At the end of the day, the Venture Capital business is a knowledge race. The more you know, the more intelligently you will invest. This is one of the primary reasons VCs will expect analysts and associates to have some operational experience before joining a fund. If you’re trying to break into VC, one of the best tactics is to show that you add value to a firm. A few ways to do that are: having unique technical skills, having proprietary deal flow, having a valuable VC & LP network, and having profound market expertise.
The last one I’ve mentioned is probably the easiest to attain as a young person. There are a ton of resources you can use to your advantage to self-educate on markets and the business of venture capital. This approach reminds me of this scene from Goodwill Hunting, but instead of wasting money you are wasting time.
I’ll quickly go over a few different types of resources I use to get a competitive edge and share the ways I make time to read/listen to it all.
This one is an easy one, but an often overlooked one. You can listen to podcasts while you’re in the gym, during your commute, and as you’re winding down for bed. So, if I spend an hour in the gym, an hour total going to and from work, and carve out 30 minutes before bed, I can absorb two and a half hours of content every single day — that really adds up over time. Here’s a list of my favorites, which are all available for free on Apple’s podcast app:
- The a16z podcast by Andreessen Horowitz: great for learning about evolving markets through the lens of intelligent VCs.
- Machine Learning Guide by OCDevel: Great overview and starting place of machine learning as a subdivision of artificial intelligence. There are other resources that get much more technical. If you don’t come from a technical background, start here.
- FringeFM by Matt Ward: This one is a fun one. It covers theories and conspiracies about the future and technology.
- StartUp by Gimlet Media: A great podcast that is an in-depth, intimate, story of startups going from concept to successful business.
- The Twenty Minute VC by Harry Stebbings: Harry covers many great topics in the VC business and frequently brings on great guest speakers.
- How to Start a Startup by Y Combinator and Stanford University: This is an actual course covering startups with some really B.A. lecturers: Sam Altman, Dustin Moskovitz, Paul Graham, Adora Cheung, Peter Thiel, Alex Schultz, Kevin Hale, Marc Andreessen, Ron Conway, Ben Silbermann, Alfred Lin, Patrick and John Collison, Aaron Levie, Reid Hoffman, Keith Rabois, Ben Horowitz, Marissa Mayer, Hosian Rahman, Kirsty Nathoo, Carolynn Levy, and more.
Books are something I’ll usually save for travel, vacation, or as an alternative way to wind down before bed. Unfortunately, you can’t read books on the go as you do by listening to podcasts. If you’re especially busy, try to find an audiobook to make it work.
- Zero to One by Peter Thiel: An interesting perspective on what makes a startup successful — an essential read.
- Venture Deals by Brad Feld: This one is great for getting an understanding of term sheets. Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson also offer a free online class for this, from which you can get a certificate.
- The Startup Playbook by David Kidder: Mini-profiles of insights and strategies of top startup founders and investors
- Unscaled by Hemant Taneja: AI’s impact on startups and the global market as a whole. Really interesting read.
- The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz: Lessons learned from famous VC/Entrepreneur, Ben Horowitz. Ben is a big fan of rap, and bases every chapter off of a favorite rap lyric of his — it’s pretty great.
Repeat after me: Coursera is your friend. Coursera offers an awesome array of online classes to take in advanced topics. This is great for more technical stuff, or, if you have a technical background, business topics. This is just something you need to make time for. If you want to take the fast lane to a career in something like VC, you have to put in the hours. For the moment, I only have one recommendation here, but Corsera, again, offers a wealth of knowledge for free. For a small fee, you can also get a certificate which would be a great line item for your resume.
- Machine Learning by Andrew Ng from Stanford University: This is one I’m currently taking and is a home run for me.
Blogs/ Newsletters/ Articles/ Magazines
There are so many resources out there for gaining new perspectives and staying current. Staying current in market activity is especially valuable if you plan on holding an interesting conversation with a VC who is interviewing you. I usually start my mornings with this stuff when I show up to work to prepare for the day.
- AVC/Fred Wilson Blog: An essential, bread and butter blog for VCs. Fred Wilson is one of the industry’s top performing investors, and he has been posting daily blogs for years.
- Strictly VC: A daily overview of what happened in the VC world: new funds, acquisitions, new rounds, new companies, you name it!
- Both Sides of the Table by Upfront’s Mark Suster: It’s obvious a lot of time goes into this blog. Mark shares a really great perspective on the VC/Startup space.
- Social Capital Snippets
- MIT Technology Review: Covers new topics in hardware, software, etc.
- Research from Cambridge Associates: I study the “state of VC” quite a bit. There are some interesting opinions out there about VC being overcrowded, which I tend to believe. This is a great resource for validating those arguments.
- Crypto Market 360: Great way to stay up to date on crypto/blockchain markets.
- Pitchbook News
- Business Insider Newsletter
- Youtube/Ted Talks
- LinkedIn Daily Rundown
I usually am able to get in 3+ hours of self-education each day with relative ease. It’s an absolute must if you are trying to get into venture at a young age. These resources just scratch the surface of what’s out there, but it’s a great starting point. The most surefire way to get a job in VC is to be extremely well informed and have a strong, opinionated investment thesis that is enticing to potential employers. Plus, this will help you actually become a better investor once you do break into the space.