Most entrepreneurs have a general sense of what venture capitalists do for a living. But those who think the gig is little more than a schmoozefest may be surprised. The responsibility of being a driving force behind the success of multiple startups is anything but a party.
Not only do venture capitalists work provide founders with needed funding, they evaluate strategy, find new brands to engage with, and handle budget issues. They also may be heavily involved in recruiting new hires.
Hunter Walk, a partner with Homebrew, a San Francisco-based seed-stage venture fund, has a wealth of experience handling all these duties. In a recent blog post he outlined three things that take up his time.
1. Evaluating Opportunities
"At any given time, Homebrew usually has about 20-35 deals we'd consider active," Walk writes. One might call this the courtship phase, when a founder actively pursues investors in the hopes that they'll be the right fit. "Either Satya [another partner] or I are meeting the founders, usually solo, giving them an overview of Homebrew and learning about their startup through direct conversations, using the product (whatever stage it’s at), and doing some background on their industry (if it’s an area new to us)."
Some of these meetings move toward the deal phase, in which case Walk "gets serious" and checks references. He'll also take time to outline what a successful investment, valuation and all, might look like. Sometimes the process takes 10 days or longer; if he's known the team for awhile, it's quicker. Normally, these activities take up half of his time.
2. Nurturing Investments
You'd think once the courtship was over, all Walk would have to do is spend his time answering e-mails. But in reality, much of his job is providing help for his investments and building up his network. "I'm always trying to stay current with the people in our industry that I care about and find new voices--via social media, via our founders, via friends--to engage," he writes. He's also involved in what he calls "brand building," including speaking at conferences and "press stuff." This takes up about 45 percent of his time.
3. Working on the Fund
Now comes the hard part. Perhaps more important than establishing connections, Walk writes, is the remaining 5 percent of his time he spends ensuring his fund is running smoothly. That means raising capital, recruiting employees, nailing down a budget, and preparing for audits. Oh, and checking whether Homebrew is watertight in terms of its business strategy. "Some investors roll their eyes [at this part of the job], but for me it's actually fun," he writes.