My Journey to VC — 6 Things I Learned

Darren Douglas
4 min readJun 14, 2021

I have been an entrepreneur for as long as I can remember. Still, my journey as an entrepreneur truly took off during my first week of college when I was introduced to computer science. To this day, I see coders as the rock stars of the future. A native New Yorker, I continue to work at the intersection of technology and entrepreneurship. After graduating, I moved to Philadelphia to pursue the Venture for America fellowship and gained a deep understanding of the entrepreneurship landscape through working at a startup and advising early-stage founders.

My distinctive experience as a Black software developer and startup consultant shapes my perspective on the future of technology and tech-enabled businesses. I recognize a significant opportunity to invest in Black founders, and, more broadly, to invest in founders that have traditionally struggled to find access to funding. Talent and drive are equally distributed, but access to resources and capital are not.

While the majority of domestic venture capital investments are concentrated in hubs like San Francisco, New York, and Boston, the Venture for America fellowship enabled me to build a network of talented entrepreneurs concentrated in underestimated markets like Philadelphia and Detroit. Founders will continue to get overlooked because of their race, location, or gender, but this leads to missed opportunities to fund great companies. These missed opportunities are an amazing investment opportunity for outsized returns.

I remain committed to supporting diverse founders but have shifted my focus to the investment side. As a Venture Partner for Republic and MBA Intern at Precursor Ventures, I’m able to leverage my network, experience, and acute focus to create more opportunities for underestimated founders.

After wrapping up the first year of my MBA program at the UCLA Anderson School of Management, I wanted to highlight 6 things I’ve learned so far:

1. Relationships, Relationships, Relationships

VC is a relationship-based business. It’s important to use your existing network to your advantage. Find mentors, build new connections, and don’t be afraid to cold call, email, or even DM!

2. VC is a Long Game

There’s no one way into the industry, and an MBA surely isn’t the “right” way. Given the combination of your skills and experience, tolerance for risk, and bank account, it comes down to what works best for you. I know folks who went straight from consulting into VC, from founder to VC, and even from the public sector to VC. Don’t disqualify yourself from the opportunity because you’ve undervalued your perspective. Open roles are far and few between, so be prepared to hear “No”. Just don’t let that stop you.

3. Have Skin in the Game

The best way to show commitment to the industry is to be an active member of the ecosystem. That doesn’t mean you have to invest your dollars. You can write articles, interview founders, or even start a podcast! The key is to build a track record. If creating content isn’t your thing, you can try advising or working at a startup. or founding your own company can show entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for innovation

4. Refine Your Focus

There are tons of great companies, but VCs can’t invest in them all. Most firms have a focus on a particular investment stage, geography, or market segment. The more you can refine your investment interests, the better you’ll be able to find a fit with a firm.

5. Be Social (Online and IRL)

Before the pandemic (and hopefully post-pandemic), I would routinely attend in-person meetups, hackathons, and industry conferences to learn and build connections. Especially in current times, much of the conversation has moved online. While it can be tough to keep up with it all, having a focused strategy can improve your likelihood of success.

  • Twitter is the main communication channel for some VCs. Here you can find job opportunities and office hours. I’d recommend following @MacConwell @LolitaTaub to get you started
  • Linkedin. While it’s been used for more formal networking, Linkedin is ripe for content creation. There is tons of visibility and opportunity to build connections
  • Clubhouse. I’m still very new to the platform, but I’ve listened in on amazing conversations featuring industry experts.

6. Stand out. Master Your story!

VC is competitive. Doing all the above can help, but it comes down to adding value. Are you skilled in identifying unique investment opportunities? Have you raised funding before? Or are you able to introduce founders to strategic investors? Whatever value you can add, make that clear! Avoid being passive because your ability to communicate and influence key stakeholders will be key to success in the industry

My Journey to VC is far from over, and I’ll continue to share my learnings. If you’re interested in staying updated, follow me here on medium and on Twitter @darrensvision

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