As a junior staffer at a VC firm, I think its important to understand where and how you can be helpful to portfolio companies. The advice I received from my venture capital teachers Stuart Ellman and Will Porteous of RRE Ventures (blog) has stuck with me, and I’ve tried to operate using that advice since starting my VC career.
I’m paraphrasing here (it’s been about a year since the class where we discussed it) but in essence, the advice was to simply be helpful and humble.
Here are some examples of ways that a junior VC can add value:
- Business development: Introducing the company to potential customers and partners in their network.
- Fundraising: Introducing the company to other VCs during the fundraising process and helping the company develop their investor pitch materials.
- Recruiting: Portfolio company is looking for a couple of engineers? Get the job description, post it on some boards that might be relevant and forward it out to your LinkedIn network. Maybe make some phone calls to folks in your personal network to see if anyone would be interested in the roles.
- Strategy: If you have an interest in corporate strategy and/or a background in strategy consulting, and the company is looking to explore new markets or the competitive landscape, see if you can lend some of your experience by helping crunch numbers, helping to put together the board presentation, etc.
- Listening and learning: Learn as much as you can about the company and the industry in which it operates. Attend board meetings and listen! VC is an apprenticeship business, so in many cases, the best approach is to sit down, shut up, and open your ears!
Company management, the VC partners who have invested in the company, and the founders will be adding the most value and steering the ship. As a junior staffer at a VC firm, your job is to be ready to help out wherever they identify a need they’d like you to address OR to identify a need and then socialize it with your boss(es) at the firm to see if its something they’d like you to pursue.
You definitely don’t want to go off half-cocked, ginning up initiatives and projects without making sure that they are viewed as value-add by the partners and company management.
If there are any other junior VCs out there (I know some of you are lurking!), it would be great to hear some of your thoughts on what works and what doesn’t related to working with portfolio companies.