Interned at a Venture Capital Firm
Domain: Industry Analysis
Basic overview of internship:
My internship was in a venture capital firm that was primarily consumer-focused, and I interned as a startup analyst intern.
Motivation and any other fields/factors:
I wanted to see how a VC firm operates because of my inclination towards startups and their funding problems. Secondly, I wanted to explore options for the coming internship. Consulting seemed like the way to go for me at that time, and getting an internship in the VC sector can be a push for a consulting profile.
Application Process and Difficulties
I primarily applied through LinkedIn. VC firms are very small in their structure, so they don't have official hiring drives (for interns) and cold mailing/reaching out. So you go to the LinkedIn page of whatever VC firm you want to apply to and send connection requests to people in authority. If they accept, you tell them that you are looking for an internship, show them your skillset, and ask how you can apply.
The only difficulty was the cold calling. You reach out to about 100 people, get ten responses and then two conversions. So you have to be very consistent and patient. You have to start early.
I reached out to them through mailing them by profile primarily. Firstly, I had a meeting with the investment manager, then with the vice president of investment, and then I had a joint interview with both of them. Then, I had a final interview with the general partner and manager. I typically had three rounds of interviews, but the first round was more like a conversation. I don't think they require an extremely hardcore skill set when they are interviewing you, but they do require a little bit of confidence and calmness to deal with deadline situations at closing office hours, etc., and other things which you wouldn't expect but have to deal with calmly.
Key takeaways from the interview
Research is an important aspect. For example, whatever firm you have an interview with, research them and the people who are interviewing you. Let's take an example. If you would've been interviewing me for a job, then I would have researched you. Your school, college, fields of interest, and so on. That makes for a good conversation. Say, I don't have any interest in Physics and Astronomy, but I know that you were in the Physics and astronomy club, so I will at least stay away from that topic and not say I hate it because I know you have a history. Also, if you research the company well, you know what goals of the company align with your passion, and that gives a good impression.
Specific areas for preparation for internship
Learn Excel! That was one thing that even my manager told me. To succeed in the consulting or VC environment, you must know Excel by heart.
In general, build a good profile. Do a lot of things in college so that you have a lot to talk about. Even before interning here, I had done research and was a startup intern, so I had a lot to talk about. And extra knowledge never hurts. For example, they asked me in an interview if they considered diversifying into AI. I don't exactly have a lot of experience in AI apart from using chatGPT, but a few days back, I was testing a tool called Flare as work for a startup, and I told them that apart from chatGPT, there's a tool called Flare which I found very impressive.
Fears/Insecurities during preparation
The biggest one is, what if you don't get an internship? The thing with a second-year internship is it's very crucial for your CV point as third-year internship companies are about to come just after it. But the backup to that was that I already had two research interns, one in Columbia and the other in IIMA. In the worst case, I would put those on my CV. So, I had some way of calming myself down when I went through that stage. Keep some sort of backup, even while you keep pushing for whatever dream internship role you're aiming for.
Initially, I needed a defined work set. On my very first day, I had to just come up with ideas for a big event they had coming up. I was hugely disappointed and felt that this was not what I signed up for. But the thing is, you keep communication open there. I asked my manager if this is the kind of work I'm expected to do for the next two months because I do not like it. But he told me that it was the first day, and they wanted to warm me up; that's why they were not putting a load on me and said "Don't worry; we'll put a lot of load on you as you proceed." So after that, the very next thing that came was industry analysis. They were thinking of diversifying and asked me to build a report on that. They gave me a list of these industry startups. I had to analyse them and make a report on it. As stupid as that problem statement sounds, that's what I had to do. Now, when you start doing it, it seems very vague. But once you start doing it, you keep asking questions. You have this big sheet that has like 23 columns and like 300 down, and you start working on it, and you engage in open communication with your manager about issues, improvement, etcetera.
It was very day-dependent. 60% of the days were quite chill. You had to be there at exactly ten, and you couldn't leave before 6, but other than that rule, extensive days were less in number. 10 to 20% of my time there was extensive with deadlines, etc. But most of it was not very hectic. I think that was partly because VC firms have a small structure, and they thought about how much extreme workload would a 2nd-year college student be able to do. So they kind of kept it easy only, but towards the end, there were times when I had to get something done, and I was fiercely trying!
Difficulties, Challenges, and Disappointments:
I was expecting more startup interactions, like with the portfolio companies that they have interviews with. But that didn't happen. I just had one interaction with the founders. I was a little sad about that part, but it's fine.
One more thing was that the team was small, but they used to talk less. Work-related talks were there, but there wasn't so much bonding. When I think in hindsight, it makes sense. It is a VC firm with a small team, and you are doing work seriously.
Advice for someone interested in a similar internship:
Being in college right now, you cannot really know how much interest you will have in this industry, so for VC firms, go in for two primary reasons. First, if you are a hardcore startup enthusiast and want to go for a startup, you can explore what happens in VC, which is primarily what I did. The second is if you want to build your CV. Because a VC intern is not something that a lot of people do, so that adds a unique factor to your CV. But don't go and work in any VC firm because you won't have anything to talk about in the interview when you go for an internship drive and companies come on campus. They will ask you what you did in your internship, and if you've done a completely useless one and didn't understand anything, then you won't be able to justify what you did.
General Advice for 2nd Year Internships:
If you are going for tech, what I saw with my friends was that you need to start at least six months early so that in a few months, you've become strong enough in the required skills and can apply for domestic internships. For a foreign research internship, online or offline, you need to start even earlier and start cold mailing by September or so. Because towards the end, everyone is applying, so they won't look at your application unless you do something completely different. If you start early, you get an edge. Then, there is building your skill set according to the field you want to go in. If you want to go into startup-related stuff, then learn skills like Figma for entry into UI, UX, product design, etc., and accordingly for others. Upskill and starting early are the two things I would advise.
I think everyone should choose where they want to work very separately. I actually wish I had one more summer before I go on my official internship because I have done two online internships in startups, but I haven't ever done an offline one. So, I wanted to work with a startup team where there are 50-60 people, and everyone's in the office working till midnight. I think I'll hopefully get an opportunity to do that this winter.