Why I’m Interviewing Non-Partner VCs on How They Got into Venture
As a journalist, I spent a lot of time thinking and writing about early-stage venture capital. The mystique was intriguing, and at times, pretty annoying. I loved the idea of deeply researching, sourcing, and betting on the brands and companies that will define the future. But it was nearly impossible to understand how anyone working in VC actually got there.
Many of them were (and are) straight, cis, white men who seemed to have been grandfathered into this highly lucrative, exciting industry by nature of, well, going to Harvard/Stanford and looking the way they do. Or they were in the right place at the right time. Or they “knew someone who knew someone.” Yes, there’s judgement and assumption baked into these statements.
Of course, many of these people are insanely brilliant and deserving of their stature. Still, their united front of VC secrecy is discouraging and demotivating for the next generation of professionals — people of all genders, races, sexual orientations, education, and industry experience. We need to be able to see ourselves succeeding in venture, or getting a VC job in the first place. It’s not a novel thought, but representation absolutely matters.
Initiatives like AllRaise, ByWomenVCs, and VC leaders like AileenLee, Anarghya Vardhana, Cat Lee, Monique Woodard, Rebecca Kaden, Sutian Dong, and female, POC, and LGBTQ focused funds like Backstage Capital, Jane VC, and Female Founders Fund have materially moved the needle on VC’s glaring diversity and inclusion problems. They, among other women and allies, have made concerted efforts to respond to cold emails, amplify women’s voices, and educate professionals like myself, who were eager to get involved in VC but didn’t fit the cookie-cutter consultant/finance-to founder profile.
These progressive industry leaders are outstanding and invaluable. They’re also all partners — meaning, they’re the highest-level VCs at their respective funds. They represent what junior employees hope to become, and yet, their success in VC can still feel illusive.
The more I worked in and around VC, the more I heard the same question from people outside (and within) the industry: How did you get into venture? How did you meet people? And if you’re not a partner, what do you do?
Non-partner jobs at venture funds may be significantly less sexy, but the truth is that very, very few people skip to the top of a fund without working their way up — just like every other industry. I’ve come to strongly believe that for women, POC, LGBTQ people, and people of diverse professional backgrounds to successfully break into and succeed in venture, we need to see and hear from our peers: the analysts, researchers, associates, senior associates, principals, and platform employees who sit beneath partners, and do much of the work to keep the funds running.
To advance this visibility, I started “Invested,” a new column in Supermaker featuring uncensored takes from within the inner workings of America’s most prestigious VC firms. For Invested, I’m interviewing non-partner VCs, asking them hard hitting questions about why they wanted to work in VC, what they actually do, how they landed the job, and their advice to VC hopefuls.
My goal is for readers interested in venture to see themselves in these more-junior VCs, and feel motivated by the insights these interviews lay out. If working around venture has taught me anything, it’s that there’s no “right way” to break in, or “standard background” for a VC employee. You have to be smart, driven, and creative. You also need access, and a leg up. I hope this series will advance both of those necessities.
Thank you for listening to this logic, and I hope you’ll enjoy the first two editions of Invested, featuring Precursor Ventures Senior Associate Sydney Thomas, and (published today) Union Square Ventures Analyst Dani Grant.