A Day in the Life of a Junior Investor

The most common question I get from aspiring VCs — how do you spend your time on an average day? While days can vary wildly depending on deals in motion, I wanted to share what a typical day might look like. Venture is one of those industries that is “always on”. Even when I am not working, I am always making mental notes on smart people and potential founders, emerging trends, and new companies that might become investment targets. 

people on top of hill under white clouds golden hour photography
Photo by JOHN TOWNER on Unsplash

7:30AM

I am a night owl so waking up in the morning is tough. Which is why I usually set 15 alarms between 7 and 7:30am. I am always attached to the phone so my first instinct is to quickly scan my email, twitter mentions, and whatsapp messages, usually with just one eye open. I don’t generally like to eat breakfast so my mornings are uncomplicated. Sometimes I make coffee though I am definitely more of a hot chocolate person. The last thing I do before heading out is quickly scanning my to-do list for the day on Todoist and mentally preparing myself for the day ahead.

8:15AM

I usually reach the office by 8:15. I start every work day with a fixed morning routine. I start with Product Hunt to browse and test cool new products that launch every day. Then I read the top articles on Hacker News. My slack groups are next, I am in four main ones with other investors and friends and I go through my messages and threads. A quick Twitter scan. I end by peeking at the BVP index as my proxy for how the market is doing. I have 3 computer screens so usually a lot of these are happening in parallel. 

cat working hard GIF

8:30AM – 12:00PM

Mornings are for emails, investment memos, portfolio work and strategy ideation. That includes doing market and competitor research for an investment memo, putting together docs and jamming on GTM with a portfolio founder, and some good old fashioned cap table modeling. Sometimes my mornings are spent chatting with my colleagues about a deal we are particularly excited about. Since we invest so early, so much of our decision making process relies on these ad-hoc conversations that help us develop and advance our thinking about each company. Once we start getting really excited about a deal, we put together a one-page investment memo to share with the team. Mostly, it serves as a way to discuss as a broader team to invite questions, comments, and feedback. Then, we go back and forth with founders with questions and dive into the data room. The final step in our process at the seed stage is a final investment memo. Working on deals is the most intellectually fulfilling part of the job for me, which is why I save my mornings for it. It’s fun deep diving into a new industry with a new approach and trying to understand the mechanics and dynamics between all the major players in the space. But it’s also tough trying to balance our imagination and vision for the company’s potential with the company’s present performance in making an investment decision. Get too carried away in either direction and I am sure we will miss some gems. Hey, that is what an anti-portfolio is for!

12:00PM – 6:30PM

Afternoons are for back to back founder meetings. This is my favorite part of being a VC. I like spending my afternoon with audaciously ambitious founders filled with unbridled optimism. I really draw my energy from these meetings. I generally schedule 20-30 minute meetings. They are the perfect duration to quickly share BIP’s philosophy and process, get their background and story, understand the arc of the business and key levers, traction, and fundraising goals and timelines. Conversational is best, I go through the deck on my own before/after the meeting. I also say “how can I help” non ironically in every meeting and actually mean it!

6:30PM – 7PM

As I finish up the meetings, I spend some time reviewing the pipeline, prioritizing deals, assigning action items to each deal and scheduling them on my calendar. For example, an early stage fintech deal that I really like might mean that I have to talk to our partner who is the fintech expert about it, email the team for the data room, and get a call scheduled with their key payment processor vendor. Once it’s done, in a non-pandemic world, I would head out to spend my evenings at startup events and meetups to hangout with founders, investors, and more like minded people. Perfect combo of social fun and work for me. Now, I just head home 😭. Though sometimes I have zoom happy hours and those are pretty fun.

7:30PM – 12:00AM

I like to pack my evenings with my hobbies — basketball, working out, TV, and playing chess. Yes, just like the rest of the world I started playing chess after watching Queen’s Gambit and now I am hooked. I squeeze in dinner somewhere in this window.

12:00AM – 1:30AM (ish)

One last look at emails and action items for the following day. Finally curl into bed with a book. Usually I read 2 books at a time, one fiction and one non fiction. Just finished reading Crossing the Chasm, and currently reading Dune and Understanding Chess Endgames.

donald duck sleeping GIF

Want to follow along everyday? Follow me on Twitter @itsparaj and ask your burning VC questions.

Becoming a VC

Growing up in a middle class family in India, entrepreneurship was not even in the universal set of career options I could aspire to. Everyone in my family was an engineer. Entrepreneurship or starting a business was not even remotely in my cultural consciousness. Let alone venture capital. In fact, I didn’t even fully know or understand what venture capitalists do, and how the industry works until junior year of college.

