Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Latest: Operating Job versus Venture Capital

Ok, so I have been offered a great opportunity as a Product Manager at probably one of the best companies out there, in their new mobile services division. Then I have a couple of VC options. I have also graduated and have my degree now. All this has happened in the last 3 weeks and this means that life is a blur at this point.

I am still spending my evenings hanging out with my Bschool buddies in local bars, and have not yet figured out that my MBA life is over. I have still not left Philly and do not know when I should. I should though. Its all very surreal.

Should I take the VC opportunities I have? Or should I go build a product for this fantastic company? Or should I find a nifty startup to work with? I do not know. After having spent two years trying to position myself for Venture Capital, I am not sure if I have the right jobs. I have great VC shops in the bag but I have a feeling that the fit (from my end) is probably not right. And I never got into Venture Capital for the sake of getting into Venture Capital. I want to find the right position where I can contribute the most and where I will be happy. And except for that PM job, I do not think I have it yet.

So I will keep talking to folks. I will keep butting my head against the never-ending recruiting process because the end-all of this process is not getting a job. It is getting the job. And maybe there is no real "the job" but it is important to find that out too. The process is the destination and I will keep walking.

I would love your comments on my now public dilemma. Right now, to be in this position is in itself a happy place for me.

62 comments:

Bipin Preet Singh said...

The way I see it , you will get VC options in the future but may not get the chance to build a killer product which sends your pulse racing , if this indeed could be one. The right opportunity just does not come across that easily. Besides, whats the hurry to get into VC?

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on your problem of plenty.

I work as a Product Manager for one the competitors of the firm in question and there might be role related information that you might be glossing over.

Product Management roles in most of these companies does involve a hierarchy where you are a part of a larger engineering organization ( possibly also a PM hierarchy ) and you and the engineering team might be working on a smaller piece of the whole cake.

The thrill of churning out great products that end customers get to use and products which get written about, usually does not happen to folks who are straight out of college or who are working in large teams.

So, unless you already have substantial Product Management experience , would recommend that you collect more information about the PM position or discount the offer more heavily.

cheers
ANON PM

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

That is true bipin. And that probably why I am really weighing this. There is really no hurry to get into VC. Hence, unless it is the right opportunity, I am not jumping.
Thanks for your insights. Appreciate it.

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Anon PM,
And on the PM side, that is my source of confusion:)
Even though some PMs do well and get the opportunity to work on a killer project. It is a matter of opportunity and luck, as much as capability. In that sense, it is like anything else in the world. You can create your luck, but you cant force it to work for you.
I will collect more info and keep you posted.
Best

Famolari said...

Congrats on graduating and the enviable job choices ahead of you.

Knowing that you’re directly responsible for creating something of value to end customers, particularly if you can contribute to the early vision and creative decisions, can be deeply satisfying. And PM experience certainly won’t impede your VC search down the road. In fact, it would give you a valuable perspective and improve your VC credentials.

On the other hand, if you have great VC shops in the bag, that’s a big win. I suspect you’ll be able to evolve your VC role over time into something that fits you better.

I have no idea about the specifics of the positions (level of responsibility, location, financials, etc.), but all things being equal my advice would be to follow your enthusiasm. Judging by the tone of your post, it seems you’re more enthusiastic about the PM opportunity.

Question though: if you take the PM job, what becomes of the blog?...

Sandeep Grover said...

Hey Punit,
Congratulations! This is surely a good problem to have. Not that I have much experience of VC industry, but from what I have talked to few partners, It appears that most associates at some point go back to the industry to get some operating experience. So, I would rephrase your dilemma as to get that "much-needed" operating experience "now" or "later". Although, the PM role sounds like a perfect platform to achieve that now, however, I would argue that getting back to the VC world may not be that easy, when you will be competing with thousands of aspiring PM VCs. Also, from what I believe, getting into VC is also a function of market dynamics. Compare this to a scenario, when you have already had few years of Associate/Principal experience and you go to the industry. At that stage, you will have a lot more connections and you can seek a much more responsible operating profile at a startup or perhaps can do your own startup (Funding will never be an issue :-)) With this background, coming back to VC would be much easier.

