My partner Seth Levine has written several posts over the years on the
His 2019 post, titled creatively How To Get A Job In Venture Capital is excellent. Things have changed in the last decade since his 2008 post titled How to get a job in venture capital (revisited), which was an update from his 2005 post titled How to become a venture capitalist. All three posts are worth reading.
Following is a teaser for each of the key points Seth makes.
- Take the long view. Despite the relative increase in the number of venture firms, there still aren’t all that many jobs in
- Get involved in your community. Venture and entrepreneurship aren’t spectator sports and are best experienced from within.
- Get involved in companies. There are lots of great ways to help out companies directly.
- Network. Most people are terrible networkers. They treat networking transactionally and they are always looking to take from their networks vs. give to them (good networkers adhere to the #givefirst mentality)
- Engage. Lots of venture capitalists put out a lot of content and it has never been easier to engage with the venture community. Comment on
blogand Medium posts, follow VCs that you respect on Medium and Twitter, send them ideas and thoughts on what they’re writing about and investing in. Stay active and top of mind.
- Look for any way in. Your first job in venture is typically the hardest to get.
- Work for a startup or start one of your own. This was true 10 years ago and it remains true today.
- Invest if you can. With investment becoming slightly less regulated there are opportunities to put even modest amounts of money to work through platforms like AngelList and others. If you have the ability, it’s not a bad way to show an interest in investing and give you something to talk about in your networking.
- Persevere. Getting a job in
ventureis hard and can take a while. Likely it won’t happen. Keep the long game in mind, have fun while you’re going through the process and keep at it.
If you are interested in a job in venture capital, go read Seth’s posts How To Get A Job In Venture Capital (2019). And How to get a job in venture capital (revisited – 2008). And How to become a venture capitalist (2005).
I was talking to a friend last week about demos. She mentioned the Steve Jobs iPhone demo from 2007 and I referred to Doug Engelbart’s Mother of All Demos from 1968. She hadn’t heard of it, or him, which wasn’t that surprising since she was born at least 15 years after Englebart’s canonical demo.
While it doesn’t ever surprise me that someone hasn’t heard of – or seen – Engelbart’s demo, it’s an important part of computer history.
While it’s long (over 90 minutes), it’s worth watching from beginning to end. Fire up Youtube on the big screen, grab some popcorn, and settle in.
JumpCloud, one of the fastest growing companies in Colorado, is looking for awesome Developers, QA engineers, DevOps admins, and Customer Success Engineers. Over the next year, they are planning to hire 50 people for the engineering team and about 70 across the entire company.
JumpCloud is focused on delivering cloud-based directory services via a SaaS model. They are trying to solve some very difficult problems around identity, authentication, security, and cloud scaling.
JumpCloud’s mission deeply resonates with me because they are disrupting a two decade old monopoly in directory services and giving IT organizations freedom of choice with their IT solutions. It’s an exciting space and we (Foundry Group, OpenView, and Techstars Ventures) are betting that the JumpCloud team has the winning approach.
Since 1994, I’ve worked with the CEO, Rajat Bhargava, on eight companies and I’m psyched about the company and culture that the team is building there.
If you are up for a new challenge leveraging modern technology platforms at a well-funded startup in Boulder, drop the JumpCloud team a note or feel free to email me and I’ll connect you up with them.
We very rarely hire anyone at Foundry Group (although we are hiring an Executive Assistant). However, many of the companies we invest in are often hiring.
Over the years we’ve had a Foundry Group Jobs Page but we’ve never found software that was painless for us to use to keep it current. As a result, it would often get out of date and have to be updated manually. The endless kludge that we’d created was yucky, a pain to maintain, and likely much less effective than it could be.
If you are looking for a new job, take a look and tell me what you think of it and how we could improve it, as we are still tuning it.
I’m going to play follow the leader this morning and blog my #firstsevenjobs on the back of Fred Wilson’s Fun Friday: First Seven Jobs post. I saw this meme go around last week while I was doubled up in the bathroom in Australia and thought it was cute but had no energy to participate. After telling my origin story during several interviews last week, I covered some new ground around first jobs so I thought it’d be fun to put it in one place.
