How to get an internship in Venture Capital? The ultimate guide 📋
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11 min read
May 10, 2022
Entering the world of Venture Capital can be extremely difficult, that’s said.
You are not scared by challenges? You are ready to challenge yourself to reach your goal? You are the type of person who doesn’t let refusal get you down, on the contrary, your motivation is reinforced? Welcome to the world of Venture Capital.
Not long ago, I got an internship at Idinvest, one of the most important players in European Venture Capital. In this article, I propose to pass on the process, but also the state of mind, which enabled me to obtain this internship.
It is this same state of mind that allowed me, during my architecture studies which preceded my arrival in business school (there is a goal, but no path 😂), to do two internships in one of the most prestigious architectural firms in Los Angeles and finding myself in the homes of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, Calvin Klein, Floyd Mayweather… but that’s another story.
Here is the program
1. State of mind 🤯
2. The profile sought 👀
3. Internship search 🔍
3.1. Spontaneous application
3.2. Respond to an internship offer
4. Application 📋
5. Process 📞
5.1. Stages and duration
5.3. Questions to ask
6. Summary ❤️
7. Bonus 🎁
State of mind 🤯
Before getting to the heart of the matter, a brief point on the state of mind to have to get an internship in the company of your dreams. My advice is very simple: anything is possible.
Your limiting beliefs are the only obstacle that makes you believe that some things are not possible. I don’t have the knowledge, I don’t have the experience, I don’t have the contacts, the others are better than me…
You want to do an internship in Venture Capital but you feel that you do not have the knowledge to do this internship or pass your interviews? Train yourself, there are many blogs, newsletters and podcasts on the subject (which you can find here by the way) and the purpose of an internship is also for you to learn.
You feel that you don’t have enough experience in the world of startups? Contact those who make you dream and offer them your time alongside your studies (for example, I contacted Oussama Ammar from The Family in 2020 and I am currently working with him on the development of a startup-studio).
You feel that you don’t have the contacts to enter Venture Capital? Send emails or LinkedIn messages to all the VCs that inspire you and all the interns in the funds you are interested in. Ask specific questions to VCs about their funds and feedback to interns, you will be in pole position during job openings.
Forge yourself a motivation and an unfailing ambition and all the doors will be open to you. Remember that Venture Capital is part of the startup world and many VC Partners are or were entrepreneurs, so take their mindset. Learn from your mistakes and anticipate failure, stay curious and develop your skills, have goals and ambition, be patient and persevering and most of all, stay determined!
The profile sought 👀
First of all, I want to reassure those who didn’t go to a major business or engineering school, I know many people who didn’t and who have succeeded in entering Venture Capital.
Do a major business or engineering school is obviously a plus, most young French Venture Capitalists have gone through HEC, ESSEC, ESCP, emlyon, Sciences Po, Université Paris Dauphine, Polytechnique, Centrale-Supélec or the Mines ParisTech …
But again anything is possible so don’t stop there. Remember that VCs are often entrepreneurs who have managed to set up a successful startup and then became Partners, they don’t necessarily come from the best schools, there is no typical path.
Your experiences are the best way to differentiate yourself.
It will be very difficult for you to get an internship in Venture Capital just because you have done HEC if you haven’t done anything beside it.
On the contrary, if you didn’t do a major school, you can compensate with experiences in startups, especially if they have raised funds and you have followed the process, with entrepreneurial projects, with a start-up-studio experience … Show that you are invested and passionate about the startup ecosystem.
You can’t do an internship in Venture Capital without having knowledge of the environment and this is where the difficulty lies as the world of Venture Capital is quite closed. There is relatively little training or online content on how to operate a VC fund and how to be a good Venture Capitalist, you will have to train by yourself.
The qualities you need to have in order to get an internship in Venture Capital or work as VC are a strong curiosity, because it is imperative to have in-depth knowledge of technological innovations, new business models or even new uses to detect growth potential in a startup; a taste for challenge; rigor; and a good spirit of analysis and synthesis.
The key to Venture Capital is often the network, VCs spend their time developing and maintaining it.
Knowing a VC is often an excellent entry point for an internship in Venture Capital, it can bypass the first filter of the application and send you directly to an interview. He could also recommend you to VCs in other funds, starting your email with “I am contacting you on the advice of …” is often a guarantee of response and interestfrom your interlocutor.
But as we have seen for the state of mind, not everyone has contacts and it is not necessary. Send emails or LinkedIn messages to get in touch with VCs.
Internship search 🔍
When looking for an internship, you have two options: respond to internship offers or send spontaneous applications.
