Using Investors to Find the Ideal Startup Job

TL;DR: If you want to work at a startup, email a VC or angel investor and ask them for company recommendations. Because of the well-aligned incentives between investors, founders, and job seekers, investors are a great resource for finding the perfect job.


This post is about incentive structures for various job-search assistants (friends, external recruiters, and investors). In any industry, whether recruiting or investing, there will be bad players who only care about maximizing personal gain, and good players who will do the right thing even if it runs counter to their financial incentives. That said, I do think investors have better aligned incentives for recruiting than other alternatives.

Finding Jobs through Friends



Finding Jobs through (External) Recruiters



Finding Jobs through Investors


Perceived cons that are not actually cons:


A lot of people have observed that it’s hard to get in touch with a VC without a warm intro. A small perk of using investors as recruiters is that getting in touch is much easier. Instead of asking for something (“will you fund my company?”), you’re offering something (“do you want to help one of your portfolio companies and increase your portfolio’s value?”). In the process, you are also establishing relationships that can help you in the future if you’re looking for work again, or if you eventually decide to start your own company.

How do you pick which investors to talk to?

Look for investors who focus on areas that you’re interested in. Want to work on big data infrastructure? Talk to Data Collective. Interesting data mining? Try IA Ventures or Susa Ventures (my fund). B2C? Maveron. Hardware? Root Ventures. Moonshots? DFJ. eCommerce? Cowboy Ventures. Democratizing access to technology and information? Homebrew. And so on.

(Each focus area above has many more investors you can talk to, and each investor mentioned above invests in multiple areas. These are just examples.)

How does the process work?

I don’t know how it works with other investors, but here’s how it would work with me:

  1. You get introduced to me through a mutual friend, or send me a cold email.
  2. We chat on the phone for 15-20 minutes, which consists of brief personal intros, after which you tell me a little about your background and your interests, and maybe the 1-2 biggest professional accomplishments that you have to date. I’ll then ask some questions about your ideal job: what size company do you want to work at? What verticals interest you? What would your ideal role be? What kind of culture are you looking for?
  3. Within a day or two, I’ll send you a list of 3-5 companies that I think you might like, along with notes explaining why you might like them. If you want to talk to some of those companies, I’ll introduce you; if you aren’t interested in any of the companies, that’s fine, too. My recs tend to come from my portfolio, but I’ll recommend other interesting companies as appropriate.

What’s the catch?

The one catch, which was already mentioned above, is that you have to be good at what you do. My goals are to help you (so that you want to ask me for job recs or funding or whatever else in the future) and to help my portfolio companies (so that they like me, refer their other founder friends to me, let me invest more in their future rounds, and so on). If you’re not a good fit for the companies I know about, I won’t want to waste your time or the founders’ time (but you’re still welcome to apply to companies independently if you really want to).

So if you’re a (good) marketer or engineer or salesperson or __ who wants to work at a startup, email a VC or angel investor. Chances are you’ll learn about some interesting opportunities that you might not have discovered otherwise.

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