Joining a CFO’s team at a tech company: A path to a venture capital job or a road to nowhere?

A reader of my venture capital careers mailing list wrote to me with the question below. She’s an investment banker that’s thinking of going to work on a CFO’s team at a small tech company.
Her goal? To eventually get a job in venture capital.

Here’s what she said (slightly modified to protect the innocent):

I wanted to get your opinion on a job I’m currently interviewing for. At some point I would like to get into VC but I realize with my current background that it may be more challenging.
I am currently interviewing with XXXXXXXX in XXX. The role entails working with the CFO, as well as interacting with each of the business units to develop models, business plans, presentations, etc. They have emphasized that the role is not strictly creating models, but truly getting to understand the different products and business lines while working with the business heads.
Apologies if that was long-winded, but I was hoping you might have some insight on if you think this role could be helpful for getting into VC later on or if I’m better off where I am now (or going to a start-up obviously).

And here’s what I think…

I don’t know of many people who went directly into a venture capital job after a job as a financial analyst.

People take all sorts of paths into VC but it definitely helps (especially if you are early in your career) if you have one of those backgrounds that pattern matches with what a ‘typical’ analyst or associate looks like. Financial Analyst –> VC associate or analyst is not one of them. However…

There are lots of examples of early career investment bankers who move into VC.

You can figure out from a well crafted LinkedIn boolean search that there are a ton of people who have worked in VC who came from an investment banking background. People like:

If you haven’t already done it, reach out to some of your investment banking peers who have successfully made the move. See if they’ll share their stories with you. I bet they will have some tactics or ideas (or leads!) you haven’t explored.

Have you thought about working in corporate development at a big tech company?

Corporate Development people at big tech companies interact with lots of startups and lots of VCs. I’m not sure how much experience a Corp Dev role typically requires but hiring managers are usually looking for former investment bankers and consultants. This could be another route for you to explore in your quest to get a venture capital job. I talk about this and other paths to VC in my venture capital careers eBook. I hope this helps. Good luck in your search!


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