Although most students tend to respond to internship offers, I myself am an absolute fan of spontaneous applications. Actually, I exclusively adopt this technique for several reasons:
Spontaneous application allows you to apply to all companies, especially the ones of your dreams, while in the case of offers, you only apply to companies that have actually posted an internship offer.
Taking the step of contacting a particular company is a huge proof of your motivation, unlike an offer where a lot of candidates would be willing to apply anywhere just to get an internship.
You may be lucky enough to get an internship that has not been publicly offered. Or even avoid the company from posting an offer if your profile matches their needs.
An internship offer on LinkedIn can easily count 300 candidates. Few people choose to send spontaneous applications, therefore you have a much better chance of success.
For these different reasons, I am convinced that the process of a spontaneous application is often much more advantageous and natural. However, if a fund you are interested in posts an offer, jump at the opportunity! You will have other ways to prove your motivation and to stand out.
In order to apply in funds by sending spontaneous applications, here is my approach:
I choose the place where I want to do my internship (a city, a country, a continent …) and I decide the type of fund I’m interested in (Impact Investing; Corporate Venture; Early stage; Growth stage…)
I search for all funds that match my criteria directly on Google or on Crunchbase, CB Insights, OpenVC, etc. I list all the funds I’m interested in into a Google Sheet.
I look for interns and former interns of the funds concerned on LinkedIn to ask them questions about the fund’s mode of operation and state of mind. I also ask them for feedback to see if an internship in this fund could please me.
I ask the intern to send me the contact of a person from the fund that I can contact for my application. It often happens that current interns are in charge of the first selection of future interns, so contacting them often kills two birds with one stone. If I can’t get in touch with an intern or retrieve an email from them, I use rocketreach.co to find a Partner’s email, there is a free trial.
I send an email serving as cover letter (I’ll talk about it in detail right after) with my CV in attached.
As not to miss any opportunity, I advise you to send your emails at least 5 months before the start of your internship period, either between December and February for an internship in July or between June and August for an internship in January. The funds usually choose their interns in March for July and September for January so you can be sure that this way you don’t miss an opportunity and get noticed before any offers are published.
Once you’ve spotted an offer, don’t wait! The earlier you respond, the more chance you have of not going unnoticed.
Read the offers carefully and take notes, you can add them to your Google Sheet so you don’t get lost. Only select the offers that match your profile, if the fund is looking for a student in their final year of study and this is not your case, don’t apply. This often means that they want to hire after the internship so you will waste your time, waste theirs and it will just show that you can’t read an offer. However, nothing prevents you from sending an unsolicited application by email, pretending you were not aware of the offer 😉
Each fund may have a different application procedure: some will simply ask you for a CV and cover letter, others to answer certain questions using a form. Rarer, you may also be asked to complete a case study, but this usually happens a little later in the process.
When you respond to an internship offer, it may regularly happen that in your application form you have to answer certain questions.
The purpose of these questions is to make an initial selection among the candidates in order to identify those who are the most motivated and the most informed. Here are the type of questions that can be asked:
Why are you interested in Venture Capital?
Why do you want to join our fund in particular?
What is the next startup in which our fund should invest? Why ?
It is important to prepare these questions well upstream by informing yourself about Venture Capital, the funds you are interested in, their portfolio… We are not asking you to stand out at all costs, no need to use convoluted turns of phrase, it is simply a question of who is really interested in VC and who has made inquiries.
This section is only suitable for spontaneous applications.
The first email is in my opinion the most important part of the application, it can open doors that seemed impossible to open or close them to you. When you know that people like Xavier Niel (the founder of Free but I hope you knew it) read all their emails without exception, it’s like having the chance to speak one-to-one with the people who inspire you the most. So take this opportunity and don’t waste it, you often only have one chance.
In the world of Venture Capital, the standards are not as strict as in the world of finance. We get closer to the relaxed and informal side of the startup world. Also, VCs often have a busy schedule, so it’s important to get straight to the point. For these two reasons, in your email you can:
Be familiar with the VC most of the time.
Avoid the cover letter, the body of your email fulfills this role.
Regarding the subject line of my email, I usually put “Inquiry”, it’s not very specific, but that’s precisely the point. My goal is for my recipient to open the email and get their attention in the first few lines. If I put a subject line like “looking for an internship” and the fund is not currently looking for an intern, the recipient may leave my email unopened or decide to put it aside with a good chance of forgetting it.
