Deep Dive: VC Fellowship Programs

Max Fleitmann
Founder of VC Stack
Deep Dive: VC Fellowship Programs
Uma Patel
VC Content Creator

This deep dive was initially published in our VC Stack newsletter. Make sure to subscribe here to not miss any future episodes.

What are VC Fellowships?

Venture capital fellowships are entry-level programs where individuals gain industry knowledge and mentorship needed to excel as an investor. For VC funds, building a notable fellowship program can help them establish themselves as thought leaders and strengthen their reputation. Over time, a history of successful alumni can bring awareness back to the fund - attracting both founders and full-time employees.

Unlike scout programs, where the sole purpose is to support deal flow. Fellowships allow individuals to participate in a range of activities across the fund. These programs can span from 8 months to two years, enabling fellows to make more substantial contributions to the fund compared to short-term internships.

Breaking into VC’ & the Benefits of Training

While fellowships may differ from scout programs and internships they all act as entry points into an otherwise competitive field. Along with the growing VC creator economy, these career opportunities work toward demystifying venture capital knowledge. While universities offer little guidance toward a career in venture the advice to ‘break in’ typically falls within networking and gaining transferable skills. Both of which are easier for those with access to pre-established networks such as through school alumni or familial connections. Susa Ventures put it this way,

Ideally, VC should be a meritocracy, funding the best ideas and teams. In practice, this isn’t always the case. Networks play a huge role in who and what gets funded. While there are many ways to help improve this reality, Susa believes it starts with who is making the investment decisions.

For this reason, many fellowships have a commitment to supporting underrepresented individuals or those who are looking to gain working experience for future roles. Funds that offer open access to their processes can enable individuals from diverse backgrounds to contribute to the field, promoting inclusivity, and fostering innovation.

In addition, teaching others the ropes naturally allows for funds to question common practices and innovate within their internal strategies as well. As a new generation emerges in the working world and consumer behavior shifts, letting in fresh perspectives can positively impact your fund just as much as you can impact their futures.

Why should VC funds launch a fellowship?

  • Talent attraction and retention. A fellowship program helps attract top talent, particularly entrepreneurs, researchers, and aspiring investors. By offering an opportunity to work closely with the VC fund, the program can easily lead to full-time hires.
  • Deal flow and pipeline development. Fellowship programs help VC funds find new investment opportunities. Fellows offer fresh perspectives, novel ideas, and access to a new network of individuals and builders. They find investments that match the fund's investment thesis and bring them to the fund's investment team.
  • Due diligence support. Fellows can assist VC funds in evaluating potential investments by conducting market research, competitive analysis, financial modeling, and other aspects of the investment evaluation process.
  • Brand building and reputation. A fellowship program can boost the VC fund's branding and reputation among the startup community. By providing a prestigious program with a history of successful alumni, the fund can establish reliability, attract high-quality deal flow, and become a preferred investor for promising entrepreneurs

What to consider when building a fellowship

The specifics of a fellowship program are entirely based on the fund, which means you can customize the program around the priorities of your investors. Here are a few things to consider when building a program:

  • Structure. How many fellows do you want to recruit? What’s the timeline for the program? Will you offer compensation or any additional support to fellows? Think about what structure aligns the most with your fund and where a fellowship program can fit in.
  • Education. What level of education do you want your fellows to have (MBA, Ph.D., etc.)? Answering this question will allow you to target your recruitment and manage your expectations for the role.
  • Objectives. What are your goals for this fellowship? What do you hope the fellow achieves at the fund? Think about the key objectives for creating this program and what you hope comes out of it.
  • Activities. What activities will the role encompass? What are your expectations of the fellow? Decide if you want to recruit fellows in specialized roles or assign generalist tasks. From this, you can build out a learning curriculum and include seminars, workshops, and other learning opportunities.
  • Mentorship. How are fellows going to be mentored throughout the program? Think about the structure of fellow/mentor pairing and the ways in which you can offer guidance. Mentoring may include routine feedback meetings, assistance on projects, and career planning support.

Where to Recruit Candidates

  1. Job Boards. Posting your fellowship on venture-focused job boards will ensure your role lands in front of the right candidates. If you’re currently recruiting for a fellowship program you can post your role with us at Startup&VC!
  2. Social Media. Offering a brief description of the role on your fund's social accounts (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram) is another great way to funnel interested candidates to your application. Make sure to include key information such as compensation, location, duration, and requirements in the initial post.
  3. VC Community Channels. VC Slack channels such as Girls Who VC and GenZ VCs almost always have an opportunity channel for their members. It’s a great idea to share your program with these communities since they’re built for aspiring VCs and attract individuals looking to build their work experience.
  4. Fund Website. Finally, don’t forget to mention your program on your fund's website. It ensures your network is aware of the program which can aid in recruiting. Also, if anyone wants to work full-time at your fund, seeing a fellowship can be an interesting opportunity.

VC Fellowships

A number of organizations have committed to refining the VC fellowship. Offering a community of aspiring VCs a place to start outside of a singular fund of investors. These programs often include a number of speakers and curricula across a variety of fund types and theses.

Fellowship Programs within VC Funds

Alix Ventures Fellowship

We support early-stage Life Science startups in engineering biology to drive radical advances in human health.

Alpaca VC MBA Associate

Alpaca VC is a seed-stage venture capital firm that invests in the people, products, and processes that power commerce in the physical world.

Atento Capital Fellows

We look for exceptional entrepreneurs that address large markets. We invest early and like to be as helpful as we can both pre and post-investment.

Bessemer Fellowship Program

Bessemer supports founders through every stage of growth in the enterprise, consumer, and healthcare spaces

Rough Draft Ventures Fellow

We invest checks through founder-friendly SAFEs via our network of student fellows toward the brightest student founders across the US.

Nina Capital Fellows

Nine Capital invests in need-driven health tech founders with international ambitions.

Hawke Ventures Fellows

Hawke Ventures is a track-to-lead check fund ($50k-$2m) in pre/seed and seed for eCommerce enablement, MarTech, and AdTech.

Susa Ventures Fellow

Susa Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm, investing in a growing family of dreamers and builders.

Additional Readings

Interested in learning more about VC fellowship programs? Check out these additional readings!