#1: Curb Address Painter / Window Washer: I partnered with my tennis doubles partner Jon Zeitler and we painted street numbers on curbs for $2 / curb. There were lots of new houses being built in our neighborhood so we had plenty of leads, but we had to go door to door to sell, which was painful for two thirteen year olds. As a bonus, we occasionally washed windows. I remember procrastinating a lot. It was a hot and not very lucrative summer.
#2: Maintenance Worker: North Dallas Racquet Club: I cleaned the locker rooms, painted the building, picked up trash on the tennis courts, and knocked down wasp nests. My friend Jon (and others) got to work in the grill (which was probably 120 degrees, so I’m not sure that was a box of joy.) I got fired after two weeks for having a bad attitude.
#3: Fast Food: Potatoes, Etc.: The honors kids took over the Potatoes, Etc. in the Prestonwood Mall food court for a summer. I’d work for three hours and then go downstairs to the video game place and spend the $12 I made playing Tempest and Defender. I got fired for calling my manager a bitch in a moment of fury.
#4: Retail: Rave Electronics / Texas Instruments Retail Store: I spent 12 hours selling TVs one long summer day. I think I was on a combination of a very low salary and commission that theoretically would add up to something interesting. I quit after one day – I couldn’t stand it. I decided to try retail one more time with my best friend Kent and got a job at the Texas Instruments Retail Store (I think it was at Northpark Mall.) I thought I’d like selling computers more than TVs. Of course, I was selling TI 99/4A’s, which other than having sprites totally sucked, so that only lasted a day or two.
#5: Math SAT Tutoring: As a junior in high school I started tutoring for the Math SAT. I charged $30 / hour (instead of the $3 / hour my friends got working at retail stores) and had so much demand that I decided I would only tutor girls. Since I was a high school boy that seemed like a logical segmentation strategy. As a bonus, I was a junior and most of the girls I tutored were seniors. In addition to making a lot of money and only working a few hours a week, I ended up getting an 800 on the Math SAT.
#6: Programmer: Centronics (London): If you remember the parallel printer, you might remember the Centronics printer port (they invented the parallel printer port). My favorite dot matrix printer of all time was the P351 which I got as payment for spending the summer in London. living in Northfields and working in South Kensington, writing a character set generator for the P351 (and other Centronics printers) on an Apple II. It was a great job and the first work I ever did that I loved. I was lonely at times, being between my junior and senior year living far away from home, but it was an awesome adventure that shaped me in many ways.
#7: Programmer: PetCom Systems: I was the first employees of a husband and wife founded software company. At a time (1983) when almost all business software for the oil and gas industry was on minicomputers and mainframes (lots of IBM System/3xs), we wrote software for the Apple III and the IBM PC. I ended up writing two products over several years – PC Log and PC Economics – both of which I got paid $10 / hour + 5% of gross revenue. I learned about equity from this job, as I’d get monthly royalty checks in my first few years at MIT for amounts ranging from $1,000 to $10,000. It’s pretty awesome as a freshman, after getting the shit beat out of you in 8.02, to go to your mailbox and get a blue PetCom check for $5,000.
That was a fun walk for me down memory lane. I knew I sucked at working in stores but this reinforced it. To this day, I have trouble actually walking into a store to even shop. The web has been very good to me.
A few weeks ago I had lunch with John Dearie to discuss a new non-profit he has started called The Center for American Entrepreneurship. Several friends and people I respect a lot are on the board, including Lucy Sanders (NCWIT), Troy Henikoff (Techstars Chicago), Bob Litan (Brookings Institute), Rebecca Lovell (Seattle’s Office of Economic Development), Monisha Merchant (formerly Senator Bennet’s Economic Advisor), Jonathan Ortmans (Global Entrepreneurship Network), Jason Seats (Techstars), Dane Stangler (Kauffman Foundation), and Vivek Wadhwa (Stanford).
When I know, work with, and respect more than 50% of the board of a new non-profit, I pay attention. I’m glad I did – the conversation with John was stimulating. He has a vision and the experience to create a non-partisan organization to engage and educate people, especially policymakers in government, regarding the critical importance of entrepreneurs and startups to innovation, economic growth, and job creation.
