After two years of virtual treks, the MBA Private Equity and Venture Capital Club was able to return to London for its in-person career trek. The club’s management team, consisting of 12 members from 11 different nationalities, organized eight visits with PE & VC funds, as well as a meeting with a headhunting firm specialized in PE/VC recruiting. During the three-day trek, students visited the offices of private equity heavyweights Warburg Pincus, Permira, Silverlake, StepStone and Oaktree, as well as Speedinvest, one of Europe’s most active early-stage VC funds.
Traditionally, Private Equity and Venture Capital are very popular industries for MBA graduates because both areas require a certain level of industry experience. However, the small size of the industries (Private Equity funds sometimes hire only a handful of Associates per year, and Venture Capital funds often have no standardized Associate scheme at all) and the tough competition for jobs (often from ex-investment bankers vying for the same few offers) means that MBAs wanting to break into the field face considerable obstacles.
Here’s what MBA graduates can do to increase their chances of getting hired by a prestigious PE/VC firm:
- Pre-MBA job experience: Traditionally, the only route into PE was through completing a top-tier Investment Banking Analyst program. However, PE funds react on changing market trends and are increasingly open to hiring candidates with consulting or industry-specific backgrounds (e.g., renewable energy, technology)
- Master the “technicals”: Almost all PE interviewers will ask candidates to set up a financing (usually LBO) model in excel – these tests can take 1-3 hours or be administered in the form of a take-home exam. Candidates need to be practiced and perfected before an interview—and there are plenty of online resources available to help you out. Note: there is often no 100% correct answer to a modeling example, but you need to have perfect reasoning for the assumptions you made.
- Have a startup investor mindset: Almost every VC interview will ask candidates to present or showcase their investment ideas. Having some sector expertise and being able to make a case for a specific startup investment is crucial. To obtain this knowledge, you should closely follow the tech-trends and, ideally, specialize in one or two verticals (e.g., Fintech, Adtech, Foodtech etc.) Apply to funds that match your area of interest.
- Tech/Startup background: Venture Capital investors deeply value pre-existing industry experience, especially if it matches with their investment thesis. For example: B2B SaaS investors will look favorably at candidates with prior experience working at Google/Amazon. Alternatively, VC funds value entrepreneurial experience and tend to hire former startup founders or serial entrepreneurs.
Crucial Skills for Both Industries
- Soft skills and network: PE and VC are relationship-driven businesses. Potential applicants are not only screened for their hard skills and prior experience, but also for their existing network and their interpersonal skills. In both areas, professionals work on lengthy transactions with high uncertainty, and investments are not only made into assets but also in management teams and people.
The MBA PE/VC Club tries to ensure continued engagement with PE/VC funds and hopes that we can substantially grow our alumni network in this area over the upcoming years!
Contributed by students Adolfo Ruiz and Florian Krisch