I have 20 years experience in high tech industries including telecoms, solar, semiconductors etc and have a PhD and MBA. My main experience is in commercial roles (senior but not board) and I have experience in M&A, due diligence, business modelling, valuation (including IP) and strategy development. I would like to move into VC and use my technical and commercial knowledge in an investment role. What would your advice be to get interview? Should I be applying for roles or sending out more speculative enquiries?
Both is the quick answer. The longer answer: it looks like you have all the skills required, but the big gap is an investment track record, which most people with your breadth and depth of experience would have by now. Moving into VC therefore presents a conundrum for the employing firm (what level do we hire this guy/girl?, how do we accommodate their strengths and weaknesses etc.). An agency will grapple perhaps clumsily with these problems as well, as being client led, they try to identify the best candidates for a specific job specification. So, yes, do apply for roles that you see advertised from time to time on agency websites, but in your instance a few other approaches might be worth following strongly as well:
1. Use your well established personal network to get straight to the possible employers. Ask them for a coffee, not a job (at least in the first few minutes!), and see where the conversation might lead. Those that have worked with you in the past probably have a good view of your strengths and weaknesses, and whether your profile would be a good fit within their firm and where.
2. I have limited anecdotal experience of agencies that work for candidates (rather than those that are paid by employers), and while you are going to tread carefully in how their fees work, but they might be able to pitch you speculatively to a set of firms they have good links to.
3. Ensure that your CV describes what you have done in a way that is appealing to VCs. This is an art, and I’m used to offering advice by phone here (not all of it right, I’m sure). In essence, it boils down to you being concise and letting the reader know what they need to know and nothing more. Two pages maximum in as straight forward a format as possible, and <1000 words. If you have anything that sets you apart from the rest, ensure that it’s there too, languages, mentoring, networks, cultural insights, work in unusual geographies, palpable evidence of an interest in smallcos etc.
To discover VCs that might fit your background, try EVCA or BVCA member lists and examine firms’ portfolios, geographies and biographies.
Finally, other than good luck, I’d recommend you have patience and persistence. Roles at any one specific VC firm generally comes up infrequently, and you need to be (still) looking when they do.