In a nutshell, I think you can't go wrong with either path and there's always a room at the top - So, I wouldn't be too much concerned.

All the best and keep us posted of happenings at your end. Also, I assume you will soon be coming back to the bay area. Let me know, whenever you are available and we should meet.
Again, Congrats and all the best.

Anonymous said...

whats with wharton ventures man..do you have to leave that when u graduate?

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Dear Famolari,
The VC shops are good ones and I could probably make it happen if I stuck to the job. However, I am not comfortable with the specifics of the position to be sure of that.
One cant be sure of anything but unless something more exciting comes along, I am leaning towards the operating role.
About the blog:)
The blog is called "futurevc"!!! Nothing changes does it? Maybe the blog will evolve into my adventures somewhere else...who knows?
Thanks for your kind insights. Thanks to all actually...I have gotten so many emails with advice/kind words..its overwhelming.
Best
P

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Hi Sandeep,
thanks for your comments. Very insightful. I know Magma well because I used to work at Cadence at one point.
In some sense you are right about the decision being about "when" and not "if". However, it is also true that one can become caught in the middle. Too senior for associate positions, too junior for Partners...
The problem of differentiation will come in though. But hey, we differentiate ourselves from "typical Indian engineer" to get to a good B-school...then differentiate to get a few good gigs...I guess I will have to believe in myself and back what I am feeling. (Which I am not clear of right now:) )
I will keep posting on my thought process and if anything new happens. I will be in Bay Area so we should/will meet.
Thanks
P

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Wharton Ventures is a student gig and I will move on. We have a fresh batch of 2nd years taking on the role I will become an alumni in an advisory role.
How this works in an investing scenario is another story. I will post about this one day.
Best

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification on Wharton Ventures, wherever you go from here all the very best 'rockstar'!!

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

thanks for your support my friend.

Parakram said...

One thing's for sure..
You don't want to take up a VC job that doesn't offer a Partner track to you. In that case you are better off being a PM. Mind you PM means a ton of different things across companies and even in the same company.

Secondly, as far being a VC is considered your window of opportunity for getting an associate position is pretty much 3-4 years from now, 'coz after that you'll perhaps be too senior (read pay cuts) to consider an associate-level position. This happened to one of the folks I know who declined Seq/KPCB's offer for the same reason.

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Parakram,
I am actually one of those who do not really think much of partner track versus otherwise. If you are really good, you can create your track somewhere else if not in that firm. If not, that is a good message to get too.
Agree with your point of being too senior at a latter stage though.

Anupam said...

Hi Punit,

Congratulations on these exciting options!

From my experience as a Product Mgr at a large tech company, my view is that the things one spends a majority of time doing varies greatly between large/established companies and startups. Even to deliver the exact same type of product.

I would also echo Anon PM's views here regarding organizational hurdles and hierarchy - since owning the P&L, at a large company, one needs to bring and keep on board a very wide variety of teams and people, which ends up taking the lion's share of one's time as a PM.

Not that one role is better than the other, but I think it takes a very different personality type to enjoy PM work at a large company versus at a small company. Also, if one's future aim is to be a VC, would startup operating experience help more than operating experience with an established company?

Now, having said that, the established company that you have an offer from may well be like a startup in many of its ways, and that will change things. Anyhow, I wanted to add this perspective.

One thing is for sure - whatever decision you take, there can't be a wrong choice in this one.

So a big Congrats once again!

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Anupam,
Thanks for your input. Yes, I concur on most of these points. I am very particular about getting real operational experience from the PM job and have been spending my days doing real diligence on the internals of a PM job at this firm. Will update you soon but it definitely looks much better than a traditional large tech firm PM job.
Best
P

Anonymous said...

I'm a first time commenter. =)

Punit, congrats! I'm happy for you on your job offers. Very exciting!

