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Talking about Chief of Staff and your chance to work in VC
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Sorry for the delay in sending out the newsletter this week. Pre Thanksgiving is crunch time for a lot of venture funds as founders try to finish fundraising before the holidays. But on the plus side, I sourced my first deal that the fund committed to, so I’m happy about that. You never forget your first :)
Today, we are highlighting an amazing opportunity with Laconia Capital Group who is hiring VC interns for the spring and summer. If you want to dive straight into that, feel free to scroll down. But first, I’d like to answer this question.
“So what does a Chief of Staff really do?”
I have been getting this question a lot, not just from friends but also from other investors. There has been an explosion in the number of startups and VC firms who have a Chief of Staff employed nowadays.
In fairly simple terms, a Chief of Staff or CoS for the abbreviation minded, is a generalist role geared towards plugging in gaps in the organization as needed. It is not very rigidly defined by design since it is hard to predict what sort of responsibilities you might have to take on. At startups, in particular, it is usually a time-bound opportunity for 1-2 years where you get to learn the ropes of operations from the executives. Most Chief of Staffs come from consulting or operations, but most have pretty diverse and interesting backgrounds.
A typical VC does three main things,
deploy funds by finding and investing in companies
support investments with the goal of attaining an exit
Since your primary responsibility as a Chief of Staff at VC is to assist the Partner, you’ll likely be operating in all three of these. The great thing is that you can also choose where you want to spend more of your time as long as it provides a lift in one of these.
For me personally, I do everything from scheduling calls, updating our website, and responding to emails, all the way to building up a co-investor list and cold emailing founders. This means that I have a pretty good overview of what is going on at the fund at any given point, which is something a Chief of Staff must have. I particularly enjoy talking to other investors about frameworks on how they evaluate certain industries and what crazy ideas people are working on (my favorite this week was honey made without bees).
You have to be quick and able to execute on multiple fronts at the same time.
The downside is that you are not able to specialize in anything. I am certainly not an expert at due diligence as some of my colleagues are but you definitely get to learn the basics. It is really a role where you are optimizing for learning above all else, especially for me since this is my first time in venture capital.
In conclusion, it can be a really fun and rewarding role if you choose to do more than what is expected of you. But it also requires a certain level of independence and “figure it out” mentality because there is unlikely to be someone else who will do that work.
If you want to learn more, feel free to reply to this email or comment below.
Now on to the main show
VC Internship @ Laconia Capital Group
Today we have Geri Kirilova, a partner at Laconia, a seed-stage B2B software-focused venture capital firm based in NYC. They are taking applications for their next class of interns. More details here and you can apply here. Applications are due November 23rd.
I actually was initially an intern in 2016 and rejoined full-time in 2017 as an associate. Then I was a principal and now I'm a partner. I also spent some time at two other venture funds in Europe, Credo Ventures in Prague, and LAUNCHub Ventures in Sofia.
It's been a lot of fun at Laconia so far and we're excited to bring on a new cohort of interns to help us with just about everything, including deal sourcing, due diligence, portfolio support, and general fund management.
Laconia typically leads or co-leads rounds of $2m to $4m in companies that are revolutionizing legacy industries. We currently have 15 portfolio companies across two funds. We also have a large community of legacy portfolio companies (30-40 companies).
We take a very concentrated investment approach, especially relative to most seed funds, and we're designed to provide really high bandwidth per portfolio company.
As a result, we're typically doing 2-5 new investments a year. We spend a lot of time working with companies on go-to-market strategy, sales and marketing, operations, etc. We think of our three core focus areas being sales acceleration, operational execution, and capital strategy.
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I don't think there's any way to predict who will be better or worse at this job. We're really optimizing for diversity of background, variety of perspective, and accessibility to people who might not otherwise have access to this industry. We strongly believe that you can thrive in venture from any background.
What's your opinion on people being VCs out of college?
Most people seem to have a very strong opinion about this topic that directly correlates with whatever their own personal experience and path was for the most part. There are examples of people thriving as VCs from all sorts of backgrounds, so in reality, there is no right path.
I think people should think about their career trajectory more so directionally and qualitatively in terms of what kind of environments they thrive in, what they enjoy doing, and what they're optimizing for.
