What I learned as an Eniac intern

By Leelena Asfaw

This summer, I had the privilege of exploring the startup ecosystem through the lens of venture capital — specifically, as a summer investment analyst at Eniac Ventures. This post is my attempt at summing up the work I did and what I learned over the past couple months.

My journey to a VC internship

For context, I’d previously founded a startup and am currently in my final year at Columbia University, where I’m pursuing a M.Sc. in Technology Management. During the school year, I had the opportunity to work with the Black Venture Capital Consortium as a fellow and a student investment analyst. With the establishment of the BVCC’s student fund, I got hands-on experience as an investment professional, which led to the opportunity to intern with the Eniac team for the summer.

What I did during my internship

Interning at Eniac was quite an experience. I was primarily tasked with reviewing pitch decks, evaluating pitches, performing market research, and writing investment memos. I truly enjoyed listening to a lot of energetic founders explaining their companies (both in person or on Zoom) and, of course, watching plenty of demos.

Eniac puts a lot of thought into every investment decision, which means that there’s a lot of work to do even before that first meeting — making sure the company fits with our stage, sector, and geographical focus, checking that there are no conflicts within the portfolio, and above all, finding something that makes the team’s ears prick up, whether that’s a strong founding team or rapid revenue growth.

During the pitch meetings, I did my best to listen carefully and ask sensible follow-up questions. Afterwards, I worked to analyze things like the market (who the customers are, competitors, market size), the product (how it works, what problem it solves, what’s unique about it, possible red flags), the management team (who the founders are, what are their accomplishments, what type of team is in charge), the structure of the deal (amount invested, instrument, liquidation preference, valuation), and more.

Lessons from my VC internship

My goal for the summer was to learn as much as I could about how to think as a venture capitalist, and to get a taste of what it’s actually like to be a VC. At the beginning of my internship, I was promised the opportunity to work with everyone on the Eniac team — and that promise was kept. I also learned a lot in the twice-weekly partner meetings, where the full team reviews potential investments, discusses portfolio news, and updates everyone on schedules and priorities.

So what did I learn? For one thing, time is everyone’s most limited resource, so it’s crucial to ask the right questions, spot red flags, and differentiate a good pitch from a bad one.

I have also learned that running a VC fund is a lot like running a startup. There’s so much more to it than just executing deals. It takes thoughtfulness to put processes in place that are efficient and value-adding for both the team and the portfolio.

To be successful, VCs need to believe in ideas that others may be skeptical of. I have learned to take the time to understand what I believe and why I believe in it, and to develop a grounded, unique perspective that can differentiate me as an investor.

What’s next?

Although I am sad this is my last week at Eniac, I am very grateful to the entire team for an exceptional summer experience. I’d like to think that during these two months, I was able to punch above my weight (editor’s note: she did!). I enjoyed everything I learned about the VC world and look forward to working in the industry full time soon.

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