Getting An Internship In Corporate Venture Capital

Kelvin Yu
Written by Kelvin Yu

Dear fabulous readers,

Welcome to another issue of PIE, where we interview the top entrepreneurial minds to provide insightful career and life advice to students. Today’s guest, Ime Essien, is a young and up-and-coming figure in the world of venture capital (VC). Ime is currently finishing up his junior year at Morgan State University and is an intern at Intel Capital where he focuses on investments in artificial intelligence and autonomous driving.

Since 1991, Intel Capital has invested over $12.4 billion in 1,544 companies and is widely recognized as one of the top-tier corporate VC funds. In this conversation, I speak to Ime about his journey entering the world of VC, tips for VC interviews, and the differences between corporate and traditional VC. He also dropped some insights on breaking into VC specifically for underrepresented minorities who attend Historically Black Colleges or Universities (HBCU) or Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSI), so read on for more!

Breaking into venture — From his first day in college, Ime knew he was passionate about technology and wanted to be in Silicon Valley. During his freshman summer, he interned at Lockheed Martin but quickly realized that he preferred engaging with people on a more personal level than an engineering role entailed. Ime quickly sought out opportunities and other ways to get involved in VC. Through reaching out to his network two previous interns at Morgan State recommended him to apply for the internship. Through the interview process, he was able to build a relationship with one of the associates at the fund, and prove to the team that he would be a good cultural fit.

VC interview tips from Ime —

  • Two things to read in particular is #BreakIntoVC by Bradley Miles and “Advice by a 19 year old VC” by Tiffany Zhong because they are written in a student’s perspective.
  • Each fund is different so learn more about the fund. Most investment teams are looking for a cultural fit so make sure you do your research.
  • Most interview questions range from talking about existing portfolio companies, talking about trends in technology, and suggesting new investment opportunities.
  • Other questions could require basic arithmetic to solve company valuations or reading financial statements.
  • How can you differentiate yourself from everybody else? Ask yourself “Why you?” For Ime, his level of passion for helping others really stood out to the Intel Capital division.
  • Ask great questions, as you’ll most likely only have 30 minutes to make a solid impression so make sure you practice beforehand with a friend.

Corporate vs traditional venture — “Corporate VC and traditional VC are similar in many ways, but I think the key differentiating factor is strategic alignment. In corporate VC it’s not just financial capital you’re receiving, but the whole weight of the corporation behind you, so the team is made up of more strategic investors and each offer significant value-add to each investment. With regards to Intel Capital, a corporate VC, the division receives support from the business units at Intel which are directly related to the investment’s sector. For example, Intel has several researchers called Intel Fellows who are subject matter experts. I was able to speak to some of the researchers at Intel Labs, Intel’s research arm, about autonomous driving trends and current projects. From these conversations, I was able to segment related companies in a particular vertical for my assigned focus.”

A typical day at Intel Capital —Every day would start by getting coffee with the other interns and responding to emails. Ime would do this until he had his first meeting at around 11 with one of the investment teams. This meeting could consist of talking with an investor about current projects and offering perspective to develop his own investment theses on autonomous driving and artificial intelligence. After that, it would be time to get lunch with the other interns. The afternoons are jam-packed with due diligence calls, pitch meetings, or market research. Cold-emailing founders, Ime pointed out, was a huge part of the research process. He also utilized Pitchbook and Crunchbase a lot for company-specific information. More technical parts of his research included reading white papers on the sector or talking to industry experts. Ime found his job so fun that “As soon I looked at the clock it was time to go! Some days the team went to other VC funds to meet with their interns and investors, or attend Demo Days. It was a great time!”

Additional resources for students interested in VC — “I think a great starting resource is John Gannon VC Blog. There’s a great number of links on how to get into VC and he posts pretty much every single available VC job out there. Reading Venture Deals by Brad Feld is great, but not for beginners, it’s much easier if you’re completing the Venture Deals course alongside it. I think for students, getting involved with student-run VC programs on their campus is important. I got involved with HBCUvc, an organization focused on HBCU and HSI interested in startup ecosystems. I definitely recommend applying if you go to HBCU or HSI. They’re a great program, and since they have partnership with Intel Capital, it’s evident that Intel is putting in an effort to make VC more inclusive. Honestly, I could talk about the people who work at Intel Capital all day, they’re some of the nicest people you’ll ever work with and they really showed they cared about the other interns and me over the summer.”

If you enjoyed this, please follow Ime on Twitter!

And plugging myself as well 🙂

This article was originally published in Profiles In Entrepreneurship (PIE),
an intercollegiate publication that features advice and stories from the brightest figures in entrepreneurship. It is reposted here with the permission of the author, Kelvin Yu. Read the
original on Medium.