Venture capital (VC) has always been an attractive sector for some IESE MBAs, but it is also a sector where recruiting is mostly unstructured. How can one successfully navigate this career transition? In this post Kevin Peer, MBA Class of 2022 who completed his summer internship in VC shares his personal experience so far with some honest advice on what to expect.
Can you please tell us about your background? How did you leverage your past experience to secure your summer internships?
My background is not a traditional background for Venture Capital (VC). When I was starting at IESE, I was told that consultants, investment bankers, people with start-up experience or deep sector knowledge get chosen to work in VC. This is true, and it certainly helps, but it’s not the only way to break in! I worked in IT at a manufacturing company for a little over four years prior to my VC internships.
I think what is fundamentally important is the story you have to tell. While on the surface it may seem like my experience is not very relevant to VC, when I explain that I held several roles working with cutting-edge technologies, including a role on the IT M&A team, my experience begins to become interesting. Explaining that I conducted due diligence, observed business models that worked (and didn’t), and provided value creation for acquired companies, my experience becomes even potentially unique and attractive for a VC. Whether you have a traditional background or not, you need to create a story that makes you relevant, and then you need to give yourself the chance to tell that story.
Can you please describe your job search internship process? What resources at IESE helped you?
I started early, and I think it was the right decision for me because I knew very little about VC: I just knew that I wanted to explore it. I started talking to IESE second years and alumni the summer before starting the MBA. I then started talking to professors and anyone I could about “impact investing” until the end of October. After that, I took the “Training the Street” course and joined most of the finance investment banking prep because I also had absolutely no financial background. While I may not have retained most of the content, I still think it was worth it. Next, I started cold calling on LinkedIn and reaching out to second connections through the CDC, second years, or alumni about internships. Lastly, I attended the CDC Career Forum in February, at which both my internship companies hosted sessions.
What did you learn during your summer internship experience? What was a typical day like?
It is not typical to pursue two summer internships (nor is it always feasible) but I loved both of my internships. I love using a critical mindset and having energetic conversations with entrepreneurs who are passionately developing the “next big thing”
For both my VC internship and my growth equity internship, I was responsible for what I’ll say is the “early stage” of the investment process. Founders and accelerators would send us 1-3 pitch decks a day that I would look at to gauge our appetite. If they were interesting, I would draft several initial questions and request to speak with the founder. After the initial call, if it was still interesting, I would send a more detailed list of questions requesting more information (historical and forecasted financial model, development plan, sales plan, hiring plan, cap table, etc). After receiving this information and deeming it was still attractive, I would do some financial modelling to test investment scenarios. Throughout the entire process, it was beneficial to question literally everything. After all of this, if the investment team was still interested, I would develop a pitch or an investment memorandum for our investment committee. Past that, I didn’t get much exposure.
I’ll say, I often leveraged learnings from the cases I did in the MBA when looking at companies. Operational finance was particularly helpful.
Great that you could apply your learnings from your first year during your internships. Looking back, what else can you share about your first year MBA experience?
I’ll admit, the first year of the MBA was tough. But it wasn’t tough because of external factors; the academic workload is a lot, but not overwhelming (once you realize you can’t put 3 hours into every case like some might suggest 😉) No, the first year was tough mostly because of the internal desire to do more, the pressure of always needing to do something/never turning off, and the COVID curfew removing social outlets and adding additional anxiety. It’s also a transitional period for many – not knowing exactly what to do “for the rest of your life” I think puts people in a more unbalanced state.
That being said, it was definitely a transformative year that I enjoyed, grew from, and am grateful for. Also, really do trust the process 😊
Finally, do you have any advice for students or applicants who are targeting VCs for their internships or full time roles?
Yes. When people tell you VC is all about networking, really do take it seriously. I can’t stress this point enough – you need to get facetime with people that work in VC. You need to be able to talk the talk, and that happens through talking with VCs. So many smart, qualified people that attend prestigious schools apply to VC, so there is virtually nothing that helps you stand out. So, you need to make an impression, and VCs enjoy talking with people; that’s their job. It is very difficult getting a job in VC unless you show a ton of initiative and make connections. The absolute, only reason I was able to work in VC and growth equity this summer was because I contacted the founders prior to the career fair presentation, asked relevant questions during the presentation, followed up, and spoke with the IESE interns from the previous year. Again, network, and trust the process. It’ll work out.
Also, be prepared that your VC internship may not pay much. It’s “the experience” that matters they tell me.
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