While that might sound like a mouthful, I’ve been railing against the limitations of the way our government thinks about entrepreneurship for a decade. I’ve had a number of meetings over the years with the Small Business Administration (SBA) whose name says it all. I’ve often encouraged them to rename themselves the High Growth Entrepreneurship Administration, or even to create a separate organization, or split the SBA in two, or, in a fit of libertarianism, eliminate the SBA altogether. But, I know that none of that is going to happen because of a number of factors, including the fundamental lack of understanding in government about the difference between small business and high growth entrepreneurial businesses. Oh, and inertia.
Over the last few years, I’ve been exploring the idea that we really have two types of small businesses: local businesses and startup businesses. Both are important, but they have very different needs and contribute to the fabric of our economy in very different ways. As John and I were talking, he slid his book, Where The Jobs Are: Entrepreneurship and the Soul of the American Economy, across the table to me. I turned the pages and then over the weekend I read it while laying on the couch after a run.
It’s a great book that every policy maker in government at any level should read. It’s the first book I’ve seen that lays out an effective set of policy recommendations, with substantiation, for the startup society that we are living in. Against the backdrop of total government confusion about economic growth dynamics, combined with endless shallow rhetoric about what to do, I found it to be refreshingly optimistic.
While The Center For American Entrepreneurship website has a series of pages describing the issues and solutions to them, I didn’t find a crisp summary of the book on the web. So I decided to create an outline of the policies and the recommendations. They follow. If you disagree with any, or have any to add, please toss them in the comments as I evolve this as a list of “ways government can help startup communities.”
“Not Enough People with the Skills We Need”
- Incentivize STEM Education
- Launch a Curriculum-Focused Dialogue Between Business and Education
- Launch an Education Reform Dialogue Among America’s Educators
- Incentivize Experienced Talent to Consider Joining Growing Startups
“Our Immigration Policies Are Insane”
- Eliminate the Cap on H-1B Visas
- Award “Graduation” Green Cards
- Create a “High-Skill Immigrant” Green Card
- Create a “Startup Visa”
- Create CitizenCorps
“Not All Good Ideas Get Funded Anymore”
- Make the SBA More Entrepreneur-Friendly
- Incentivize the Formation and Commitment of Angel Capital
- Fix Venture Capital by Fixing the IPO Market
- Cultivate the Formation of Viable New Businesses
- Increase Startups Access to Capital
- Enhance the Science and Technology Capacity of the U.S. Workforce
“Regulations Are Killing Us”
- Devise a Preferential Regulatory Framework for New Business
- Require Third-Party Review of All Proposed Regulations
- Create a Regulatory Improvement Commission
- Rank States’ Regulatory Environment
“Tax Payments Can Be the Difference between Survival and Failure”
- Establish a Preferential Tax Framework for New Businesses
- Allow Cash Method of Accounting for the First Five Years
- Allow 100 Percent Expensing of Business Investment for the First Five Years
- Pass the Startup Innovation Credit Act
“There’s Too Much Uncertainty – and It’s Washington’s Fault
- Gradually But Significantly Reduce the Federal Budget Deficit and National Debt
- Enact Comprehensive Competitiveness-Enhancing Tax Reform
- Increase the Research and Development Tax Credit – and Make It Permanent
- Return Federal Funding of R&D to 2 Percent of GDP
- Jump-Start America’s Trade Agenda
- Negotiate a U.S.-China Free Trade Agreement
- Combine and Modernize Unemployment Insurance and Trade Adjustment Assistance
If there’s one consistent concern I hear from the companies I work with, it’s the shortage of qualified tech talent. But just like in so many other areas, a Boulder entrepreneur has come up a great idea to address the problem that not only adds to the talent pipeline, but also brings in more diversity — a personal passion of mine.
