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Anatomy of a Venture Capitalist

Kim Hart

The life of a venture capitalist sounds like a pretty sweet gig, right? Spend your days meeting creative entrepreneurs and deciding which new ideas are worthy of the millions of dollars you have at your disposal. Not to mention the fact that you're quite a popular person at parties frequented by ambitious techies.

Not so much. A survey of 500 venture capitalists released today by the National Venture Capital Association and Dow Jones Newswire revealed that these investors are workaholics. About 90 percent of venture capital respondents work more than 40 hours per week; 32 percent work more than 60 hours each week. Making sure your investments actually pay off is hard work, apparently.

This little fun fact wasn't actually the point of the survey. It was intended to reveal the demographic make-up of the venture capital industry, which has long been heavily dominated by white men. That may be changing, the survey suggests.

Seventy-five percent of the respondents were men; 25 percent were women. Of the investing venture capitalists (those who identified themselves as managing director, managing partner, general partner, partner,venture partner or principal) 86 percent were men; 14 percent were women.

Of the other professional positions in the venture capital firm (vice president, director, CFO, Other), 56 percent were men and 44 percent were women. Women were most prevalent in the biopharmaceuticals sector, where 32 percent of the respondents were female, and least prevalent in the industrial /energy investment sector, where about 15 percent were female.

Eighty-eight percent of venture professionals were white, eight percent were Asian Pacific American, and two percent were Hispanic and one percent African-American. Of those who've been in the industry fewer than five years, 82 percent are white. And of associate-level professionals, 81 percent were white.

Other interesting facts have to do with the education of venture capitalists. The top
degrees of the venture professional respondents were: business administration (63 percent),
electrical/mechanical/other engineering (19 percent), economics (18 percent); and biology (10

Sixty-four percent of those surveyed have masters or PhD degrees. A little more than half of all respondents hold an MBA.

The top universities attended by all venture capital respondents were Harvard (12 percent),
Stanford (9 percent), University of Pennsylvania (8 percent), Duke University (5 percent) and MIT (5 percent).

So how did they land these investing gigs? Many cut their teeth in other fields. Twenty-two percent were either C-level entrepreneurs or worked at a startup company prior to their current position; 20 percent worked at a larger or middle-market company; another 20 percent worked at a different venture capital firm; 19 percent came from law firms, consulting firms or investment banks. Only four percent of the respondents entered their current positions from
undergraduate or graduate school.

The make-up of VCs may be moving in a more diverse direction, but it still seems to be a pretty homogeneous crowd. Maybe aspiring VCs out there should look for ways to shake things up a bit.

By Kim Hart  |  July 8, 2008; 3:33 PM ET  | Category:  Kim Hart
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