How to break into the venture capital ecosystem

Wondering how to break into venture capital? Here’s some advice from the leaders who have made their own way in and are supporting others to find their way.

“When you’re in the wrong, just listen. And be very patient because it’s such a long game in venture. 

“And you have to be obsessed. People in venture capital are very passionate. I think the best people are obsessed with this world and they let it become their world. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Of course, it’s important to have a work-life balance, but if you love it, it’s okay to say you love it. 

“There are a lot of resources out there and great programs, such as the Newton Venture Program. There’s no reason to not know things. Be educated. Be informed. I’ve got this email list for people who want to get into venture capital – books you should read, podcasts you should listen to, news that you subscribe to, events and so on.”

Andy Davis, co-founder, 10×10 

“What’s great about venture capital and the venture ecosystem is that there are so many different entry routes which allow for different opinions and different backgrounds. 

“It’s helpful to have an area that you’re passionate about. For me, that’s deep tech, neuro-tech and synthetic biology. 

“Start speaking to people in the space. People are getting more open and happy to chat. We’re trying to move away from that typical ‘old boys club’ so to speak, and have more opinions around the table because, ultimately, it creates better outcomes for everyone involved. So, be open and let’s see how we can help build the younger generation up.

Leonora Ross-Skinner, associate, Molten Ventures

“Go get a project! You don’t have to be a tech-transfer person to really get involved in a tech-transfer project. Show your keenness, your competence, your commitment and get going with a project – then you’ve got something to talk about.

“Edward de Bono once said that to be successful you have to be lucky, or a little mad, or very talented, or find yourself in a rapid-growth field. For me, I found myself in a high-growth area, so it was relatively easy to get into tech transfer. It didn’t exist and there weren’t many people who saw it as a valid career path. Nowadays, competition is much fiercer for these jobs because it is seen as a valid and legitimate career choice for people who’ve got PhDs or post-doctorates”

Jeff Skinner, executive director, Institute of Entrepreneurship and Private Capital at London Business School

“It’s going to take time and trust in the process. Start networking with other VCs, at all stages, and make sure you’re taking notes on what they invest in. 

“Start meeting companies and evaluating companies, and when you find the company that makes sense, start triaging and making introductions.”

Mac Conwell, founder & MD, Rarebreed Ventures

“As a VC, you need analytical skills and numeracy skills, but they are not the only ones needed. Venture capital is very much a people business – it’s about deploying capital behind the entrepreneurs and the people working in the startup who are going to make the difference.

“Anyone with a STEM degree who has an aspiration to become a venture investor should teach themselves basic finance (or find a mentor who can teach them). In other words, learn the fundamentals of the balance sheet and profit and loss, and understand how they play out in company operations.”

Robin Klein, founding partner, LocalGlobe

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