I am a PM at a large tech company. I agree with what Anon said. I think there's alot you can learn by being a PM. PM exposes you to many aspect of the operation. You'll see what works and it's definitely a good experience to have under your belt.

Having said that, I think you should go with the VC route. This is your passion. This is what you've been blogging about and I think you should keep going. Take a long term view on this. Get yourself in the door and if you don't like it (because it's not a good fit or for whatever reason), you can also switch to another firm or become a PM at one of the company that the firm is investing.

Good luck with your deliberation. Keep us posted.

-Ken PM

Jason Stoffer said...

I am someone who was a VC prior to getting my MBA from Wharton. For the past two years I have had a PM type role, getting operating experience in the online education industry. I highly recommend a PM role - there is no downside and once you have some operating experience under your belt you can go back to the VC firms you really want to work for with a better understanding of operational execution and a more keen eye for evaluating the ever important team dynamics of potential investments.

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Jason,
Thanks for your input. I am currently leaning the same way too. Will write more about my reasons in a bit...
best
P

Deepu John said...

Puneet

Make sure you "click" with those who are working with you. VC roles are very people oriented - so there needs to be trust and empowerment to find satisfaction in this domain.

Deepu

Anonymous said...

getting a VC offer is very tough. why pass that up now when PM opportunities are not rare? I would go to the VC firm and then become a more senior PM 2-3 years down the road. it's a lot easier to get back to VC if you've done it before. and i know you did a summer, but i'm not sure that's enough

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

Deepu,
I agree completely. For now, it is back to the drawing board for me with a few impending VC opportunities that I am going to run through in the next month.
Best
P

KDLIVE said...

The decision really boils down to what you want to achieve in the next 5-10 years.

Being a product manager will give you insight into mobile development and applications that you then, can segway into another mobile startup. Mobile startups are plenty and opportunities are abound. A few successful startups will make a much wiser VC. But, are you sure you want to commit to mobile and that is your focus industry?

Going to VC now is not that lucrative for you, unless you go to a top 2 or 3 shop. Most Post MBA VCs aren't partner positions. The benefit of doing that is to get a breadth of different ideas, industries, and startup experiences, then perhaps start your own company or join one in the future. My feeling from your resume and dialogue is that may more likely be a path for you since you are also very technical and can leverage India. Also a few years at VC will help you to analyze things more effectively and shape your thinking process.

So you seem to be a big thinker and want to do some big things. In that case the decision boils down to a few questions:

1) Are you ready to invest your personal experience in mobile in lieu of something else? Do you want to build a mobile company one day?

2) Would you like to take a bird's eye view of the startup world and see all of the different opportunities that exist, i.e. mobile, web2.0, india, and then consider going into one you like or starting one?

Lastly, I think this is a big choice in your career so taking time to think about your next step is crucial. I believe that the job after your MBA strongly shapes your career and how you are perceived in the market.

Punit Soni's Adventures in VCland said...

What an insightful post KD. Thanks so much for your comments. Appreciate it. Yes, I am thinking along pretty much the lines that you outlined in your comment.
These are the givens:
1. I am not going to work for non-top 10 VC unless I personally find it compelling (and I have not found anything compelling yet)
2. I will rather do the PM job than just get into VC because the experience of building a product is preferable for me than the broad industry view of VC
3. I am in no hurry to get into VC. I see it for what it is: Investing in ideas. Something you can do when you have the money later

I agree it is an important decision and I am sitting tight on it until time runs out or I find that compelling option:)
thanks for your input. I found the comment very lucid and insightful.

Kedz said...

Congrats Punit. I will be getting my MBA degree in another 1.5 yrs and am going thru the same set of questions - join a VC or get some operational experience.

I am leaning towards getting operational experience only because I think I need it.

Btw, have u looked at Leadership Rotational programs to get some broad experience and then perhaps transition to a VC? For example you could join the firms Capital/Ventures division and get some good experience there.

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