One of the best things for students who want to find an internship in venture capital is to know the local, and wider, entrepreneurial community inside out. Bearing in mind the typical roles an intern may have (sourcing, due diligence and portfolio support) – knowing the various entrepreneurial ecosystems will undoubtedly demonstrate interest and knowledge that will be put to use during any internship.
If asked during an interview, and without a doubt you will be, ‘Where would you invest £x million and why’ or ‘What start-ups in a particular sector are interesting for you?’ – you want have a better answer than your study group idea from entrepreneurship class…
The following will prepare you to meet entrepreneurs, and so when (or more likely if), you manage to arrange an internship interview you will be prepared for some of the questions about exciting start-ups and what are hot topics trending now. Use the products and services of the companies you see, develop an opinion on what’s good / what’s bad about them and build a rapport with the entrepreneurs you meet – it may even lead to a role at the company!
You will no doubt meet, or definitely see, Venture Capitalists doing the same thing – why? it is how they build a network, identify investment opportunities and make a brand for themselves! Anyone wanting to break into the industry should be doing exactly the same thing.
On that note, a list of initial resources to use are below.
As a start, read technology news websites (not just BBC Technology section) – there is a list of the most popular here
They are a good start for finding out about various start-ups, trends and major influencers within the global entrepreneurial landscape.
Look for common names; what VC’s are being mentioned, what Partners are sharing thoughts on trends, what entrepreneurs are being interviews – use these websites to get an initial understanding of what is happening in the world and what is driving it.
There is no Financial Times, or no Wall Street Journal to summarise – read, read and read some more.
Second resource – follow influential bloggers, there are many great ones to follow. Partners at VC firms, experienced Entrepreneurs and others are blogging about what trends they are identifying, what products are hot, and many other topics that are very relevant for working in this space.
Fred Wilson has a great blog, and the MBA Mondays are some of my favourite reads – subscribe to them all via Google Reader (or other now!) and make sure you keep up to date with them.
As with blogs, figure out the influential figures on Twitter and follow what they are up to. It’s probably the most useful aspect you will ever need Twitter for right now, and I only say that, as many students who have come to me for advice don’t have an account.
It’s great for following (read stalking) people and what they are up to / what event they are going to / what articles are interesting to them.
As with blogs, there are a few useful leads on the Resources page for who to follow. Look at who they are following, and then follow – rinse and repeat until you have a wide range of people appearing in your feed.
Now that you are waking up and checking all of the above before breakfast, you will begin to build up an understanding of what trends are impacting various sectors. That is only just the beginning of the journey though.
There will be a plethora of off-line (and increasing on-line) events that you should be attending to meet and network with Entrepreneurs. I’ll focus on London, since I know it the best, but the sources are equally as valid for other geographies.
Getting out there…
There will be events arranged every week of the year for entrepreneurs to meet, that can be guaranteed. And it is up to you, the aspiring venture capital intern, to go find them. Luckily, I have put together a list of London sources, but in general:
Meetup - register, find entrepreneurial events and attend – all sectors, interests and technologies will be covered. Go along and talk to people, find out what they are working on, offer help (more on that later!) and figure out what is interesting.
General Assembly - check out your local campus and tag along to some of their events. They are HQ’d in New York, but have spread wings to open in London, Berlin and over the US. GA put on great events with local founders and people who have been there and done it, learn from what they have to say.
Google Campus - London specific, but there are many events going on throughout the day and evenings here. It also houses TechHub, Seedcamp, and a cafe where budding entrepreneurs work on their pet projects.
TechHub / White Bear Yard + others - co-working spaces that regularly put on events for their members and sometimes open admission to the public. Sign up for their newsletters to be told of upcoming events.
Newsletters - sign up to the ones on the resources page, there are letters specific for each location – from Charlie O’Donnell’s weekly New York focus, through to Silicon Digest for London. There will be announcements each week for the upcoming events so go along and take a load of business cards.
Conferences - London / Dublin / Paris / Berlin and Munich hold major tech conferences throughout the year. It’s a great opportunity to meet international entrepreneurs and tickets don’t always have to cost an arm and a leg – either with student discounts or volunteer to help organise in return for access…
Silicon Drinkabout and Minibar - sign-up, go along, have a pint and meet 100′s of entrepreneurs – what more could you ask for? Oh, sometimes they have free pizza too.
It may seem illogical to be networking with entrepreneurs when really you want an internship in venture capital, but remember that an internship doesn’t come with training wheels like in finance or consulting; you have to know the ecosystem, locally and globally (depending on the stage you are interested in) to really be of any use for a venture capital firm.
Doing the above will keep you busy enough, over time you will know what are the ‘better’ events to attend and which ones to skip, but be open minded, and get out there.