Ever wondered how best to break into venture capital? Here is some advice from the leaders who have done so and continue to support those who are trying to.
‘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 VC 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 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 VC: books you should read, podcasts you should listen to, news that you subscribe to, events etc’
‘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 said once 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’
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 capitalist 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.