Feb 16, 2023
Career Resources

The Tactical Guide to the Venture Capital Career Path

Austen Legler

he venture capital industry has grown tremendously in recent years. As more and more entrepreneurs are looking to start and grow their businesses, VCs are playing a crucial role in providing the necessary funding and support. 

If you are interested in pursuing a career in venture capital, it is essential to have a good understanding of the industry, its dynamics, and what it takes to succeed. 

In this post, we will provide a tactical guide to the venture capital career path.

Tips to Breaking In

It’s quite difficult to find a VC job that’s entry level, and even when you do, they rarely go to college graduates – only those with tons of experience and past internships at reputable VC firms seem to get those opportunities. 

With that being said, there are some things you can do to set yourself up for success and increase your chances of getting hired.

1. Develop a strong understanding of the industry

Before you start your venture capital career, you must have a strong understanding of how the industry works, the different types of investments, how VCs structure their deals and the characteristics of successful startups. 

To do so, this might require reading books or blog articles, taking an online course, attending relevant webinars or in person events, or even meeting a VC and taking them out to coffee so they can explain it to you!

2. Build a strong network

VC is notoriously hard to break into especially if you dont know anyone in the industry. As such, networking is critical in the venture capital industry. It is essential to build a network of contacts in the industry, including entrepreneurs, investors, and other venture capitalists. Attend industry conferences, networking events, and meetups to meet other professionals in the field. 

Join relevant groups on social media platforms like LinkedIn and Twitter to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and news in the industry.

3. Gain experience in related fields

While venture capital is a unique field, experience in related industries can be beneficial. For example, experience in investment banking or private equity can provide you with a solid foundation in finance and valuation. Working for a VC backed startup is also something that can expose you to the challenges that startups face and the types of businesses that are likely to succeed.

4. Develop analytical and financial modeling skills

Analytical and financial modeling skills are essential in venture capital. You need to be able to evaluate potential investments and determine their potential for growth and profitability. Analytical skills are critical when evaluating startups and the market they operate in, and financial modeling skills are important in creating projections and valuations.

5. Stay current on industry trends and news

The venture capital industry is constantly evolving, and it is essential to stay current on industry trends and news. Subscribe to and read industry publications like VentureBeat and TechCrunch to stay informed on the latest startups and investments. Attend conferences and networking events to hear from industry leaders and experts.

6. Find a mentor

Finding a mentor in the venture capital industry can be extremely beneficial. A mentor can provide you with guidance and support as you navigate your career path. They can also provide you with valuable insights into the industry and help you build your network.

7. Be open to learning and growth

The venture capital industry is constantly evolving, and it is essential to be open to learning and growth. Stay curious and seek out new opportunities to learn and develop your skills. Take on new challenges and be willing to make mistakes and learn from them.

The Typical Venture Capital Career Path

A career in venture capital can be highly rewarding but also challenging. There are several roles within the venture capital industry, including investment analyst, associate, principal, and partner. Here's a look at what it takes to succeed at each level:

  1. Investment Analyst

The investment analyst is typically the entry-level position in a venture capital firm. The primary responsibility of an investment analyst is to source and evaluate investment opportunities. This involves conducting market research, meeting with entrepreneurs, and analyzing financial and operational data. An investment analyst needs to be well-versed in financial analysis, business strategy, and market research.

To succeed as an investment analyst, you need to have a strong academic record, perhaps with an undergraduate degree in business or finance. It’s also going to be pretty important to have relevant work experience, such as internships or entry-level positions in investment banking or management consulting. You will also need to have excellent communication skills, as you will be interacting with entrepreneurs and other stakeholders on a regular basis.

  1. Venture Associate

The associate is typically the next step up from the investment analyst. Associates are responsible for managing the due diligence process and supporting the senior members of the team in making investment decisions. This involves conducting extensive research and analysis, preparing investment memos, and attending pitch meetings with entrepreneurs.

To succeed as an associate, you will need to have a few years of experience as an investment analyst or in a related field. They typically spend most of their time analyzing attractive companies, interviewing startup founders about their company and its prospects, and bringing relevant prospects to the attention of principals and partners.

  1. Principal

The principal is typically a more senior role within a venture capital firm. Principals are responsible for managing a portfolio of investments, sourcing new investment opportunities, and helping to make investment decisions. They also work closely with the founders of portfolio companies to help them achieve their business objectives.

To succeed as a principal, you will need to have a proven track record of making successful investments and managing a portfolio of companies. A strong understanding of financial analysis, business strategy, and market research is also essential. You will also need excellent communication and leadership skills, as you will be working with entrepreneurs and other stakeholders on a regular basis.

  1. Partner

The partner is typically the most senior role within a venture capital firm. These folks are industry stalwarts that have gone through a number of fundraising processes, started (and exited) several of their own businesses, know the industry inside out and have the battle scars to prove it. Most importantly, they also control how the capital at their VC is invested. 

The partner will typically spend a lot of time talking to outside investors, and talking at startup roadshows and workshops.

What does compensation look like in VC?

Not unlike the private equity and investment banking industries, the venture capital industry has different tiers of salary.

Those working at the top-tier firms like Andressen Horowitz or Sequoia, can expect to earn more than those working at less well-known venture capital funds or family offices.

The scale of these businesses is exhibited by their assets under management (AUM), with a dividing line between large and small companies being $500 million.

Above an AUM of $500 million, the typical salaries in VC are:

  • Parner -  $350K per year
  • Principal - $250k per year
  • Associate - $150k per year
  • Analyst - $95k per year

Below an AUM of $500 million, the typical salaries in VC are:

  • Parner -  $250K per year
  • Principal - $180k per year
  • Associate - $120k per year
  • Analyst - $80k per year

Pursuing a career in venture capital requires a unique combination of skills and experience. By following this tactical guide, you can set yourself up for success in the dynamic and exciting world of venture capital. 

It is a challenging career path, but it can also be one of the most rewarding, both financially and intellectually. So, if you are passionate about entrepreneurship, innovation, and investing, a career in venture capital might be just the right fit for you.

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