Sunday, September 07, 2008

Interview series 2: Interview with Cleantech Venture Capital fund, Analyst, London

A while ago I got a phone call from a headhunter to interview for a newly established cleantech venture capital fund in London. The fund has been looking for someone with strong analytical background and 2-3 years work experience. It has been founded by three partners who seemed to be a very good bunch of people, in addition to being extremely accomplished. I was interviewed by two of the partners on different occasions, each lasting about 1 hour.

The first interview was with one of the partners who used to work for 3i in Silicon Valley. The interview was more or less about my background, my commercial experience via family business, my career aspirations and motivation for a career in VC. Given a small team environment, partners were keen to recruit someone who would be a good fit for the team and the overall set up of the firm (as is usually the case!).

The partner explained the role stating it would involve working with everyone in the team on pretty much everything, i.e. general transaction support, valuation and modelling, research and analysis, etc. He explained that the role is a privileged one as I would work with and learn from very senior people. The career advancement would happen in 4 year steps, as the life cycle of a fund was 4 years.

My second interview was with another partner. He seemed quite a resilient guy with great personality who worked for GE for nearly 20 years.

Following a few background questions he asked how much I knew about VC and cleantech. I said, being from developing world with little exposure to cleantech, I see it as a novel area to learn about.

He spoke about current investment they were making that involved new metal making process which could potentially save a lot of energy. He asked how I would approach analysing this investment and my gut feeling about the entry and exit value. I asked about development phase of the business. Following the answer I said exit value would be at lower EBITDA multiple as the business matured.

Tips to survive during VC interviews:
-Pre-requisite - Given VC roles are highly research and analysis driven, you typically need a strong science degree and 2-3 years of analytical experience. VCs especially love strategy consultants!
-Be personal - You can't use a formulaic approach during interviews with VCs, they are not investment banks!
-Be passionate - There is no way you can get a VC job if you are not passionate about it. Be ready to give plenty of examples of this.

Good luck!

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