How to get a job in venture capital without a finance degree

Business Insider spoke to three venture capital insiders about how to get hired without a…

  • Business Insider spoke to three venture capital insiders about how to get hired without a degree or job experience in finance.
  • Jackie Xu, a talent partner at Kleiner Perkins, said candidates can bolster their financial acumen by learning how to analyze companies through YouTube tutorials, workshops, meetups, and podcasts.
  • The insiders said another route into venture is to work at a fast-growing startups for several years and then seek out venture partner opportunities.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Part of the job of an analyst or associate at a venture capital firm is to research markets, crunch numbers, and give input on why a potential investment will succeed or fail, before the senior partners pursue a deal. They are critical gatekeepers.

That’s why the people who do the hiring for those roles look for a business and financial skills.

Still, a candidate doesn’t necessarily need a finance degree to get a job in venture, insiders say.

In a recent live event, Business Insider spoke to two recruiters and a venture partner about what VC firms look for in candidates for entry-level positions, and how those young professionals can best position themselves for success.

“That financial brain is critical for that role,” said Paula Judge, a talent partner at Accel, who recruits people to the firm and the companies it invests in. However, there are other paths into venture, she said.

Someone interested in a career as an investor could work at a startup in product or engineering for a few years and apply for a principal or partner job later, Judge said. That experience is more relevant for roles higher on the totem pole. For example, Andrew Braccia came to Accel from Yahoo, and newer partner Amy Saper led product marketing at Stripe before she joined the firm.

“So maybe you’re going to go work at a company for five years or ten years in product, in engineering, in some other function, and then eventually make the leap over to venture at a different time,” Judge said. She added, “You’re either doing the work early on or you enter later and you get support from people who will do that actual work.”

Mark Goldberg, a partner at Index Ventures, started his career as an investment banker. But in his current post, he said he relies much more on soft skills like clear communication and problem solving than his financial know-how.

“My job, even though we write very large checks, it’s much more about forming a perspective on an industry, on a person, on a team, versus the financial analytics and rigor. But different funds invest in different ways,” he said.

Candidates can highlight those skills in the interview, if their financial acumen is lacking. He said:

“A lot of what we’re looking for, even apart from those qualities, it’s more of a hustle and a lean-forward perspective in the industry — to go out and mine pockets of people or ideas and conferences for the best up-and-coming companies. That’s a skill in and of itself. We’re looking for a combination of all the above, but I would say for the folks that don’t have the financial background, it certainly wouldn’t preclude you from joining many VC funds.”

And it’s never too late to build financial skills, with all the content out there, says Jackie Xu, a talent partner at Kleiner Perkins. Her advice is to watch YouTube, attend virtual workshops or meetups, and listen to podcasts.

“The access to information is so readily available to people who want to learn about venture,” Xu said.