Now, in retrospect, I realize how fortunate I have been to break into venture early, given how opaque the industry can seem, how competitive, and how people from privileged backgrounds only have to hit a free throw to win the game. It can feel daunting, and I want to share my journey on how I built connections, built assets, and got into VC from scratch. The goal is for you to see that you can do it too.


I was the first person from my family to ever travel abroad when I moved to the US to attend Franklin & Marshall College. It was an exciting privilege I couldn’t have afforded without the extreme generosity of the financial aid I received. Once here, I had everything planned out. Major in Business and Computer Science. Get an MBB internship. Graduate into a management consulting career. Until I actually got my first consulting internship and realized within the first week that in fact, I did NOT want to do consulting. But now my entire plan was falling apart and I didn’t know what I wanted to do instead.

Given my interests in tech and business, I was curious about startups and Silicon Valley, but I lived across the country near Philly. But hey, the internet is the great equalizer. I would spend my entire day on AngelList and Product Hunt. I probably went through every single company on AL and I would email every cool new product that launched on PH asking how I could help. Any time a company looked interesting, I would spend a few hours doing research on them and their competitors and then wrote a one page summary on my findings along with 3 product and marketing ideas. After over 500 cold emails, I got some bounce backs (didn’t guess the right email) and some thanks but no thanks (I am sure my recommendations weren’t actually that revolutionary, I was 19).

Cold emailed the CEO of a SV seed startup and ACTUALLY heard back!

But most importantly, I got 5-10 personal, responses from CEOs which turned into 5 zoom calls and eventually 2 summer internship offers. I broke into tech! Ended up spending one summer in SV and since I couldn’t afford to live near the office on an intern’s salary, was living in the East Bay commuting 2.5 hours each way to get to work and back.

First startup internship at JetInsight in Menlo Park

I loved every moment of it. Looking back, it was a transformative experience, both being in the valley at a high growth startup and learning from a great founding team (👀 JetInsight and RoomStory), but also gave me a taste of life in VC — discovering great companies, engaging and building relationships with great founders, and helping them! Then, I was helping as an intern. Now, as an investor.

Back on campus as a junior, hyper-energized after my experience in the valley, I was determined to bring that same energy, serendipity, and innovation to F&M. First, I thought the best way was for me to start a company on campus myself, so I started a peer-to-peer storage marketplace called SimplyStow (RIP). While I learned a lot about the ins and outs of building and shipping products and acquiring customers, I also realized that the better way to leave a more long lasting impact on the ecosystem would be to encourage and support other students to be entrepreneurial as well. So I started a pitch contest and workshop series on campus to encourage students to take risks, go through the design thinking process and come out of the sessions with a startup MVP. As I went about designing the program, my professors connected me with several F&M alumni who were either running their own startups, were angel investors, or venture capitalists. After talking to 4-5 VCs, it clicked for me — I want to spend my time finding ambitious entrepreneurs and helping them start and grow companies. Quickly, it seemed, I had gone from “What is VC”, to “holy s*** this is exactly what I want to do, and have been trying to do at F&M”. 

I raised a small amount of money (<$5k) from alumni and academic departments to offer as prize money for the pitch contest and led its full scale launch on campus. Got a lukewarm, yet encouraging response. I found my tribe of entrepreneurial students, albeit small. 5 teams registered to go through the workshops and pitch. Six weeks later, they pitched to an audience of 50 students and a panel of professors, angels, and startup founders. It was a success, at a small level. 

To build on this success, I went back to VC alumni I had spoken to and started volunteering my time to help them. I spent my free time researching companies that fit their thesis and started taking first calls with founders, taking notes, and building a rolodex of companies in Airtable which I would share with them every week. 

Halfway through my senior year, while deep in job application mode, I got my offer to join the APM program at Google. It was a phenomenal opportunity, one that I am eternally grateful for, but I was determined to work in venture. So I sent Larry and Don, VCs I was in contact with, a proposal. I even wrote my own job description myself.

Did the work upfront and emailed them a community + deal + ideas for the fund
My proposal to Larry Braitman and Don Stein, Candela Partners as a senior in college

Fortunately, they took a massive bet on me and accepted my proposal and I started working at Candela Partners, first in school, and then, after college, in San Francisco.

Fast forward to today, now I am in Atlanta, focusing on seed investments at BIP Capital. Looking back at my journey, could not have done it without the constant support of my advisors, mentors, friends, and parents (even though my parents still don’t fully understand what I do for work). I am genuinely deeply passionate about helping early stage entrepreneurs and grateful that I have had the opportunity to do so and so I want to spend my spare time paying it forward!

