A Climate Enthusiast Venturing Into Venture Capital
This past summer, I had the unique experience of interning as an MBA Associate at Antler – a global early-stage VC focused on helping the earliest founders build new products and companies. While making the transition from a large corporate bank and into VC, here are the top five things I learned.
Finding common ground between new and past experiences is critical to any career pivot
At Antler, each member of the investing team has a specialty focus, ranging from marketplace to supply chain to education technology. Personally, I knew that I wanted to explore climate tech within VC. To make an impact quickly, I focused on channeling my expertise from BlackRock’s sustainability business into all things venture.
Utilising climate data expertise and positioning corporate strategy skills as portfolio coaching opportunities were helpful ways to join the team and hit the ground running.
At the end of my internship, I was able to hone in on my specialty to lead a controversial panel with key investors across the European landscape. The session focused on the balance between profit and impact, and explored the four themes below.
- Different climate tech solutions require different funding models - not everything is a “VC play”
- The downstream impacts of climate change are expected to shift systems and prices dramatically
- Investors need to adjust their time horizons to reflect the realities of deep tech
- Bubbles come and go but climate tech is the biggest project humanity has ever taken on
The investment stage selected should fit your personality and career goals
Antler is a fund focused on early-stage founders, meaning that personality and culture fit is very important. When working in pre-seed investing, this connectivity and engagement are important above all else. At Antler, founders join a cohort for 10 weeks during which they engage daily with members of the investment team. This frequent interaction serves as a clear and reliable indicator of the founders’ future potential to grow and build a successful business. If you enjoy the energy and diversity of meeting individuals with creative ideas, the pre-seed space is a great match.
As my time at Antler progressed, my eyes were opened to the interesting layer of quantitative work that exists within pre-seed investing. Rather than spending hours on a cap table analysis for Antler’s investment, the team devoted time to advising early-stage founders on how to pursue angel investments, how to raise their first seed round, and how to negotiate terms that preserve founders’ equity stake. These are valuable lessons to learn as a first-time investor and founder.
Finding a niche takes trial and error, but starting broad can help
Because Antler is a traditional VC, a wide variety of sectors and products qualify for potential investment. While working in venture for the first time, it was helpful to gain this broad exposure rather than focus in on a niche category.
Beyond sector, I learned quickly that time horizon is another form of investment criteria. At Antler, companies build products focused in the software space, as these technologies are less capex intensive and require a shorter investing horizon. As someone who wants to invest in climate technology, where investing cycles can take longer, this was also helpful to see in practice.
Lastly, I knew that I wanted to work for a large global VC to make my initial foray into the space. At Antler, I took away the valuable lesson that a global network can be massively impactful from both a networking and connectivity stance. Now, while seeking to pursue a focused investment role, I know the basics and have the toolkit to specialise in climate tech.
Even as a financial professional, my learning opportunity in VC was evident
At Antler, I tested both my qualitative and quantitative skills by learning how to due diligence a new investment, how to structure and lead an investment committee, and how to negotiate the terms of a deal.
At the end of the summer, I was proud to announce that a climate-focused portfolio company I had coached over the summer would earn an investment from Antler. One down, many more to go!
My advice to those looking to enter venture capital:
- Find a fund that is looking to expand geographies or fill a knowledge gap. Venture teams are naturally lean, and hire on a need basis (i.e. there is no extra fat!)
- Timing, timing, timing. Funds are most likely to hire when they are fundraising. Keeping your ear on the ground is critical as the VC community is tightly knit and uniquely network-based.
- Focus on people. VCs are intimate teams, with an acute interest in people. So, you should vet the folks who are interviewing you, and interview them back. If it is the right match, you’ll feel that connection.
- Find the right topic, and scope the search. In VC, subject matter expertise can go a long way. If there is something you are passionate about, or a stage of growth where your past experience is more relevant, try to figure this out early and set your targets.