Venture capital jobs are rare to come by. Often, open positions are hidden internally within VC firms, offering limited visibility for those looking to get a foot in the door.
However, with the right preparation and experience, it is possible to land a coveted VC role – especially an entry level one. But what roles are there, what does VC involve on a daily basis and how do you get a foothold in the industry?
Venture capital job roles
There are numerous job titles in VC, and they change depending on the firm. “The VC space is very diverse,” Angelika Burawska, chief operating officer of SFC Capital says. “We have early-stage and later-stage investors, and they are very, very different. So a job in one VC may be very different to a job in another.
“There will be roles related to deal origination, deal-making, financial analysis, due diligence research, investor relationships, fundraising and compliance-related roles which are more specialised. You’ll have portfolio managers or associates dealing only with companies who have already received investment, and finally supportive roles in marketing, administration, and assistants which can be an entry point for people starting a VC career.”
A VC firm will include other internal operation roles such as talent specialists, however, for simplification, typical VC roles include the following.
Partners are owners of a VC firm and therefore have the final say in which companies the firm backs. It is the most senior position in venture capital.
Main responsibilities of partners include fundraising from a pool of investors. This means the fund needs to be marketed and discussions need to be had with those investors as to how much capital they’re going to commit – a process that can take up to 12 months.
In the marketing process, potential investors will want to view any marketing documents and financial due diligence of the company they are looking to invest in.
Principals are senior members of a VC firm who meet entrepreneurs and work closely with them post investment. They are chiefly responsible for the identification and vetting of investment opportunities. They will review the due diligence work carried out by associates before negotiating terms with a start-up.
At a more junior level are associates. They are typically the face of a firm at events and are the first filter of dealflow into a VC, reviewing pitchbooks and guiding any promising opportunities to the attention of principals.
Associates will be responsible for carrying out due diligence and analysis into a firm.
Analysts are the most junior employees in a VC firm, assisting at all stages of the dealmaking process. They carry out due diligence on start-ups.
What a job at a VC firm involves
“In venture capital, every day is different,” says Laura Willming, head of portfolio talent at Octopus Ventures. “In it you are working with highly ambitious and visionary founders who are more often than not challenging the status quo. This means that in VC you are also constantly learning and honing your perspective on how to scale a business.”
Here are some typical responsibilities.
Many VCs are different in how they meet entrepreneurs. Some have meetings, others go for coffee, and one I’ve spoken to prefers beer and a walk in the park. In any case, they all do it.
These meetings are used – presuming they’ve already fitted the bill in terms of sector and growth stats – to suss out what it is the founder needs most (other than cash).
Increasing network for deal flow
A reason founders are willing to give up a slice of equity to a VC firm other than capital is because the network can open up doors to all sorts of possibilities. Whether it’s a network for supply chains, outsourcing, regulation or scaling, you’ll have to build a thick book of contacts you can call on to help founders when the time comes.
Build expertise in a certain area
Pitching isn’t just a one-way street in the world of VC. A big selling point for VCs to entice the most promising founders is their knowledge into a sector or space – and you’d have to find your niche.
Sell value-add of their fund
Talking to many VCs, they are quick to point out they are “more than just money”. A VC’s network is invaluable to many start-ups, as is their entrepreneurial experience, specialist knowledge and support through the hard times.
Support portfolio companies
“In our team we work closely with the founders we invest in, and in doing so are able to share our expertise and insights from scaling companies,” Willming says. “It can be quite a creative process because you need to be thinking about how to build unique organisations. No one company is the same, and the culture that you build is just as important to the business you create as any proprietary technology or IP that you develop.”
The day in a life of a venture capitalist
Angelika Burawska, SFC Capital:
“When I think about our typical day at SFC, that would start with a team meeting where we discuss how things are progressing – pipeline of investments, the next tranche of fundraising, etc. We check how we’re doing, if there are any issues and what we need to discuss. That will be for one to two hours and then everyone will go back to their working space and analyse opportunities or situations of companies depending on their job. There will typically be a couple of calls or meetings a day with external parties and emails – a lot of emails.
“Sometimes there are events, but this is a typical day.”
Laura Willming, Octopus Ventures:
“For me, I wake up and review the to do list I made the night before. Generally, I have one or two networking meetings, meetings about projects with portfolio companies, and meetings with investors about new investments or other topics. I have a few hours to do some head-down work, and if I’m lucky I can spend some time doing research and learning. Overall though, every day is different!”
How do you get into venture capital?
Job adverts for venture capital analysts typically ask candidates to have two to three years’ finance experience under their belt. This can be from banking, economics or investment.
According to Indeed, the first step is to get a finance-related degree. Then, it’s about gaining experience through internships at venture capital firms to build knowledge and improve investment accuracy.
In many cases, however, Burawska says it isn’t graduates fresh out of university that apply and land VC roles, but founders.
“They’ve had their journey with start-ups and think, that’s great but it’s too tough or it’s not for me for now or they want to better understand an industry first – they look for jobs still within that business world [without] running a business,” she says. “Entrepreneurs can pick up very quickly at earlier stages of investments.”
If you don’t have the degree or financial certifications, all is not lost either, Burawska adds. “You still need an understanding of financial documents like cashflow forecasts, profit and loss accounts, balance sheets and so on but you don’t need certifications because early-stage companies have little commercial history – there’s not much to analyse,” she explains. “You still need to have numerical, research and analytical skills to be able to assess an opportunity but that doesn’t need to be certified through, say, an ACCA degree – that comes later. You need curiosity and an interest in start-ups.”
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