After seeing my journey and those of my friends in venture, I would breakdown the playbook like this:

  • Have a deep passion for entrepreneurship and helping founders — this is a people business and a service business. Go above and beyond for people.
  • Write on the internet — I didn’t leverage this as well, but it is the easiest way to show how you think about industries and startups and a great way to fake it till you make it. Prove you can think like a VC by writing about it online.
  • Take Initiative, Build an asset — Create something valuable. This could be a blog, a community, or even an event series in your city. Something on the internet or in person that is helpful to founders or investors and attracts them to it. I built a community of founders on Discord.
  • Become a super connector — Three types of networks are vital for VC. Depending on what stage you want to focus on: founders, other investors (same stage, upstream, or downstream), and talent/advisors/high profile customers. Build genuine relationships and make connections where you see fit. It will go a long way.
  • Be active on Twitter — This is where all the smart founders and investors are hanging out.
  • Fake VC Portfolio (optional) — I didn’t do this, but Turner Novak hit a homerun with this. To really prove you can be a VC, show you can spot and pick companies early with conviction. Maintain a public fake portfolio and track its success over time and use that to build your track record as an investor. 

I know it’s a VC meme – “how can I be helpful”, but most junior VCs I know got in exactly that way, by going above and beyond with founders, investors, and their own personal projects. Plus luck. Hopefully, my journey gives you a rough playbook for how to think about the paths into venture capital. There are a lot more resources now than when I started, and I have linked some of my favorite ones below.

Resources


Interested in VC? Looking for someone to bounce ideas off? DM me on Twitter @itsparaj

🌱 The Art of the Seed Pitch 🌱

Designed by pch.vector / Freepik

I meet 20+ seed and pre-seed founders every week. Every founder has a unique presentation style. Some like to go through the deck slide by slide. Others prefer a more dynamic conversation without a deck. After studying hundreds of pitches, the most effective and efficient pitches follow this framework — Founder-Product-Market-Fit.

Founder – why you are the right team to invest in

A pre-seed/seed investment is mostly a bet on the founding team and their ability to move fast, execute, learn, and overcome adversity. Because this is potentially the beginning of a 10+ year relationship (hopefully), start your pitch by talking about you and the team. Tell your story. Highlight your professional accomplishments, industry and functional areas of expertise, and any unique insights you have about the problem you are solving. In this segment, some founders rely on logos (Stanford, Google, McKinsey), others rely on pedigree and experience (X years leading B2B Sales teams), and some on results and exits. The main goal is to help the investor understand why you are the right person to bet on, right now.

Product –  your solution to an existing problem

After convincing the investor that you have done other cool things before this, the next step is showing that you can do this. To do that, you need to answer two questions. First, is it even possible to build this solution? Second, can you build this? If the answer to either of those is no, it might be hard to raise money for your idea. Otherwise, this is the perfect time to talk about the specifics of your product. What it does. How it works. How it solves the problem. How much of it have you built so far. This last part is important because it reflects your ability to move fast and execute. If you started the company in 2018, and it’s 2020, and you don’t have an MVP yet, it raises red flags. If you can convince the investor that your product truly solves the problem and you have made meaningful progress towards putting this product in the hands of the customers, this section is successful.

Market – customers care about your solution

If the (all too) recent demise of Quibi proves anything, it is that building a cool new product isn’t enough to attract customers. As a result, you need to first highlight the segments that face the problem you have set out to solve. It’s okay if it’s not a precisely defined market, it’s helpful to show your thinking around how you are slicing and dicing the market and how you are creating your ideal customer profile (VCs will use this in their internal market sizing).  Once you show target customers, the next step is to show your progress in reaching them, and their ability and willingness to pay for your solution. The best way to do this is revenue. If you are really early you can use a combo: show how much the problem costs them in dollars and time, and how much you found they are willing to pay through customer interviews. You want the investor to walk away from this segment thinking that you understand the customer profile, their needs and wants, have a strategy for how to reach them, a preliminary understanding of how much the solution is worth to them, and how much traction you have so far with your early adopters.

Fit – okay so you did it once but can you do it again, and again?

Once I hit a full court basketball shot. Is the NBA calling? No, I have never been able to do it again. To succeed as a startup founder you need to sell your product to a customer. Then do it again. Then do it a million more times, atleast. The final key piece of the puzzle is discussing how you can repeatedly get customers to use and pay for your product. In VC-speak this is your go to market strategy. Walk through your process for acquiring customers and how you can repeat it, even if it is not ironclad. If you have a few different channels, mention them all and then highlight your favorite one and why you like it. The secret to sticking the landing here, is to show that you have figured out a way to repeatedly get customers.

By the end of this pitch, ideally, you showcase your founder highlight reel, prove you can build a product that actually solves a problem, demonstrate that customers care about it enough to pay for it, and that you can do it again, and again, and again. Thinking through your pitch in this format will help you modify your pitch for any situation, from the elevator pitch, to a 30 min intro call, to an hour long partner meeting.