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Li Jin: My Path to Venture Capitalby@lijin
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Li Jin: My Path to Venture Capital

by Li JinJuly 13th, 2020
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Li Jin: My Path to Venture Capital: I actually *COLD* applied to @a16z. I didn’t network my way in or know anyone who worked here. The common wisdom is that you need to network in, because warm intros are such an effective filter that many VCs discount cold messages entirely. But not everyone has access to connections. Talent is universal, but opportunities to connect to people aren't. To quote Ratatouille: “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a good artist can come from anywhere.”

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Many people ask me about my path to VC. The truth is – I actually *COLD* applied to @a16z.

I didn’t network my way in or know anyone who worked here. I literally just dropped my resume in on a16z’s jobs website, expecting it to go into an abyss. 

To my surprise, @withfries2 emailed me a few days later and invited me to meet him at the office! 

I am eternally grateful for this, because 6 months later (+many more convos, market maps & deep dives), I joined the investment team.

This story totally flies in the face of the referral regimen in the VC industry. The common wisdom is that you need to network in, because warm intros are such an effective filter that many VCs discount cold messages entirely.

But not everyone has access to connections. There’s always someone who first takes a chance on you. I had 0 connections growing up — my mom is an art teacher who, to this day, thinks I work at a mutual fund. (I find this adorable and refreshing)

There were so many times in college that I reached out to people cold — professors I admired to invite them to faculty dinner, senior folks in various industries for career advice, etc. — and was surprised at how often they were beyond generous with access and time.

I keep my DMs open for this reason–because you never know! I don’t respond to most of them, but I read every single one. 

Sometimes there are gems: recently, a PM at a startup sent me a heartfelt video introducing himself, showed his marked-up printout of my blog post about the Passion Economy, and asked if I would give him feedback on an idea in this space. My answer: emphatically yes!

The moral of the story: warm intros are helpful, but shouldn’t be necessary. Talent is universal, but opportunities to connect to people aren’t. To quote Ratatouille:

“Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.”

Originally published as “My path to VC"