Many VCs, at least in London, are unlikely to have a structured program for accepting interns. Consequently, it may all come down to what they currently have going on - i.e. being at the right place at the right time.
To gain some exposure to assessing start-ups from an investment perspective, I sourced an internship at a venture capital firm. I was inspired by readers' comments to my plans for the summer, and Orlando's own pre-MBA internship hunt. Based on my experience, here are my tips.
- Put together a list of VC firms in the geographical area you are targetting. I got this list together mainly through looking at the nominees at European entrepreneurial investment awards, workshops and sites such as Crunchbase or a directory.
- Determine the specific areas where you can contribute something, based on your background and expertise. Is it digital media? Life sciences? Clean tech?
- Look at the websites of the VC firms you are targetting. You will need to filter out some of the companies to find those with a fit for your background. Look at the portfolio companies and the backgrounds of the partners.
- Know something about venture capital. Read the gossip on TechCrunch, the news on VentureWire or WSJ, the thoughts of actual VCs and learn about how vc works.
- Network with people. I initially tried to do this through entreprenuerial events, but I did not meet many VCs there. I did meet other kinds of people: lawyers, brokers for VC, recruitment specialists for VCs. I found some people accidentally, e.g. someone who worked at portfolio companies through a public speaking club I frequent etc. They all had interesting advice and continue to help shape my CV.
- Contact the venture capital firms on your target list. More specifically, do some research on the people on the VC team. Try and show how you can add value; this will likely be in deal sourcing / screening. Step two of this article might shed some light on some dynamics. I contacted the partners directly and attempted to follow up by phone.
- If the partner is interested, they will respond to your email or delegate to an associate. A phone call or meeting might follow. If the partner does not respond to your email, it is unlikely you will be able to get through to any partners of the firm by phone. I was able to get through to secretaries and PAs, who were usually aware of what is going on and can often speak for them or at least advise how things work at the firm.
- Be persistant, keep following up with anyone that shows interest and stay determined.