How to Move Up from Associate to Venture Partner

LadderI was never an associate (I jumped right to founding partner), but if I were, I’d get mentored at the Kauffman Center for Venture Education.

Kauffman is like a secret society of venture associates getting mentored by thought leaders like Patrick Chung of NEA, Bill Gurley of Benchmark and Ron Conway of SV Angels.

But as great as they are, there are some things that I’d add the their already stellar three-day session at Four Seasons Palo Alto. File these under what I’d do to jump from associate to legendary venture partner.

1. Be a value-added fish in a crowded pond

There are still plenty of VCs. We don’t need more tail-wagging associates in the Silicon Valley ecosystem. Attempt to add value to the entrepreneur development process. One element missing from the Kauffman session on “Building Your Personal Brand” was a discussion on the tactical, specific mechanics for actually adding to the conversation.

Augmenting the parade is easier than starting a parade from scratch. If your parade grows larger, your brand grows and you are a slightly more visible fish, which leads to my next point.

2. Start a sequel, an org or a meme

When I say “Eric Reis,” you say, “lean startup.” When I say “Steve Blank,” you say “four steps.” When I say Nivi and Naval, you say “angel list.”

All these memes, brands and franchises have predecessors. Sometimes the predecessors come from the same people, almost a prequel to their own stuff. Sometimes, other people take the idea and move it forward. Find an existing parade, and augment it.

3. Speculate more on rising personalities than just picking ponies. (Personalities can pay you back.)

As an associate, you can wedge in your firm’s money because some personality minted you as his go-to person. These personalities will back you if you give them a little love. Bill Gurley promoted and said “Mike Maples” four times during a lunch keynote recently. Last time I checked, Bill Gurley is the legend and Mike Maples is the other guy.

4. Do lead gen on campus

Mathematically speaking, freshman in CS eventually become seniors in CS. (If you’re foreign or from the state of Canada, a freshman is a first year college student. And a senior is a college student about to graduate and possibly start his own busines.) Build contacts and leads by filling your entrepreneur funnel with freshman because they’ll germinate into something awesome.

You can also host an event at Palo Alto’s community college, also known as Stanford. Hosting something takes very little money and very little time. It is legal as an associate to spend your own money to make money, buy influence or make a name for yourself.

5. You fly, I buy

Money is proven to buy you love, at least in the VC world.

If you weren’t at Austin Ventures and were working at McKinsey, I guarantee entrepreneurs would never kiss your butt. But the funding carrot isn’t the only thing you should dangle in front of entrepreneurs. You can dangle the airline ticket to SXSW.

You fly them there; you just bought their love and attention.

Remington Oxley, who also blogs for AlwaysOn, is a pseudonym for a venture capitalist. He wanted to call this article “What They Don’t Teach at Kauffman Center for Venture Education,” but that would be way too similar to some other guy’s book and blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr user fdecomite