Too often, aspiring engineers who lack the funds to pursue a computer science degree from a university or take part in a bootcamp find themselves locked out of technology jobs, despite often severe talent shortages. Think about it: if you need to pay rent and buy groceries, it’s pretty tough to quit, or work part time, and pay either tuition or boot camp fees. To address this, Heather Terenzio, founder and CEO of Boulder’s Techtonic Group, developed Techtonic Academy, an innovative solution in the form of Colorado’s first federally recognized by the Department of Labor technology apprenticeship. Rather than paying thousands in tuition or fees, qualified individuals can get their foot in the door to a tech career while earning a salary from their very first day.
Techtonic Academy provides underprivileged youth, minorities, women, and veterans both technical training and mentorship to become entry-level software engineers and pursue a career in the technology field. It works like this: the program looks for people with an interest in and aptitude for tech but little or no formal training — think gamers, self-taught hobbyists and the like — and puts them to work as apprentices. They work with senior developers to gain coding experience on real client projects under careful guidance and supervision while earning a livable salary. They are required to earn a series of accreditation badges covering coding skills and are constantly mentored in “soft” skills — things like being on time or working effectively on a team.
After about six months, graduating apprentices are qualified junior developers, ready to work. Some choose to stay at Techtonic Group, where they become part of a team to build custom software, mobile applications and content-managed websites, while others move on to Techtonic Group clients. If a client hires an apprentice, Techtonic does not charge a conversion fee, which can run into the thousands for a junior developer hired through a traditional recruiter.
As Heather told me, “I have an Ivy League education, but that’s not where I learned to code. I learned to code doing it on the job.” I think many software developers share that sentiment.
Heather welcomes all technology hopefuls and works hard to bring diversity to the program, recruiting women, veterans and those who aren’t in a financial position to quit work to pursue a degree or certificate. The benefits are obvious. Apprentices earn a living salary on their first day, and we as a tech community can support a program that puts more coders in the market with a keen eye toward diversity and opportunity while getting work completed.
Heather’s got a great idea and it gives all of us the chance to both find help on projects and add new, diverse talent to our community. Reach out to Heather if you’d like more information.
Earlier this year, we took part in a $50 million Series D investment round in AppDirect. Headquartered in San Francisco, AppDirect makes it easy for businesses to find, buy, manage, and monitor cloud services from a central location. They also give providers and developers an easy way to distribute, sell, and market cloud services.
That last part is particularly interesting from our perspective. Many of our portfolio companies are those types of cloud services and the ecosystems that AppDirect powers can help them get to market faster, reach more users, and drive more revenue.
That might seem counterintuitive, since everybody knows where to find apps, right? Well, not always, and the process of managing multiple cloud services can be a mess. AppDirect takes all of that complexity, such as purchasing, billing, and provisioning, and makes it straightforward for each player in the ecosystem.
It’s radical simplicity at its finest and it’s one reason why we have been big supporters of AppDirect and the team going back to 2013. We first met the founders of AppDirect – Daniel Saks and Nicolas Desmarais – when they acquired Standing Cloud, a Boulder-based portfolio company of ours. A few months after the acquisition, they raised a Series C round led by Mithril which we participated in.
AppDirect’s innovative technology leads the industry, and the company’s values – humility, true north, intensity, ownership, and positive mental attitude – have helped shape a unique culture which continues to drive the company’s success.
AppDirect is growing like crazy and they plan to open more offices, in Silicon Valley and around the world, in the coming months. If you are interested in working in the emerging cloud service commerce market, check out the available AppDirect jobs.
I was on an airplane for the first time for business in a while and when I woke up from my nap I found my self staring at CNBC on the DirecTV seat back display. I never watch CNBC so I was attracted to the talking heads, who were silent since I didn’t have earphones in. I kept thinking I was watching ESPN with all the sports metaphors, blinking lights, constantly changing headlines, and tightly coifed and good looking men talking at me in rapid fire.
Between a headline about Carly Fiorina exploring a run for president and Zebra Technologies equipping all NFL players with tracking devices I noticed one about companies who were raising prices to inflation proof their business. At least, that’s what I thought it said since it flashed up there quickly between a headline about “Steel is on Fire” and then a video of Warren Buffett walking around without a headline so I had no idea why they were showing him.
