For VC’s to take you seriously in their hiring process you need to have a relevant set of work experiences that dovetail with the firm’s investment stage and sector preferences.
But you also need to show that you live, breathe, eat, and dream startups – even outside of your 9-to-5 job – and especially if you’re not working at a startup today.
A great way to show that enthusiasm is by becoming an advisor to startups.
What does a startup advisor do? It’s pretty simple. You do whatever you can to help a startup be successful – without being compensated for your efforts.
If this makes you uncomfortable, stop reading here. Do not pass ‘Go’, do not collect $200. VC’s spend a lot of time giving free advice. If you don’t like it, you won’t like being a VC.
If you are still reading after all of that doom and gloom ;) let me share some tips with you on how to become a startup advisor.
1) Be great at something, preferably something that startups care about – and then share.
If you look at the types of people VC firms generally hire, you’ll often see standouts who have strong personal brands focused on a specific area of expertise.
For example, Hilary Mason is one of the best known data scientists in the US and maybe the world – and now she is advising Accel Partners on Big Data investments.
Another great example is Danya Cheskis-Gold, who just moved over to Spark Capital to run their community outreach efforts after having built a great community at Skillshare.
Given their depth of expertise in areas that are extremely relevant to tech startups I’m sure both of them have spent a fair amount of time formally and informally advising early stage companies.
It all comes down to figuring out what you have to offer a startup that few others can.
Figure it out and then pay it forward by offering advice around that area of expertise for free to startups with whom you think you can make a difference.
2) Spend lots of time with startup founders.
A great way to do this is to attend relevant Meetups or startup pitch events. Introduce yourself to the companies where you see overlap between their sector and stage and your industry or functional expertise. Ask them how you can be helpful and where appropriate volunteer specific areas where you can assist.
For example, if you have a lot of sales experience and you meet a company founder who is starting to think about how to build out their sales team, maybe you can share some advice based on your past experience.
Don’t force your help on people but if in the course of conversation you see an area where you could add value, it doesn’t hurt to mention it. You never know where it could lead.
3) Raise your hand and ask to be involved in your local accelerator or incubator.
Accelerators and incubators are always looking for mentors to help their affiliated companies.
What’s the harm in asking someone for a warm intro to the folks who run a local accelerator or even reaching out directly to them to offer some pro bono help?
You’d be surprised at how few people do this in practice. They’re waiting to be picked — so stand out from the crowd by raising your hand.