Venture Capital Can Really Help You Break Into Entrepreneurship

by David Cummins Ankit Garg, and Linus Chung

This chapter is a free excerpt from The Best Book on Getting Into Venture Capital.

This article details what perspective one should have about a venture capital position.
  • Venture capital isn’t typically a field you build a career in.
  • A job in venture capital should be viewed as a learning experience, rather than a career.
  • Venture capital is the ideal starting point for entrepreneurship.
  • Working hard as an associate can mean that somewhere down the line, you could come back as a partner.
  • The knowledge and experience gained from Venture Capital can be beneficial to virtually any career path.
Before you go into your job as an associate, it’s important to figure out if you actually want to work in venture capital in more than just the capacity of an analyst or associate at a venture capital firm. It really helps if you’d like to be an entrepreneur someday, or plan to eventually work at a start-up(potentially one in the firm’s portfolio). They love to see that sort of ambition. Why, you may ask?

Because, in all likelihood, the job you’re taking at this firm is temporary.

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This article details what perspective one should have about a venture capital position.
  • Venture capital isn’t typically a field you build a career in.
  • A job in venture capital should be viewed as a learning experience, rather than a career.
  • Venture capital is the ideal starting point for entrepreneurship.
  • Working hard as an associate can mean that somewhere down the line, you could come back as a partner.
  • The knowledge and experience gained from Venture Capital can be beneficial to virtually any career path.
Before you go into your job as an associate, it’s important to figure out if you actually want to work in venture capital in more than just the capacity of an analyst or associate at a venture capital firm. It really helps if you’d like to be an entrepreneur someday, or plan to eventually work at a start-up(potentially one in the firm’s portfolio). They love to see that sort of ambition. Why, you may ask?

Because, in all likelihood, the job you’re taking at this firm is temporary.

Venture capital isn’t typically a field that you build a career in. At least, not as an associate. If you’re going to build a career in it, you’ll come in as a partner and remain a partner throughout your time in the firm. You might be promoted to senior partner at some point, but you’ll remain a partner, just the same.

The industry isn’t really that big on promotion.

Rising through the ranks and becoming rich and powerful...that simply isn’t in the cards for an associate. Think of entry-level venture capital as a learning experience, not a long-term career. Don’t go in with the intent of eventually getting promoted to partner—that almost never happens.

Instead, ask yourself what it is about the position that makes it better than your previous job. Think about what you can gain from working here. Consider your long—term goals, and how an associate position at a firm will contribute to these goals.

Because there are a lot of places you can go once you’ve worked at a VC firm.

What Is Venture Capital, If Not A Career?

Working at a venture capital firm nets you a great deal of experience in the industry the firm focuses on. As a result, VC is an ideal platform for launching yourself into the start-up space in that industry. The skills and knowledge you gain from a VC firm are integral in an entrepreneurial environment.

Starting a company is hard (http://www.paulgraham.com/startupmistakes.html). There’s a whole list of things that can go wrong; a seemingly trivial error can end up killing a start-up in the long run. The skills you learn as a venture capitalist, along with more traditional experience, can help you dodge the risks of start-up learning.

If you’re interested in venture capital as a long term thing, it’s great to have some experience and contacts in the field. You can go back to this network of folks that you worked with at a later date, and potentially come back as a partner at the firm.

You can build your earlier career as an accomplished investor in growth-stage companies or invest in private equity, then come in with a solid base of expertise in growth equity for later stage investment. Or you can come in with experience as an entrepreneur yourself or someone who was instrumental in the success of start-up companies. You can give insights from past experience to entrepreneurs, having been in a similar position.

Let’s say you don’t want to be a partner or an entrepreneur. What good, then, is venture capital?

Even if you don’t want to work at a start-up or eventually end up as a partner at a venture capital firm, it’s worth working in the field. If you work hard as an associate, build relationships, and gain knowledge, those skills and contacts will benefit you in any career you end up pursuing.

In Closing

Thinking about a venture capital position as a long-term career with the possibility of promotion is, quite simply, wrong. Unless you come in as a partner, a job in this fast-moving, high-risk industry is almost always a temporary thing. Instead of considering your position a career, consider it a learning experience. Think about what you’ll take away from the position, and how it will help you in your future endeavors.

Ultimately, think of venture capital as a stepping stone to greater things.
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