Advice from VCs & Start-Ups

To kick-start the blog, I thought I’d start with something I know to be smart and interesting- advice from other people! As time goes on, I’d like to talk about cool inventions I’m using (quick preview: Prezi and XMind), discuss change and social innovation (Causeworld for example), and update on my experiences with entrepreneurs and venture capitalists here at Darden.

For this first post though, I want to pass on what I learned over the past few months, when I was lucky enough to speak with a wide array of venture capitalists and entrepreneurs. This was a personal project from this summer- since I was interested in working in the VC or start-up world, but had no experience in it, I started reaching out to anyone I could find that did, and asked for advice. All I asked for was time and honesty, and the response I had was overwhelming. I spoke with VCs and private equity folk from New York, DC, Virginia, Portland, and Colorado, start-ups from Charlottesville, Boulder, Palo Alto and Ireland; professors and inventors from all over.

What I learned helped to shape my view of business school and what I can/should learn while ; it helped me to come to an honest assessment of what I want my life and career to include; and it taught me a lot about what a true community considers its responsibilities…namely, to help the new and uninitiated to find their way as they’re starting out. So I wanted to start this blog by passing on some of their advice in the same spirit they offered it to me- I’ll spread it out over this week, but below you’ll find the first item that always came up- EVERYONE I spoke with gave this piece of advice first.

Talk to people. Talk to a lot of people. Find people to talk to everyday- meet someone you don’t know and find out about them, their ideas, what they do and know.  Sounds simple right? But most people fail to make the time to really do this- until they’re in a situation where they’re asking for something. And there’s the rub- networking is most valuable when it’s just meeting, not asking. Now is the time to do this- start reaching out, tell people you’re in business school (1st year) and just want to hear about their experiences- I got turned down less than 5% since this summer. It works- but we just don’t do it enough. I saw an article with some quotes from an old boss, Allyn Horne, and Upwardly Mobile, the career mgmt services company he works for now, that really drove this point home.

  • Job seekers talk/email an average of 8 people outside their current company on a monthly basis
  • Less than 38% of job seekers have asked for an introduction in the past month
  • On av, job seekers have a network of just 29 colleagues (definition: peers they interacted with last 18-24 months)

So starting small….talk to people. I’ll post a few of the other pieces of advice later this week- some of the bigger ones include: look for situations that are sink/swim, what a “timeframe for success” looks like, why the right boss is better than the right job, etc. Let me know what you think!


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