its better not to do VC.

  13. Jacqueline says


    I am a lawyer who went to prestigious schools who has worked in the tech m&a field for a few years. I have an offer to join a regional boutique tech ibanking group as an ibanker. Would working at a regional bank hurt my future chances at working with a VC vis a vis a bulge bracket bank?

  14. Dream says

    What do you think about someone has:
    1) Engineering Major @ Undergraduate
    2) Top Financial service program internship @ Junior yr summer (Under)
    3) Great great intersts to be a investor(!)

    Any chance to break into VC as a fresh graduate? Network-network-network?

    Great Thanks!

    • says

      It’s not a great idea to do that because doing VC first limits your exit opportunities after that… better to start off in banking

  15. Chris says

    Hey Brian,

    The article mentioned that doing investment banking is one way to break in. Just wondering if VC cares about the group in IB. TMT & Healthcare probably have an advantage, but what about the other groups? Would something like M&A have a significant advantage over say ECM? Thanks.

    • says

      M&A is slightly better than ECM but for VC there isn’t a huge difference since the deals are so simple. Other groups outside TMT and Healthcare would all be about the same.

  16. John Smith says

    Hi Mergers and Inquisitions,

    Do you guys know of any venture capital firms that invest in education companies?

    I know more about educational methods, structures, institutions, etc. than anyone I know. Considering that people are trying to make a profit off rather unproven educational methods (i.e. University of Phoenix, Alliant University, Noveau Riche University, etc.), I’m guessing I could be a great guy in venture capital that could differentiate start-ups with great methods from the universities with terrible methods of instruction.

    • says

      I’m sure there are some, but I don’t have a list or anything – would just search online or look up VC firms on Capital IQ.

  17. Josh says

    My question is the following. I am currently working on a JD/MBA from a top 50 Law school/Top 80 MBA program.

    I had the numbers to get into a Top 15 MBA program, but didn’t apply until I was already done with my first year of law school, and didn’t have the law GPA required to transfer to one of those T15 school’s law programs.

    So… I am not in a TOP MBA program, like this article talks about. However, I am very very very interested in working for a VC firm. My experience, however, has only been in law related jobs (clerking for attorney’s) and working non-degree jobs (customer service/sales for a .com, etc.) I have 2.5 years left in this joint JD/MBA program. What sort of summer/part time opportunities should I be looking for to help break into the world of VC/PE?

    • says

      Maybe try to work at a tech company doing something related to law or finance and then spin that experience to explain your interest in VC.

  18. Anon says

    I have about 3 years experience as a PM at a big tech company. I also am getting ready to begin an entrepreneurial venture on the side, and applying to a few top MBA programs.

    I’ve spoken with the head of a VC shop to better understand ways to break in, and it seems like I’m doing all the right kinds of things, but I am still debating the MBA. Based on the conversation I had, the benefits are primarily contacts, some basic financial skills, and credibility.

    However, couldn’t I gain contacts and credibility by building up an awesome startup? Wouldn’t those same financial skills be something I could pick up reading a few books?

    Essentially my overarching question is: if my goal is to ultimately make partner at a VC firm, is an MBA going to be necessary? Would that time and money be better spent working on a startup, or is there something I am missing about the MBA that is perhaps less tangible?

  19. John says

    Hi Brian,
    Love the site, first time commenter.
    What other industries besides Tech and Pharma/Bio do VC firms focus on? And why isn’t there more diverse range of industries?

  20. Dre60 says

    I had a phone info interview with a Venture Capital Funds of Fund Manager. He adviced to work in operations at a start-up company and help them grow becuase the best way to learn is to be in their shoes; work at a successful start-up and learn what it takes to start a company.
    They favor the CFA and discourage MBA.
    They favor Management Consultants over Investment Bankers because Management Consultants try to optimize business performance while Investment Bankers are mostly concerned with marketing/saling/buying businesses and generating fees.

  21. AJ says

    Would working as an engineer/software guy in a startup funded by big-name VCs be useful if I later want to break into VC?

  22. Jackofalltrades says

    Hello Mergers and Inquisitions,

    First off, great job with the site! Keep up the good work.

