If you want to become a doctor, you go to medical school. If you want to become a lawyer, you go to law school. But how do you become a venture capitalist?
Paths into the profession of investing in startups vary. Some VCs are ex-entrepreneurs or ex-tech industry execs, others were once lawyers, financial professionals, or occasionally journalists. While this diversity of origins demonstrates that there are many doors into the VC world, it can also be baffling for aspirants. What should you study or work at if investing has caught your eye as a possible career terminus?
There's clearly no one answer to the question, but if you're hoping to get any useful insight at all, your best bet is probably to ask someone who is successfully engaged in the trade. Which is what makes a recent CB Insights post rounding up a whopping 46 quotes from top venture capitalists on how to get into the game so valuable.
The advice on offer is pretty much all over the map, so check out the lengthy post in full for the complete picture, but here are a few choice tidbits to get you started.
Get yourself some tech skills
Several of the investors quoted in the piece stress the value of honing your tech skills early in your career. "A lot of the fundamental skills that you need to be a good engineer are not that different than you need to be a good finance person. It's very math oriented," points out Union Square Ventures' Fred Wilson.
"The ideal venture capitalist has an engineering or a sales background. Engineering is useful because it helps you understand the technology that you're investing in," agrees Guy Kawasaki.
Develop deep expertise
"To be a VC in this current era requires greater specialization and domain knowledge than in previous eras," points out Rich Wong of Accel Partners. Several other VC quotes also stressed the importance of deep knowledge in a specific domain.
OpenView Venture Partners' Baiyin Zhou, for instance, recommends that industry aspirants, "pick one thing you are truly interested in, and learn everything there is to know about it. Whatever it is, commit an hour during lunch or an hour before/after each workday to reading and talking to people about it. Obsess over it."
Gaurav Jain of Founder Collective suggests a specific way to use this reality to help you break into the industry:
Create original research: another approach is to research an aspect of the startup world. It doesn't really matter what the topic is, as long as it's interesting, but this is a way to highlight two important skills: research and presentation ... [create] a slide deck that slices and dices the market ... trace the developments in the market [in your blog]. Bonus points if you can show a bunch of KOLs in the space tweeting out your posts. Double bonus points if you've been tracking a hot sector for years and correctly called the companies that would thrive and those that wouldn't.
A number of VCs stressed just how long and hard the journey to become a VC can be. According to a rather pessimistic quote from Seth Levine of Foundry Group, step one to becoming a VC is to "assume you will not be able to land a job as a venture capitalist. This is the realistic outcome of trying to get a job as a VC."
Jason Heltzer of Origin Ventures, is only slightly more sanguine. "There are not many shortcuts to marinating a chicken breast. It just takes time," he has pointed out. "The same is true for becoming a Jack/Jill of all trades and a master at a couple. This is why most people who enter the VC industry do so not only after work experience and an MBA, but generally later in their careers."
Neal S. Lachman is more practical in his advice, though it boils down to much the same thing -- getting in will take time. "I'd suggest you start off as an Angel, and then climb up the ladder to being a VC," he recommends.
These quotes are only the tip of the iceberg. Check out the complete post for way more thoughts from top VCs .