When I was figuring out what I would be doing full time, I knew I wanted to work on a relatively small team with people who I really respect both personally and professionally, in a company where I personally cared about the broader vision and mission, that enabled me to constantly learn new things and grow my network. Joining Laconia, which was basically a "startup VC", ended up being the perfect fit.
Someone told me that you were one of the most connected people in the NYC VC scene. What's your approach to networking that got you so far?
First of all, thank you to the person who said that, although that is an impossibly high bar to meet!
When I initially joined Laconia full-time, I thought of my first year as a year of speed networking. I was out at events a couple of nights a week, sometimes multiple events a night. And I really just tried to build up a critical mass of people who I needed to know and start meeting with. Once I set that foundation, I was able to start to build deeper relationships over time.
I really try to build those relationships with people whose values are aligned with mine (i.e. people who are collaborative in their investment approach, who treat entrepreneurs with fairness and respect, and who are comfortable having real conversations without there being a big front).
I think the best way to get to know people is ultimately through working with them as co-investors and/or co-Board members rather than through routine check-ups and note-swapping meetings.
Shifting the focus to the internship program, what do the interns typically do?
I can't think of anything that we do on our core team, that our interns haven't also done in some capacity. Frankly, most of the time we are at full capacity in terms of deal flow, so it's not a super sourcing-heavy job (even though we did invest in an intern-sourced deal last year!).
Our interns sit in on all of our pitch meetings, diligence sessions, and internal discussions. They take the lead on drafting investment memos and organizing diligence materials, so we basically treat them the same way we would treat a full-time associate. They're also involved in portfolio support, (e.g. they've put together things like Pro-forma cap tables and waterfall analyses for our portfolio companies).
Beyond investment and portfolio work, they support our Head of Community, Padma, with our content marketing, and general communications initiatives. And to your point on fundraising, they do support some of our collateral creation and prospective investor research.
Coming to the heart of the interview, what do you look for in applicants, and what would make them stand out?
I'll start by saying that we definitely don't filter by school, GPA, pedigree, or prestige. You don't need to have worked in investment banking, consulting, or other venture capital firms.
At this point, we've had 20+ go through this program, and I have found that the people who thrive the most are the ones who have work experience of some sort already because they are able to hit the ground running.
It's helpful to have, on the one hand, some sort of more polished corporate job that has taught you work basics like writing professional emails, communicating effectively, etc. At the same time, it's great to have also worked in a very scrappy, chaotic environment because the reality is that we are a small team and things move really fast.
Anyone looking for a place that's super rigid and structured might not love the way we operate at Laconia. Beyond that, we've had interns who are strong designers, writers, engineers, and more. We don't have any hard requirements on what kind of background they come from.
They should, however, be genuinely interested in technology and the way that technology impacts the world. These guidelines are very general by design.
What's the best way to apply?
You can fill out our application here. If anyone has questions about the process, they should email me directly. We're hoping to have all applications in by November 23rd so that we can then conduct interviews throughout December and hopefully have the offers out before the start of the next year.
We're hiring for three positions across the spring and summer.
We don't require anyone to be in college to apply. That said, the program tends to attract mostly college students because of the structure, the junior level of the role, and frankly, the compensation. The time commitment is part‑time during the spring and fall semesters (~15 to 20 hours a week), and approximately 30 hours a week over the summer.
When I initially got into venture, I thought, wow, VC is an incredible industry that effectively subsidizes innovation and democratizes access to innovation capital. The deeper I got into it, the more I discovered that the industry is still very far from this promise, and we have a lot of work to do to get it closer to what it ultimately could be. There's no question that venture capital investing as a career is unbelievably rewarding, but it is also not particularly glamorous. For anyone attracted to this industry, I encourage you to think about what draws you to it, what your conceptions of it are, how true they are, and whether this is the right path for you. And if you ultimately land on "yes", I can't wait to meet you!
Thank you Geri for being with us today. I wish all those who apply the best of luck for what seems to be an amazing opportunity.
We will be back early next week to highlight a full time opportunity in Canada as well as more details on how our newgrad community will be structured.
Written by human, not GPT-3.