    Secondly, what type of maneuvering would a consultant from a firm like Accenture, IBM, or Deloitte have to do to get into VC/PE? Would it help if that consultant has an finance undergrad degree from a top b-school and has demonstrated interest in tech? Thanks!

  23. Constantine says

    Happy New Year! I’ve been following this site since a while now. Loved the Leveraged Sellout video.

    I’ve been admitted to several top 5 MBA programs in the US. Background so far is hardcore Oil & Gas. Started out as an engineer with an upstream service provider and then did some business development and operations/project management.

    Is it realistic for me to try and break into the VC space – I’m looking at places like Shell Tech Ventures, Chevron Ventures, and Braemar Energy Ventures to name a few places where someone like me might “fit”. What about IB with a focus on energy – I assume this is a also quite a lucrative field?

    My weaknesses – a non-existent network. Working in upstream Oil & Gas implies that your “business contacts” are, metaphorically, roughnecks. Another major issue – zero finance background. Will the MBA be enough of a shot in the arm to make the move?

    Do I have to sell out and be a consultant?

    ~ Constantine

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Cold call and build you network. Gain an internship in finance via your MBA program. An MBA will be pretty useful in your case.

  24. Nervous says

    Hey there,

    I have an interview at a VC firm coming. I am an software nerd and got my interview through networking. Any idea what kind of questions I may expect?

  25. Jose Luis says

    Hi Brian. Great info. What would you recommend to someone who is looking to do some PE before going into VC… Since NY is probably the best place for PE would it be probable to move to the west coast to do some VC afterwards? Or would it be better to do some PE in the west coast despite not being the best location, but improving your options for getting hired at a VC firm.


      • Jose Luis says

        Well my plan is to do some PE first and then breaking into VC, which will be my industry of focus ultimately. But the thing is that i’m not too keen on doing PE in the WC cause most of the top firms are in NY (right?). If this is the case, how hard would it be to get hired to do some VC afterwards in the WC? I know PE profile is OK for VC but what about the geographic barriers in the recruitment process?

        Let me know what your thoughts are.


        • M&I - Nicole says

          Most top firms have offices in NY but I believe there are some good firms in WC too.

          I don’t think the geographical barrier matters too much (given the same country) though I may be wrong. If you get your name out there, you’ll get hired as long as you’re good

  26. Jimmy says

    I am currently 6 years out of undergrad (engineering/state school) and I have experiences in IT and consumer products. I am currently in a mid level management position for a lucrative division at my company. So I’ve built a foundation in people management, account management, and technology. About to round out myself by beginning in a 1st tier emba program. I’m interested in breaking into the vc industry specifically social venture capitalism. Given my experiences, what are my chances and do you have tips on how to go about entering this field?

  27. Sean says

    I am a 27 year old sales professional in the medical device sector, #1 in the country to be clear. I have been with 2 amazing start-ups (as a sales consultant)from early stages who have become very successful, one IPO and another with 9 figure offers. I found both companies researching online. Within the last year I have personally raised over 3 million for start-up companies and only taken equity as compensation. My interest are joining a VC firm however I carry no Ivy league education nor quantitative financial background. What chances do I have, what steps can I take?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I think you should try approaching VC firms now. Speak w them re your experiences and see what their thoughts are!

  28. Chris says

    Venture Debt – Can someone speak on that as an exit opportunity to banking? My goal would be to work in venture capital as a career. Does venture debt position me well for it? Start-ups?

  29. Silverback says

    Have an offer with DB Leveraged Finance desk in London, but ultimately want to end up at a top Silicon Valley VC fund (Accel, Sequoia, KPCB etc).

    Just wondering if I can go straight from LevFin to VC? Will coming from an all-credit background kill my chances?

    Would my chances be any better if I were to do PE or B-School after my analyst stint and then try for VC?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Do you have industry and/or startup experience? These two will be helpful. For most top Silicon Valley Funds I believe a background and strong interest in technology are crucial. VCs also like people w operational background

      I think the above are more important than having PE/bschool experience. Of course getting in a top Bschool (i’d think Stanford in this case) could help, esp if you live in Silicon Valley…

  30. Anonymous says

    Is it possible to go into venture capital after getting an MBA, even if pre-MBA experience was not investment banking, consulting, or something tech/biotech related? I realize it depends on the firm and who the hiring managers are–some may be ex-bankers and would prefer MBA candidates with pre-MBA banking experience–but isn’t the point of the MBA to switch around the career? I guess it bottles down to the following:

    A: asset management + MBA
    B: sales and trading + MBA
    C: capital markets + MBA
    D: IBD + MBA

    Is it possible for options A,B,C, to get into VC post-MBA? How much of an advantage would option D have over the other three?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I don’t think any one of them really helps. D would be useful if you want to break into PE. Some industry groups in IBD (like tech and healthcare) may help you break into VC given the industry knowledge and technical skills you acquire, though you’d have to network a lot and demonstrate your ability to succeed in VC.

