It took 10 years from when I hoped to become a venture capital investor to when I actually became one.
Ten long years of hanging on the hoop, trying to get in, a VC desperado.
It’s a pretty typical story: I studied books and articles, listened to podcasts about the greats, made mock-portfolio spreadsheets and learned a lot of VC jargon (series, trap caps, SAFEs…).
And somewhere along the way I even switched to flats (Allbirds of course!), branded T-shirts and backpacks.
What a VC wannabe! I still couldn’t get a Guernsey. Because I was all wrong…
If I had my time again, now that I’ve been on the inside of a venture firm for several years, I’d do things differently.
Here’s what I understand about business today that I just didn’t understand at the time:
- The check is the least important a venture investor brings a founder. The much more valuable and finite resources to invest are really your time, your network, and your emotional fortitude
- Venture building is a craft, learning is in doing. You can only learn so much second hand. The way you get good at business building is to build businesses
- When a company starts aand there are only 1 or 2 people, practically any help is helpful, generally you don’t have to be an expert in something to bring value
- The best way to weed out great founders is on the recommendation of other great founders, and it takes many years to earn that kind of trust (deservedly so)
- Venture is to serve, support, helpG. You sing backup and when you’re working with a great founder, you better keep hitting the high notes because you’re lucky to be on stage.
- Venture investors listen to smart people in the ecosystem – angels, advisors, mentors, accelerator program managers and many more. You don’t need a checkbook to get our attention, we’re happy to read your ideas on blogs or catch up over a cup of coffee. If we learn from you, we will visit you
- When you evaluate candidates to hire from a venture capital fund you can tell the people with real experience building a business a mile away. It shines through their application
With all that in mind, here’s what I’d recommend if you’re reading this and want to become a venture investor: don’t wait for clearance like I did. You don’t need a venture fund job to become a talented business builder. You can shave off ten years and just decide to start today.
Look for a founder who is so electric you can’t work with her. Perhaps the whole company is just her at the moment. Offer a hand. For nothing to begin with. Just help out in the free time you can spend. And believe in her. Be a deep well of baseless beliefs, especially when things feel rocky at first.
Stretch yourself from the smallest tasks to the most strategic, effortlessly and without ego.
In other words, go do the rough, unglamorous, authentic work of a venture investor and don’t worry too much about applying for jobs, we’ll find you.