My Advice So Far

One of the things I think I did the best early on in my career was to ask people for advice. I learned that this ultimately got you two things: (1) insights into things you didn’t understand and (2) buy in from the person you’re getting the advice from that you’re on the right path, and thus, potentially more help from them down the road. So while this post aims to help those I can’t talk to 1:1 with the first objective of seeking advice, it’s always better to find mentors you can also meet with in person to achieve both (1) and (2). Caveat: remember, this a quality, not a quantity play. When “advice giving” I focus a lot on the following topics, since they’re what I have the most experience in:

  • Venture Capital
  • Google
  • Tech start-ups
  • Business School

(subtitling the post so you can skip to the portions you want) A lot of the advice I give can also be given on a blog and this is my attempt to do so. As my friend Brittany told me recently, it’s better to just launch it and have it be imperfect, versus not launching at all.

So, here we go. I’ll appreciate any feedback to Jennifer.soffen@gmail.com.

Venture Capital

How do I get into VC?

I’ve hear that VC is one of the hardest industries to break into. I don’t know if I agree with that and, more importantly, I don’t know if you really want to do it. Before you attempt to get into VC, here are a few questions you should know the answer to.

What does a day in the life of a junior VC person look like?

This really depends on the firm. It’s so much different than other jobs – like being an account manager at a tech company or an analyst at an ibank. Every associate job at a VC firm is really different since the partners will have very different preferences on what they want an associate to do.

Later Stage

If you are applying for a later stage firm (Series B and above) modeling and excel skills may be more useful since you may be able to actually somewhat accurately project what success would look like. “Junior” people can be pretty helpful here in helping partners to look at a bunch of different scenarios and gather the information that is needed to go into them.

Earlier Stage

For an earlier stage firm, a lot of the investments tend to be based on the idea, whether or not it’s scalable (not necessarily how you will monetize it and generate revenue but will a lot of people use it) and, most importantly, the team. In my experience “junior” people are somewhat less valuable here, if you want to go to a very good, famous VC firm. Why? Well, entrepreneurs want to raise money from the best firms and so the well connected ones, will find their way to the partners of these firms by way of introduction.

And the good entrepreneurs, the kind you really want to invest in, find a compelling strategy to get in touch with the partners they want on their boards and, in my experience, don’t generally go through the associate or principal to get there. So, as a “junior” person, you will spend a lot of time meeting with entrepreneurs that your firm probably won’t invest in (as the partners do as well), because the best ones will optimize their time and find a direct to partner path.

In my opinion, don’t go to a good seed or Series A stage VC fund expecting to be the one sourcing a lot of the deals that get “done”. Partners are sought out and don’t need someone finding them introductions. Additionally, other good VCs will help them source deals as they want the prestige for the companies they invest in of having lots of good VCs on their board.

If you read the answers to the questions below and still want to get into VC here’s how I recommend you go about it.

  1. Assess what skills / experiences you have that might be useful to VCs.
    1. Do you know a lot about internet infrastructure? Policy? Finance? What makes you unique / interesting that they probably can’t find from someone else?

Find a VC that would care about the things that make you unique. Each firm has a different focus. For example, Lux Capital specializes in physical and life sciences. USV invests in “companies that create services that have the potential to fundamentally transform important markets.” You should be able to show why your experiences make you a good fit to work for that specific firm – not VC in general, and, even better, a specific partner.

  1. Don’t ask for advice or a general coffee chat. Email with a specific question or area that you want to contribute to and ask for ten minutes on the phone. When people don’t know whether or not you’ll be good, they are less likely to commit to 30 minutes with you. It’s a lot harder to turn down a ten-minute phone call with someone that has a specific question or request that cannot be answered by email.
  2. Definitely don’t send a list of questions and request an answer to them. It’s not his or her job to fill out a form for you. A lot of VCs blog. If you are emailing or talking to a VC and have not researched them and read at least ten of their blog posts on the internet before reaching out, you have not done your homework.

Google

How can I apply for an undergrad internship at Google?

  • Read about the internship on the link below
  • Pick one (and only one) person at Google that you know to internally submit your resume. They get $4k if you get hired but only if you let them be the only one that’s submitting you. So, give them the right incentive to push for you and follow up with recruiters etc.

https://www.google.com/about/careers/search#!t=jo&jid=21415002&

What’s the best way to get a job at Google?

  • Get a 3.5 or above in college
  • Position your resume for the job you are applying for. If it’s a sales role, make your past roles seem more sales oriented. If it’s in marketing, do the same for that. You can have the same exact job and pitch it multiple ways.
  • Use metrics in your resume. You didn’t “build a team,” rather you “hired ten people to support the CEO and accomplished a 70% increase in cold call conversions”
  • Pick one (and only one) person at Google that you know to internally submit your resume. They get $4k if you get hired but only if you let them be the only one that’s submitting you. So, give them the right incentive to push for you and follow up with recruiters etc.

Getting a job at a tech start-up

What’s the best way to get a good job / summer internship at a highly respected, VC backed startup?

  • Meet a ton of people, basically you’re a VC, just for yourself.
  • Know it will take awhile.
  • Start-ups are really bad at hiring. They need someone then they don’t. They don’t know if they want an all around athlete or someone with specific skills. You will have a lot of “wasted” time.
  • Take a job based on the team. The role will change. So will the idea. And it will probably fail. Make sure you really really like the people you are going to be working with every day. (best advice I got!)
  • If you can, try to go to a start-up with good, reputable VCs. Since it will probably fail, these folks will be best equipped to help you find another job.

Students

Full time

  • Get in touch with the VC on the board—this info is usually on the VC firm’s website
  • Check out these good VCs sites for jobs

What should I be reading?

Business School

What do I need to get into a good business school?

  • Get a good GPA at a very good undergrad school or a state school (the best business schools don’t penalize you for not being rich enough to afford the ivy league!).
  • Demonstrate, consistently how you want to change the world and show that consistency in your application.
    • Don’t worry, you don’t need to know what you want to do for the rest of your life when you start your career. It’s just that looking back, you should be able to explain why you made the decisions you did.
    • For example, I choose to work at Google because I wanted to be able to help people in the most scalable way possible and I thought the Internet enabled this. Once I got to Google, I found a project (Google Fiber) that I was interested in and really enjoyed growing that team and project which lead me to want to take on entrepreneurship with more risk and reward.
    • Combining these two experiences, I wanted to use business school to help me combine my entrepreneurial desires with my tech background to launch my own digital solution for internet access and digital literacy.
    • I was wrong in that I didn’t land in internet access but I did end up at a start-up, running marketing.

Essays:

  • Expensive consultants will often offer you a free first hour. I suggest taking advantage of that and reading their free blogs here.  I found them very helpful in deciding what stories I told.
  • Have friends (not parents) read your essays. Ask them to assess with a BS meter. People tend to over embellish here and the Admit Committees know that.
  • Just like in your resume, use metrics. And maybe even quotes. Anything that’s truly concrete is better than a plain description.

Interviews:

  • Come off as confident but not cocky. I think they’re just trying to make sure you are who you say you are and that you’d be a pleasant classmate.

Recommendations:

  • Get respected, good writers and somewhat high-level people to recommend you. Do the work for them. Bullet points (not prewritten) are extremely helpful. They’re busy and doing you a huge favor. Make it easy for them.
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My Advice So Far