The inflation proofing headline stuck in my head. We’ve had a very long period of low to no inflation, at least based on the way the government calculates it. While my cynicism around government math and how inflation is calculated is substantial, there isn’t much question that since 2008 capital has been extremely cheap. Fred Wilson wrote a great post titled The Bubble Question a while ago where his punch line was:
It is the combination of these two factors, which are really just one factor (cheap money/low rates), that is the root cause of the valuation environment we are in. And the answer to when/if it will end comes down to when/if the global economy starts growing more rapidly and sucking up the excess liquidity and policy makers start tightening up the easy money regime. I have no idea when and if that will happen. But until it does, I believe we will continue to see eye popping EBITDA multiples for high growth tech companies. And those tech companies with eye popping EBITDA multiples will use their highly valued stock to purchase other high growth tech business and strategic assets at eye popping valuations. It’s been a good time to be in the VC and startup business and I think it will continue to be as long as the global economy is weak and rates are low.
But I think cheap capital is only half of the equation. The other half is ever increasing labor costs across all aspects of the wage chain. When I was in business school in the 1980s, we talked a lot about the productivity paradox. The premise was that computers and automation would drastically improve productivity, making labor less important as tasks were automated, resulting in lower cost of labor.
As the technology industry rapidly evolved, the notion of non-productivity kept coming up. Nicolas Carr’s HBR Article “IT Doesn’t Matter” was probably the capstone piece around this and how companies could take advantage of the commoditization of IT, rather than how IT was a transformative input into companies and societies.
Suddenly, in 2010, technology was disrupting everything and the technology industry was booming. By 2013 everyone was talking about a bubble, even though the companies being created this time around were substantial. Once again, wages for IT employees and computer scientist were skyrocketing and suddenly coding schools were popping up everywhere, to the point that people are now saying that Computer Programming Is a Trade; Let’s Act Like It.
Capital remains incredibly cheap, so it’s flowing into wages. But that’s only at the high end of the market around technology jobs. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the famed jobless recovery with the elimination of massive numbers of jobs that previously existed, especially in industrial and Fortune 5000 companies. While this is happening, we have an entirely new class of entrepreneurs, or self-employed, being created by companies like Uber.
Yeah – this shit is super complicated and it plays out over a long period of time. In fact, it might only be really possible to understand what is happening in hindsight. But the combination of cheap capital and expensive labor has created a very powerful economic dynamic which right now is driving massive innovation across virtually every industry sector around the world.
We know that extremely low cost of capital will not last forever. We know that eventually there will be real inflation again. And we know that wages can’t increase endlessly. I wonder what happens to the allocation of capital, entrepreneurship, and the impact on society when capital gets expensive again?
A few years ago, David Cohen and I started a Colorado CEO Jobs list in response to the regular stream of inbound email we got from folks looking to move to Colorado and interested in tech-related jobs. We seeded this list with CEOs from companies Foundry Group and Techstars had invested in. As other CEOs requested access to the list, we added them.
The list was managed in Yahoo Groups and had about 100 CEOs on it. It was simple – emails from people looking for jobs came to me or David and we forwarded them to the list. The hit rate was very high – I regularly get feedback from people that they’ve ended up with multiple interviews and a job from the introduction.
Both David and I felt like the list was pretty tedious to manage in Yahoo Group so about three months ago we restarted it and made it a Google Private Community. We culled the list a little and re-invited everyone, ending up with 56 active CEOs. We’ve been using the Google Private Community for a while and are comfortable that it’s a significant improvement over the Yahoo Group.
We are still keeping it private for now but are looking for any CEOs of tech companies in Colorado who want to join the list as we expand it from Foundry / Techstars related companies. Our goal is to have a wide audience of CEOs for anyone coming to Colorado who is looking for a tech related job.
We are keeping the list ONLY to CEOs for now as we plan to expand some of the things we are doing with the list.
So, if you are a CEO of a tech company in Colorado and want to be on our Colorado CEO Jobs List, just email me (firstname.lastname@example.org).
And – if you are looking for a job in a Colorado tech company, email me also and I’ll forward your info to the list.