Junior Spotlight: Stephen Fraser
Stephen is a Junior Finance major who recently transferred from Dartmouth. This summer, he will be working with OCA Ventures as a summer analyst. We had the opportunity to ask him about his interest in Venture Capital and his plans for the future.
What are you looking forward to in your internship with OCA Ventures?
All of it. This the kind of internship I never thought was possible and I am so excited to start. I think VC interns get an incredible amount of responsibility which is daunting and exhilarating at the same time. The only limitations are those that are self imposed. I'm also excited to own the work I'll be doing and to see startup investments through from the initial meeting and pitch deck through the financing and growth of the company. It's exciting to go looking for great startups knowing that world changing businesses are out there.
Where does your interest in Venture Capital stem from?
I saw a documentary on Netflix about Venture Capital several years ago and I was really fascinated that most people know so little about such an influential industry. More concretely, a friend told me about the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), an intercollegiate competition that puts students in the role of VC and has them evaluate and negotiate with actual startups raising capital under the scrutiny of VCs. I learned a lot in the competition and enjoyed working with founders to understand their businesses and the problems they are solving. The advice I got from one of the judges was, "if you want to get into VC, burn the ships". He was saying that it's an incredibly difficult industry to break into and if you leave yourself a plan B, you'll end up taking it. I took that to heart and started tirelessly networking and looking for opportunities.
How would you recommend students prepare for VC interviews?
I think a lot of entry level jobs create a sense that the interview is something to "win" or "beat" to get the offer. VC is probably a bit different in that there is no well-defined path or skill set that they are looking for. Competing in VCIC and the training you go through gives you a great foundation to build off of. As with any job, you should do deep research on the firm, investments they’ve made, and the people, but maybe more importantly is self-reflection. Discovering your strengths, motivations, and goals, to visualize how you can actually be successful both personally and professionally in a VC role will give you confidence in interviews. In VC, authenticity goes a long way. Relationships are central to VC because an investment in a startup typically means a VC will work with the founders for 10+ years. Likewise, VCs maintain great relationships with each other and help however they can. It is impossible to screen every deal and many of the best investments come as recommendations from friends rather than cold calls.
What advice do you have for SCU students interested in breaking into VC?
Get in touch with me and let's chat over coffee. There is way too much to say in a short paragraph and I've found conversations with insiders who are passionate to help as the most effective method. Concretely, here are some steps. First, get involved in the VC club! We are brand new and still settling in, but email SCUVCA@gmail.com and I'll get you plugged in. Second, try out for the VCIC team. Getting some sort of tangible experience is essential. Third, read Venture Deals by Brad Feld and read VC news like Tech Crunch, Strictly VC, and Axios. If you start absorbing this, you'll be positioned well for VCIC. If you don't get a VC internship or an analyst job out of college, do not be discouraged. This is the rule, not the exception. If you do all of the right things you will be able to capitalize on the opportunity if it arises. Some jobs that prepare you well for VC are investment banking and management consulting. We have a great investment banking club and consulting club on campus that do a great job of funneling students into these careers. If you are passionate about technology and entrepreneurship, join a startup. Many VCs come from entrepreneurial backgrounds and getting in on the ground floor of a startup with a successful exit will position you well for VC.