      This link may help –

      • Anonymous says

        So would it not be possible to get into a VC firm post-MBA if your pre-MBA was AM/S&T/CMO? Would it be better to do corp. fin for a Fortune 500 before MBA then? Just curious because I’ve always thought you could spin the MBA towards most career changes.

        • M&I - Nicole says

          No, I don’t think its impossible. Yes an MBA is useful toward most career changes, though it isn’t always easy to break into VC. They typically look for people with a genuine passion in technology and ex-entrepreneurs (whether they failed or succeeded).

  31. Alex says

    Dear Nicole

    I graduated with a Business degree from KCL in 2003. I tried finding a job in banking & finance in my home country (hong kong) for some time but was largely unsuccessful. I joined the family business of export & trading of commodities and sundries to West Africa. Business picked up from 2004 to 2007 and was good. Since the financial crisis in 2008, a lot has changed within the landscape to make me realize and question the future of export & trading today having been settled in the family business since. I am going to be 31 this year. I have applied for a masters degree in investment management at Cass Business School. I am worried by the time i finish (when i turn 32), i will be considered very old for a associate-entry position within Venture Capital / Private Equity / Private Banking or technical analysis….

    1. what are the starting compensation packages for associate

    2. could you explain the career path or progression in Venture Capital / Private Equity / Private Banking

    3. do you think i would be too old to break-in as an associate at 32 ?

    Kindly please advise what you think….


  32. Tony P says

    Hi Nicole,

    Her is my profile:
    -24 yrs old with a BA in finance, 3 years of total work experience between work at Countrywide, Fidelity Invesmtents, and TD AMERITRADE
    -1 year of work experience in solar
    -A MSc from a top 30 business school focusing on international business
    - 1 year of work experience with Ericsson as a business analyst in our north america acquisitions group and 6 months of experience in a Consulting rotation.

    Would it be best to apply for the analyst or associate role when I approach prospective VC’s considering my profile?

    Also, would it be a bit too much to physically drop off a resume in person and really make an impression? This has worked fairly well in my previous attempts.


  33. Tyler says


    I’m an engineer undergrad with entrepreneurship experience and have been networking in that sector throughout my 4 years in school. I have a strong chance at an entry level venture-capital job (boutique IB internship, and internship at a portfolio company of this firm, plus entrepreneurship background and network). I have also been learning (will soon complete) Wall Street Prep’s Financial Training course, so I am learning modeling as well.

    This firm’s focus is on early-stage investments but is also one of the nation’s most active early-stage investors. My worry is with going directly into early-stage VC, does that put me in any sort of disadvantage with future career growth? I may not want to stay in early-stage my whole life, I may want to go to later-stage or a bigger firm in general but wont have investment banking experience. How about top MBA chances?

    I should mention that my passion is in VC, I’m not really the IB type of person. However, I’m the type of person that will do whatever it takes, so I was only going to IB as a route to get me into VC eventually.

    Any comments on this type of situation is appreciated!

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I wouldn’t worry too much. I’d wait for the firm’s response. If you can get the job, I’d do it unless you have strong passion elsewhere or better opportunities on your plate. Yes it can help you with getting into a top tier MBA but it depends on your whole application

  34. Roman Odarich says

    Brian, hi!

    Thanks for the interview – very useful. When are you planning to publish the next part?

    On breaking into VC: I have an Equity Research background in oils and banking (each of them for a year or so), I graduated Imperial College in London with an MSc in Finance, and currently work in Russia. My undergrad was also finance. I recently became interested in VC and I’m looking to switch soon. I’m very interested in the tech sector, but don’t have much experience there.

