Funding questions aside, there’s another question that VCs seem to consistently answer: How did you get into the venture capital industry?
Layoffs from the big tech companies have led to a renewed interest in VC as a career path. With the industry’s strong push for impact companies, there is now a very real opportunity to help companies solve the world’s most pressing problems and influence their work in shaping the future.
Given the wide variety of people and backgrounds that end up in VC, there really isn’t one clear cut way in. So, what can you do to set yourself up for success?
At the recent Wholesale Investor Emergence conference, I chatted with four great Australian VCs – Adah Yin from AirTree, Sarah Moore from Investible, Pearl Paguio of Carthona Capital and Georgia Healey from x15ventures – about their journey in the industry.
Here are my main takeaways.
1. Identify your’Why’
Sure, it’s a ‘cool’ industry, but what about getting your blood pumping faster? Why this specific fund?
Is it your obsession with B2B SaaS, your passion for climate technology or your experience of the impact health technology can have on people’s lives?
Focusing on your personal North Star and the values you would add to a fund will help you articulate it better your unique value proposition in breaking out of what can be a competitive, fast-paced industry.
A strong focus will also help in a role with constant context changes and ingrained ambiguity.
2. Embrace and relearn genuine curiosity
As we get older, we often lose the childhood instinct for curiosity about the world around us, and the pressure to be an expert causes us to break away from the concept of “beginner’s mind.”
To be a good VC you have to be constantly open to learning new things and challenging your beliefs.
The likelihood of you identifying a successful business is influenced by how genuinely open you are to learning about new industries, the drivers of successful start-ups, and the challenges founders face.
While people often think that VC is about ‘asking the right questions’, there are often no ‘right questions’ – just what you and your team decide you need to know to be convinced early on.
3. Figure out where you add value
VC teams are often very small, with each person carrying a significant amount of responsibility for the successful functioning of the team.
These teams are often built on complementary skills – so what’s unique about what you offer?
Is it a passion for climate-focused deep tech, experience in founding your own startup, or the fact that you are the resident FITS (Freak In The Spreadsheets)?
Ask yourself: What unique insight into certain opportunities do I have, given my background and experiences, that could lead to excessive returns?
5. Build genuine relationships
As a VC, you must build strong relationships with entrepreneurs, other investors and industry leaders. This means networking, attending conferences and building your own personal brand.
People approach this in different ways, but if you want to play the long game, we always recommend being kind and helping others.
When you share resources and add value where it is unexpected, you become the connective tissue that brings people and communities together.
Building or contributing to networks of people who care about things you care about is a great way to make a meaningful, positive impact.
5. Be the change you want to see in the VC world
Do you think it is important to tackle the biodiversity crisis? Apply to funds with a biodiversity mandate.
Want to work for a big name or corporate VC, but wish they did more to support diverse founders? Show how you can help them close this gap through your unique connection with founders from underserved backgrounds.
Capital allocators play a vital role in building the future, so it’s important to know what you stand for and advocate for investing in that future.
Where to now?
With all this in mind, if you’re looking for opportunities to make an impact in the world of VC, Oliver Bazzani compiles a biweekly roundup of industry jobs.
There are a few junior positions open at the moment, so the timing couldn’t be better.
You can also keep up to date with the funds you are interested in by subscribing to newsletters such as those from Giant Leap Small stepsor other industry-focused newsletters such as Climate Tech VC.
Or look out for podcasts like Hunter Watkins’ Abstractionwhere he is currently exploring the topic of carbon.