Venture capital (VC) is a competitive and difficult field for anyone to break into, especially women, who comprise fewer than 10% of decision-makers at U.S. VC firms. On Tuesday 1/12, Samara Mejia Hernandez (KSM ’14) founding partner of Chingona Ventures joined an event hosted by The Garage to provide her perspective and advice on how Northwestern students interested in a career in venture should approach landing a role.
One of the key takeaways from Samara was advice passed down to her years ago, “Give people so much value that they feel bad not giving you their business!” Her approach with both founders and Limited Partners (LPs), the institutions and high net worth individuals that invest in venture capital funds, has been to provide them each a unique value-add.
She also advised making sure that the day-to-day work of venture capital is something that you are actually interested in and passionate about, not just the allure and prestige of the title. Her days begin early and end late, and include a schedule full of meetings and supporting startups when they need help. To be able to do that and not burn out doesn’t just require being good at analyzing companies, it also requires a genuine love of the work she is doing.
If you’re sure that you want to pursue a path in venture, Samara recommends being intentional about how you utilize informational calls and coffee chats with professionals who could help you out. Be sure to do your homework beforehand and ask interesting questions with more depth than “tell me about your career.” Most importantly, always follow up with something useful based on your conversation, such as an article that discusses a topic they were interested in or information about a new startup in the industry they invest in. Those conversations will make you stand out for future opportunities.
In order to begin cultivating your investing intuition today, Samara suggests building a virtual portfolio of investments, a sort of “fantasy football” of startups. Track the portfolio over time to see if the companies take off in the way you thought they would using platforms like Pitchbook, a tool for researching and tracking private market data. Northwestern students can access Pitchbook for free here with their netid when on a Northwestern network or VPN. Samara also suggests practicing writing investment memos for startups in your fantasy portfolio. Bessemer Ventures offers several examples of investment memos here that you can use as examples.
You can watch Samara’s full talk below: