Inside the Bizarre, Boozy World of a Junior VC in Silicon Valley
Welcome to an industry filled with 21-year-olds, open bars, and very little business experience
A lot of people want to be venture capitalists. People outside of the industry assume that there’s no cooler professional calling than investing other peoples’ money into sexy startup companies. But for those lucky enough to break into the industry, the truth is often less appealing than the mirage.
I’ll preface my story by stressing that this was my experience and is not representative of every VC’s experience. But I’m pretty sure it’s more common than uncommon.
I moved to San Francisco in January 2018 to join a brand-new venture capital firm as the first non-partner on the team. I had zero experience in the industry, and to be honest, I didn’t know what to expect or what I was supposed to do.
One of the first surprises I encountered, having five years of professional experience in the entertainment industry under my belt, was the sheer volume of recent college graduates who held analyst and associate roles at venture firms. From my perspective, hiring 21- and 22-year-olds (who are also mostly white men) with zero experience in the professional world to evaluate businesses and investment opportunities was not only stupid but reckless. I was dumbfounded during one of the first conversations I had with an analyst at another firm who had just graduated from college, was living at home with his parents, and didn’t know what CAC (customer acquisition cost) was.
I realized pretty quickly that there’s a lot to be cynical about in today’s venture capital ecosystem.
I stayed dumbfounded until I realized that these junior VC roles are usually 99% “deal-sourcing,” or lead-generation roles. Firms rely on junior VCs to “hustle,” “network,” and find “proprietary deal-flow.” Practically, this means lots of outbound emails, LinkedIn stalking, and swapping information about deals with the other junior VCs you know. It also means developing relationships with founders, investors, and others in the tech ecosystem in order to be in the know when companies are fundraising.