    What channels do you think will work best for me? I’m thinking of trying out VC firms in Russia and maybe Europe (probably the UK). Thanks!

  35. Roman Odarich says

    Brian, hi!

    Thanks for the interview – this was very revealing and helpful. When are you planning to publish part 2?

    On breaking into VC: I have an Equity Research background in oil and gas and banking in Russia (both for one year or so). I graduated Imperial College with an MSc in Finance, my undergrad was also finance. I don’t like my job, and I’m looking for exit opportunities – I really want to shift to the buy-side.

    I became interested in VCs and start-ups recently, even launched a small personal operation to help start-up firms find financing in Russia. That’s when I figured I would very much interested in joining a VC firm, but I have no background in tech.

    What do you think would be my best shot at it?
    Any tips?


  36. Aized says

    I am a physician with no business background trying to rebrand myself by going to a top mba program. What do you think I should do to make sure I catch the attention of vc companies?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      At your MBA program, I’d tap into the alumn network and start contacting VCs and arranging informational interviews/coffee which allow you to better understand the industry and get your name out there.

  37. Silverback says

    Can you help me decide: GS ECM vs Houlihan Lokey M&A for VC in US? Both roles are in London, but ultimately I want to end up working in VC in the US.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Congrats on your offers! This is a great place to be, though I can understand it must be frustrating. You can’t go wrong either way. I’d choose the latter if VC is your ultimate goal. Otherwise, GS ECM offers an amazing name and will open you plenty of doors, especially if you’re interested in learning about IPOs & secondaries.

  38. Cheteshwar Pujara says

    Hi M&I team,

    You mentioned above that “In private equity – at least in the US – the 3 major recruiting firms are SG Partners, CPI, and the Oxbridge Group”.

    Can you mention names of some of the more prominent recruiting firms (headhunters?) for hedge fund recruitment?

    Many Thanks!

  39. Sarah says

    Hi Brian and Nicole,

    Thank you for a great article. I have a couple of questions for you. Btw I’m a rising senior in undergrad and currently on my summer internship in the financial sector.

    1. Assuming that I have an offer, what are some of the pros and cons of entering a VC firm right out of undergrad?
    2. Also, how would you know if the particular VC firm is worth starting your career in?
    4. Would coming from a VC background increase one’s chance of going to a top MBA vs consulting or IB background?
    5. If a managing partner initiated contact with you and took you out for lunches and golf while elaborating on his firm and discussing live deals, does that mean he interested in taking you on (even if I didn’t apply)? If so, how would I seal the deal and get him to hire me?


  40. Ram says

    Hi, I am presently interning with a accelerator-angel investor in India. I have a BSc Financial Maths degree but with a low Gpa. I am considering to do Actuary or Chartered Accountant course. I am unsure that which one will be more suitable for me to get into venture capital firm as an analyst. Or do I require MBA? What do you have to say about Master in Engineering Management programs by Stanford & MIT?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Yes an MBA from a target school will help you. Having tech and entrepreneurial experience will also help. Yes that degree may help. I’d choose Stanford because its closer to Silicon Valley with lots of VC connections so it maybe easier for you to network.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      Babson is famous for its “entrepreneurial” focus. I’m not sure what goes into the rankings, though Harvard and Stanford alums, in my experience, are prominent in the VC community.

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I am 100% sure though I believe IBM consulting may have a better brand name vs. PwC if you want to break into VC.

  41. Silverback says

    Just wondering, do VCs like to hire with people with a equity research background (say you’d spent 1 or 2 years doing equity research)?

    • says

      Sometimes, yes, but overall they probably favor people with operational experience and general IB or consulting backgrounds a bit more since the perception is that your skill set is broader.

  42. JB says

    I have strong clinical and sales background with fortune 100, as well as with a VC funded portfolio company. Late 30′s, about to graduate with an Elite Executive MBA.
    Strong understanding of the technology and business.. trying to enter the VC business.

    any recommendations?
    road blocks i should anticipate?

    Thank you.

  43. Daniel says

    Is there a particular product group or industry group within ibanking, like TMT or ECM, that VC funds value more/ gives you the most relevant experience?

    • M&I - Nicole says

      I’d say TMT, especially since most VC funds are tech focused. There are some which focuses on other industries like consumer, healthcare, etc.

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