As a Mathematics student at UCL, a career in start-ups and venture capital was rarely spoken of. It was only after attending a conference with Renée Elliott, founder of Planet Organic, as keynote speaker, that I could see myself building an exciting career in this industry.
Renée spoke of the obstacles she faced to launch Planet Organic in the overlooked, health-conscious market segment for organic goods. It was fascinating to see what it takes to build a value-driven brand; where every store location, price point and item stocked impacted the success or failure of the business. Doing a business strategy course at that time, I began reading about the founding stories behind established apps and brands. I was inspired by the way their visions evolved, how they overcame the challenges they faced and what made them successful, compared to others. Every founder’s journey looked different but they all had a relentless commitment to creating value by solving a single problem, especially through transformative technologies.
Over the course of my undergraduate studies, I actively engaged in everything venture, becoming an ambassador for an accelerator and interning at Metavallon VC, to understand more about the founder journey. Last summer, I participated in Future VC’s 8-week programme of mentoring and masterclasses by the best venture funds in London. Through this programme, I was lucky enough to be partnered with Nauta Capital. I realised that what I sought to learn spanned far beyond 8 weeks so asked to continue for another 6 months. As my internship comes to a close and I seek my next professional challenge, here are some reflections on my time so far.
Venture capitalists are human!
Almost everyone I have met, especially the team at Nauta, has shown me that the industry is driven by incredibly bright and dedicated individuals that want to help founders succeed. They are constantly looking for innovative entrepreneurs to support them to achieve their potential and develop sustainable growth. The vast majority of investors I have met support founders in every way possible. Sometimes, that support means a bit of tough love, but it’s important to remember that relationships between investors and entrepreneurs can last for +10 years and at the crux, is a matter of co-creating value.
There is no single route to a career in venture
As with any industry, there are multiple paths to a role within venture capital. At Nauta, I have had the privilege of working with a multinational group of extremely talented people. The team of 26 have neuroscience, business, finance, marketing, and physics backgrounds. It’s important to think about how your unique experiences can help you spot amazing companies. A research scientist will be better equipped to evaluate a biotech start-up. Someone with a background in charitable work will quickly discern which impact-led start-ups truly create value. If you’ve worked in a start-up, you’re likely to anticipate the operational challenges that companies face. More than anything, funds are looking for innovative and multi-talented people to help entrepreneurs to drive their businesses forward.
Networking and connections are crucial
A critical part of the job is meeting people — founders, investors, and industry specialists. The more conversations, the more you can create your own network of peers that bring mutual value to each other. The venture community thrives on this. From juniors to seniors, everyone is more than happy to spend half an hour talking about a topic of interest or have a friendly conversation. It was a welcome surprise that going for a coffee can be such a productive part of the workday! but that reinforces the first takeaway of the humanity of the VC industry.
It’s a race to prioritise
Prioritising is a fundamental part of any job but it’s especially true in this role. Looking around, I don’t think any one of us can confidently say we have mastered this (tips and tricks are always welcome!). There is an endless to-do list: founders to reach out to, due diligence to be done, or industry to be analysed. You need to get good at knowing what needs to be done and how much time is truly worth spending on it. Over time it becomes more intuitive to know what to focus on and recognise when the exponential value curve levels off.
The venture capital industry is known for its concentration of ex-consultants and financiers. Knowing what I know now, it’s one of the most exciting and rewarding career paths out there and I truly believe anyone can do it.
Nauta Capital regularly hires analysts in London, Barcelona and Berlin for 6-month placements. Find out more about any vacancies on our Careers page.