Advice from a VC intern: Chicago Ventures’ Adit Damodaran
Adit is a third-year undergraduate at the University of Chicago from Chattanooga, TN. He’s an Economics major, with a specialization in Data Science, and a background in Computer Science.
Adit interned at Chicago Ventures through the spring of 2019, working on a variety of projects including sourcing, diligence, and building tools for the team. As his internship comes to an end, we chatted with him about his experience, including some tips for future VC interns.
How did you find out about Chicago Ventures and how did you get an internship?
I first learned about Chicago Ventures from Jackson Jhin, who was a CV Analyst that I met at the 2018 VCIC Regional Competition at Michigan State University. When he was a student at Notre Dame, Jackson had also participated in VCIC and his team had gone on to win the national competition–so he was really well-versed in the competition’s structure and spent the weekend meeting the students there.
On campus at UChicago, I help lead a student organization known as Midway Ventures that hosts a schoolwide case competition modeled after the VCIC regional event. Jackson volunteered to help us judge the competition, and also notified all the students participating of an undergraduate internship opportunity with Chicago Ventures. I thought interning with Chicago Ventures as an undergraduate would be an unparalleled opportunity to learn more about venture capital operations and financing, and so I followed up with an e-mail to Elizabeth and Jackson further expressing my interest and relevant experience. The team coordinated a visit to the CV office at Merchandise Mart where Lindsay toured us around 1871 (including a walk-by of the Cameo office while they were still headquartered there!) and sat us down for a group-interview style Q&A about CV.
Why were you interested in an internship in venture?
While interning at the Polsky Center doing primarily design and marketing, I remember being amazed that companies like Braintree came out of the UChicago Booth School of Business’s New Venture Challenge. I got interested in the origins of Braintree specifically, which was ideal because Bryan Johnson (its founder) had done a detailed podcast episode explaining his impetus for starting the company and its early days. This motivated me to learn computer science because I thought the capability to prototype software from anywhere in the world and quickly distribute it to millions of users was incredibly powerful. I was particularly interested in software startups because of their low overhead, relative accessibility for prototyping and testing, and the eclectic mix of problems they aimed to solve. Ultimately I wanted to understand how VC firms evaluated their potential in addition to learning about a variety of industries. I was particularly interested in Chicago Ventures since I’ve personally used some of its portfolio companies like SpotHero, and genuinely loved their product.
What did you do, if anything, to prepare for your internship?
One of the projects I was going to take on involved optimizing the LinkedIn Sales Navigator Platform for CV deal flow, so I spent some time tinkering with the different search filters and understanding how it paginated results. I also read Feld-Mendelson’s Venture Deals to get familiar with the terminology behind a term sheet and to understand how deals are structured.
What sort of projects have you worked on at your internship?
My longer term project has been to code an automation tool to optimize the LinkedIn’s Sales Navigator Platform to help the firm quickly understand its collective network in a given city, industry, and/or region. I’ve also worked on analyzing how much LP’s collectively co-invest in startups across our two funds, and on updating internal reporting tools such as the CV Portfolio Database. In addition to those three, I’ve taken on many ad-hoc projects ranging from helping a portfolio company with competitive analysis to market research and diligence on an active deal.
If not venture…what is your dream job post graduation?
I would love to work in fullstack or data-engineering at a tech startup, or as a product manager at a tech company whose products I love and use often (like Adobe, Spotify, or Apple).
How do you think what you’ve learned in your internship can apply outside of venture?
I have learned so much about the different industries spanning our active deals, from logistics and freight to edge computing and life science marketing. I also gained a much better understanding of how to evaluate a startup’s potential by listening to the CV team’s questions during pitches and hearing their thoughts on a particular company or industry. If I am ever a technical cofounder or working at an early-stage startup, I know those insights will be invaluable. Elizabeth helped arrange a meeting for me with Evan Hughes, who is helping lead the Data Services at one of our portfolio companies, Cameo. I learned a lot about the tech stack and data applications Cameo is using, and I think that would be really applicable to any future data engineering work that I do. More generally, I think I learned a lot about the operations of a financial firm investing in private companies, and how much emphasis is placed on helping portfolio companies and building strong relationships throughout its network.
What surprised you about your internship?
Once I began to better understand what metrics to look for in an early-startup, I was surprised at how difficult it is to source these deals. Often we hear about startups through press releases and news coverage, but those are often Series A or later. It is really challenging to identify startups raising a Seed round simply because there isn’t as much of a signal coming from them.
What do you wish you knew before you started your internship?
I think having a better understanding of how to source deals would have been helpful coming in. I also wish I’d read this article, specifically the segment on reducing the burden/workload for others in the firm.
What advice would you give to someone looking for an internship in venture?
I found the CV internship opportunity primarily by chance, but I think consistently engaging with a VC firm’s team on what their current priorities are and how your relevant experience could enable you to contribute is how I would go about it.
May 30, 2019