Monday, November 06, 2006

Oh Man, Kauffman

Susan Wu from Charles River Ventures pointed out that I need to talk about the Kauffman Fellowship if I wanted to really mention all avenues to make it in Venture Capital.
Kauffman Fellowship is a program setup to select, train and place the next generation of venture capitalists. Kauffman Fellows are students of the Center for Venture Education, and can be either temporary or permanent full-time associates of the Venture Firm during the time of the Fellowship. As associates, their salary, benefits and expenses are the responsibility of and determined by the firm.
There are two ways to become a Kauffman Fellow:
1. Regular Matching - for people who apply to the program on an individual level (usually MBA students). They are usually no connected to any Venture Capital shop.
2. Affiliate Matching - for people who are affiliated with a VC shop. These are usually folks in non-partner positions with less than three years of current Venture Capital experience. Usually the VC firm sponsors their tuition for this program

Both Regular matching and Affiliate matching has very similar application process. The only difference is that in Affiliate matching you are required to get a recommendation from a firm mentor.
Both of these processes require:
1. A completed online application
2. Painfully procured copies of your transcripts from every school you have attended
3. Three recommendations
4. $250 application fees

All in all, from what I have heard ( since I am not a Kauffman fellow (yet), I can only base my observations on hearsay), it is pretty selective process. Last year's statistics involved something like 500 applications resulting in 40 finalists and maybe only 5 really "matched" people.
The caveat there is that many of the other finalists found jobs in the ensuing months.

The Process:
1. Apply - The first step is to actually apply to the program and get your information through before the deadline (Nov 1 this year)
2. Semi-Finals - If you are one of the lucky 80-100 or so you are selected, then you will go through an interview process with a specially selected panel of VCs. Your performance here will determine whether you go to the next round or not
3. Finals - If you are a finalist, congrats. You have made it to the final round. In this round, you are "matched" with partnering VC firms. Being matched with these firms is pretty much like the usual interview process. If you are matched and have gone through the finals, then you are a Kauffman fellow.

What does this finally boil down to?
A Kauffman fellow gets to work as an associate/principal in a leading VC firm (which he/she is matched to). That person has a firm mentor in the matched VC shop who is responsible for training the fellow. The fellow draws a salary just like any full-time employee but also has to go through the educational component of the fellowship by traveling to various locations for classes at regular intervals.

And Finally
In the end, it is a great way to get in. To maximize your chances, I would advice building up your credentials from the time you step into B-school (or even earlier). The fellowship is competitive but is definitely a relatively fool-proof way of making a dent into this seemingly impregnable industry. I have applied and frankly, I cannot judge my chances.

For better or worse, one thing that I got from it was that, I spent a lot of time thinking about the reasons that I wanted to join this industry. This was important as I wrote my Statement of Purpose. It helped me coagulate a lot of my motivations and allowed me to focus on the real reasons for my ambitions.

All in all, a very useful exercise. In the next post, I will do the unthinkable. I will actually post my Kauffman fellowship Statement of Purpose on this blog. If nothing else, it should give you one perspective on why one is motivated to be in this industry.

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