Here is an example of email:
Your resume must reflect your interest and your investment in the world of startups, do not hesitate to make a dedicated resume where your previous internships in totally different fields are put in the background. Do not hesitate to integrate your own entrepreneurial projects if you have had any, they will be good topics for discussion during potential interviews where you can present everything they have brought you in terms of knowledge, experience and network. .
You can create great resumes based on the templates that Canva offers for free.
Stages and duration
Know already that the selection in the previous step is extremely tough and that if you have managed to get an interview, you are at the top of the basket. Your profile corresponds to what the fund is looking for and you must now stand out during the interview.
The steps and duration of the Process vary between funds but here is an example:
First interview (week 1): this personality interview allows you to introduce yourself, talk about your background, your interest in the startup ecosystem, ask questions about the fund… It often takes place with a Junior who will manage the unfolding of the Process. This is my favorite step, you have to bring out your personality to show to the fund that they should hire you. If you are convincing, you will receive an email within a few days inviting you to a second interview.
Second interview (week 2): this is a more technical interview, which will get to the heart of the matter. You will discuss your motivations for joining Venture Capital and this fund in particular, highlight your tech startup culture, your knowledge of the European ecosystem and show that you know some financial elements. If your interlocutor doesn’t ask you, you can prepare a case study of 2-3 startups that could be in their scope, they should like it.
Third interview (week 3): A few days or hours before, you may be asked to do a case study on a startup that the fund is currently studying or an industry. After sending it, you will have to present your study, your approach and your final decision of investment. It is sometimes difficult to choose whether to invest or not and too many candidates miss this step by not making a choice. Make a decision, the important thing is to clearly explain the reasons for your choice.
Fourth interview (week 4): if you have passed all the previous interviews, now is the time to meet with the Fund’s Partners. There are usually only 2 or 3 people left in the race and the Partners will have to make a choice. This interview will be a mix of previous interviews where everything will be taken into account.
Again, the process is different for each fund but by preparing as if you were passing this one, any process should go well.
The processes generally take between 2 and 4 weeks but can sometimes last longer depending on the availability of each and the hesitation to decide between several candidates. The investment on your part is significant in time and effortwhich can sometimes be demotivating when you are refused after 4 weeks of interviews, but stay confident and show that you deserve the chance. The hardest part is getting your first Venture Capital internship without previous experience, then the others will follow.
To prepare for this Process, several points are necessary:
Prepare notes summarizing the questions you might be asked in an interview and practice. Here is an example that I have prepared for you :
Find out about the fund, how it works, its specifics, its investment thesis, its team, its portfolio, its latest investments, its greatest successes …
Contact the interns of the fund on LinkedIn to ask them questions about it, their feedback, their advice, how the process unfolds …
If you know people who work or are in internship in the world of Venture Capital, contact them to have a feedback from the inside and to fully understand the profession.
Before the interview, take a look at the LinkedIn profile of the person interviewing you, you may have things in common, and you will also be able to ask them questions about their background.
Questions to ask
During or at the end of the interview, you will have the opportunity to ask questions to the interviewer. Tell yourself that even if you are not chosen, this is a golden opportunity to speak face-to-face with a VC who is all yours, take advantage of it!
Do not ask questions about what might be written in the post if you are responding to an offer, nor questions that would show that you have not learned enough about Venture Capital or the fund, but for the rest, be curious!
A few final tips for your interviews:
Don’t bet on just one fund. You never know what can happen and you could well end up with nothing so multiply the applications and consider funds that appeal to you less as a training and a way to create a network.
Play with competition. The second reason why you should apply more is that, like in love, what is coveted is often more attractive (bad exemple?). Saying in an interview that you are also in process with other funds, especially if they are renown, will work in your favor because it shows that your profile is really interesting.
Play it relaxed. Forget the shirt-tie and the boat phrases. In a VC interview, you can usually speak on familiar terms and call the person by their first name.
If you want to develop your tech culture and your knowledge of Venture Capital in order to be in line with your applications, here is an article which summarizes the best sites, blogs, newsletters …
Doing a major business or engineering school is a plus, but the most important thing is to show that you are passionate about the world of startups. It is therefore important to invest yourself and gain experience so that the doors of Venture Capital are wide open to you.
Contact Venture Capital interns on LinkedIn to get advice, feedback and start building a network.
Favor spontaneous applications (few people do it) to show your motivation and do not miss any opportunity to get an internship in the fund of your dreams.
Train as much as you can, knowing the ecosystem and the business is very important and can make the difference.
Do not give up: anything is possible. You will have refusals but you will quickly forget them once you have found an extraordinary internship.