On Fridays I tend to get a little more free-form with my thought, so I thought I’d reflect on professional choices that people make through a recruiting situation I encountered with a venture capital firm. This post should not be construed as either a right way or wrong way to either be interviewed or conduct an interview. It focuses on how one weighs one’s principles in tough situations.
Eight years ago I was approached by an executive recruiter retained by one of the top one to five venture capital firms in the Valley for an associate position in the telcom space. Associate positions are basically the entry point for MBAs – it is the lowest partner-level track position within a VC firm. Apparently one of the partners had gotten my resume from another VC and passed it to the recruiter.
As relayed by the recruiter, the partner was attracted to my engineering and business background, focus on telcom in the production, operations, and standards areas, and my involvement with start-ups. The era was pre-bubble, and at a time when technologies like DSL, cable modems, advanced switching, and broadband services had not spread as widely as today (where many people have home networking setups, etc.).
During the interview, the recruiter also liked my ability to bridge the interface between technology and business worlds. It’s an important aspect of venture capital, because at some point a VC has to cut through all the mumbo-jumbo tech stuff and figure out whether the venture is going to make any money for the investors in the venture fund.
But this is a point where the interview not only went very right but also went very wrong.
What the recruiter said to me was something to the effect of this, "You know what’s wrong with you. All this stuff is nice, but the only thing in common that the partners in this [venture] firm have is that they personally want to get f*** filthy rich. I’ve known these guys for a long time, and there’s no other common thread."
Subsequent to the interview, I received some follow-on invitation and informational material about the venture fund. The fund had served as the fuel for X% of the tech capital market, etc. Pre-MBA, I had just come out of the market with a salary in the mid 50s to 60s. The letter in the packet said that in five years I could be making high seven figure earnings. This is not the even the type of lure that management consulting and investment banking firms use at b-schools.
What immediately jumped into my mind was what the recruiter said … "personally want to get f*** filthy rich".
The venture capital area excites me.
Entrepreneurism is great.
I get charged by technology.
I get charged by business.
I get charged by being entrusted by parties to protect and maximize their interests.
I hate to lose.
Of course I am interested in maximizing personal earnings potential.
But I didn’t like the underlying principle that this recruiter was focused on, which was to the effect of make yourself rich and the rest will come.
It was a cart before the horse kind of thing.
While perhaps not representative of the venture partnership, I figured I had better things to focus on. Certain principles matter to me.