Venture Capital – Best MBA Programs for a Career in Venture Capital
If you’re interested in the fast-moving world of start-up investing, you might be drawn to venture capital (VC). VCs invest in innovation, but the bulk of the work is geared towards helping companies grow/scale, which requires a touch of finance along with strong competencies in HR and talent strategy, as well as insight on the start-up’s industry, marketing, technology, M&A, etc.
Here’s a quick look at what the VC placement scene looks like at the schools that report this data (note that not all schools report VC specifically):
TABLE 13.1: VC PLACEMENT FOR THE CLASS OF 2020 (TOP 10 SCHOOLS BY %)
going into VC Industry
going into VC Industry
|Harvard Business School||5.0%||28|
|Columbia Business School||2.7%||16|
You might surmise (correctly) that VC funds generally don’t directly recruit MBAs. It turns out that the VC industry is small and niche and VCs generally don’t give a ton of weight to the MBA degree. So if you want to work in VC, you’re looking at an off-campus job search, hustling, and networking while proving the value you can bring to the fund – for example:
- You have unique core knowledge that is applicable to / make-or-break for their portfolio companies (e.g., edge computing, carbon capture, etc.). You would likely have gained this knowledge from your pre-MBA work experience or
- Your track record shows that you can scale their portfolio companies and maximize their odds of success – experience in a GM role or in growth, talent strategy, sales, or product/market fit – expertise and credibility that you will be able to help portfolio companies
- You bring proprietary deal flow to the VC fund. For example, you could come with a deep network of entrepreneurs, and you know that you can leverage these relationships to get the very best entrepreneurs to work with / take funding from your
- Lastly, you could walk into a VC fund with a lot of cash that you’re ready to This is, maybe surprisingly, the most common way that most people become VCs but is obviously not accessible to the bulk of us without an inheritance or a successful past IPO.
So, to have credibility with VC funds, you’re going to want to gain the type of experience above, and an MBA alone isn’t going to get you all the way there. Our advice, then, is to think of VC as a longer-term career goal, with some shorter-term career steps and experiences that an MBA can help you achieve:
- First, understand what you want to achieve as a What underlying problems do you want to solve, and what human beings do you want to affect with your work?
- Next, think through what skills you currently have and what skills/experiences you need. For example, if you’re interested in food tech, you could join Kraft Heinz in a Brand Manager (GM-track) role that will teach you how to run a food business.
- Keep in mind that you don’t need to join a VC fund to do this type of innovation-focused investment; many large companies have venture, innovation, and M&A functions where you could serve as an in-house VC.
- As you look at schools, do research about programs like incubator programs, curricular VC internships and venture labs, startup management labs, and other opportunities that can get you some real-world experience in the VC space (for example, an internship with a local fund).
One last tip – keep an eye on emerging trends in the VC industry! VCs are slowly becoming more institutionalized, which means there may be more post-MBA opportunities in the near future. It’s also a great time for female investors and ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) investing – which might open up specific opportunities for folks with the right experience.
When folks imagine using their skills and career to make the world a better place, a lot of people immediately dream of a social impact job. The fascinating thing about social impact is that it’s everywhere – it’s not a particular industry, function, or role; it’s really an outcome that you can achieve in any industry.
That said, when people imagine a future in social impact, there’s a set of organizations that come to mind. They think about working in impact investing or at a climate change start-up or working for a billionaire’s philanthropic foundation. These jobs are super exciting but super rare for MBAs to get.
Here’s what we want to stress about wanting a career in social impact: Open your mind and heart to jobs that have a social impact and are hiding in plain sight. What impact do you want to make? How do you want to make the world a better place? And what are ALL of the avenues that you could pursue to make that impact?
- If you want to reduce food waste, you could work in operations for a restaurant chain, a grocery store, or another company aligned with that
- If you want to improve global well-being, you could work for a pharmaceutical company focused on developing affordable medicines for curable
- If you care deeply about racial equality, you could make an impact in your role as a marketer for a major brand (we actually know folks who are making this type of impact at companies like Nike and LinkedIn).
All companies exist to help humans. If you want to help a lot of humans in a specific way, chances are there is a regular old for-profit business already doing that. So don’t limit yourself to only the more traditional social impact options below.
All right. With that out of the way, here’s a high-level overview of what most folks consider social impact jobs:
- Social enterprise – companies that are focused on a social mission or impact and earn revenue (e.g., B corps, TOMS)
- Impact investing – investing with the goal of creating a measurable social or environmental impact, along with a financial return (e.g., Acumen)
- Philanthropic foundations – organizations that fund initiatives that address social issues like public health and economic inequality (e.g., The Gates Foundation)
- Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) – internal roles at large companies that integrate social and environmental goals into business operations
- Social impact consulting – the social impact practice of a large consulting firm like McKinsey, or a social impact-focused consultancy (e.g., The Bridgespan Group)
- Public sector – working for a government organization at the federal, state, or local level (e.g., The National Park Service, which hired from 4 MBA campuses in 2020)
As mentioned, these jobs are rare – so rare, in fact, that only 4 schools report what percentage of students went into social impact: Georgetown McDonough (6.0%), Wharton (5.3%), UCLA Anderson (2.1%), and Northwestern Kellogg (0.2%). Keep in mind that these roles could span social start-ups, CSR roles, foundation roles, etc.
Schools do report how many students go into nonprofits, however, so here’s that breakdown for all schools that reported students going into the field:
TABLE 13.2: NONPROFIT PLACEMENT FOR THE CLASS OF 2020
|Business School||% Students going into
|# Students going into
|Arizona State Carey||5.0%||4|
|Harvard Business School||4.0%||22|
|Columbia Business School||1.7%||10|
And here are our tips if you’re interested in pursuing a career in social impact post- MBA:
- Consider dual degree programs (MBA/MPH, MBA/MPP, etc.) or specialized MBA programs (e.g., healthcare management MBAs) that would benefit you in a social impact-oriented position – you’ll often find more recruiting opportunities through a dual degree program than through a traditional
- Check out social impact resources at your target schools; see if they have a social impact office, robust social impact programming that creates networking opportunities, and initiatives like social impact scholars in residence or entrepreneurs in organizations like foundations, social enterprises, and impact investing firms usually want to hire people who have some prior experience in specific roles (program management, investment management, ) or domains (public health, microfinance, etc.). If you don’t have this experience in your career so far, you can get it through a dual degree or even your prior volunteer experience.
- Be prepared for an off-campus, networked job search – these organizations rarely recruit on campus, and even larger companies don’t recruit for CSR jobs on campus, so you want to leverage your school’s social impact programming and alumni base to develop relationships with employees at the organizations you’re interested
- Consider developing best-in-class functional experience, then bringing that skillset into the social impact or nonprofit world to support your You could work in investment banking, then pivot into a finance role at the Clinton Foundation or the World Bank.