It's that time of year when I get about 2-3 weekly requests to meet for "coffee" with current students or recent grads who want to get into venture capital. I've found myself giving the same advice time and time again (as have others), so I decided to write a quick post with a few words of guidance.
#1. Build an orthogonal network
The value of a junior person at a venture firm is that he or she often has an orthogonal (meaning, in this case, non-redundant) network, compared to the aggregate of the firm. Unless a partner is looking for someone to simply execute on his own deal flow (which can be the case), that partner is really looking for someone who can bring in net new deals.
What that means is that you need to start building an orthogonal network immediately. Think about your unique advantage: Where you grew up, where you studied, where you worked, how old you are, etc. As Malcolm Gladwell says in Outliers, "Who we are can not be separated from where we're from." Use where you're from to your advantage.
#2. Build an expertise and develop an opinion
The wonderful thing about technology is that something new is always popping up that no one fully understands. We backed a CEO who told me a little while ago that someone applied to his company with "4 years of iOS development experience," to which he responded: "Either you're lying, or you're Steve Jobs." iOS had only existed for 3 years at that point.
Start following all the blogs in your industry of interest and get to know all the key players. Talk to entrepreneurs in that space (use the old "I'm a student" excuse) and ask them who they compete with and how they see the market evolving. Develop an insight that is 50% gleaned from the market and 50% your own.
#3. Come bearing gifts
Like the Greeks, if you want to open the gates of Troy, it's helpful to come bearing gifts. The currency of the venture industry is introductions to exciting entrepreneurs. Take the results of #1 and #2 and generate a source of warm leads for a couple VCs you want to work with.
I guarantee that an offer to introduce an entrepreneur will get a higher hit rate in terms of VCs returning your call. 60% of the time, it works every time.
So, happy job hunting. And if you land a job in the venture industry, let me know. I'd enjoy welcoming you to the fold.
Alex Taussig is a Principal with Highland Capital Partners and invests in early stage technology companies. You can find this blog post, as well as additional content on his blog ataussig.com. You can also follow Alex on Twitter @ataussig.