Venture Capital Behavioral Mock Interview: Why Floodgate? was originally published on Exponent.
Interested in working in venture capital? If so, you’ll need to prepare for your interviews.
In this mock interview, we ask a candidate, “Why do you want to work at Floodgate?” We pay close attention to the candidate’s responses and dive into their reasons for wanting to work there.
In this blog post, we’ll share the highlights of the interview and what we’ve learned that can help you prepare for your venture capital interviews.
Tell me about yourself.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me for Floodgate. I’m Carly, and I’m from Southern California. I grew up there and then went to Stanford University.
I studied science, technology, and society—an interdisciplinary major! I focused on entrepreneurship and organization, which fueled my passion for building businesses.
After I graduated, I wanted to learn how to code. I did a coding boot camp for three months and then worked as a software engineer at Wix. That’s where I’ve been for the last two years.
That’s what’s led me to today, hoping to break into venture capital.
Use the “tell me about yourself” question to share what led you to where you are today in this interview. Share why your skills make you eager to work for this company.
Tell me about your undergraduate experience.
I went to Stanford thinking about going into pre-med—I come from a family of doctors!
I realized, though, that medicine wasn’t for me. I started listening to podcasts about entrepreneurship and founder stories like How I Built This by Guy Raz. They were inspiring and incredible to me.
With my energy around entrepreneurship, I discovered related classes at Stanford. I joined the Mayfield Fellows program, a 12-student group focused on learning what it means to be a tech leader and founder.
I interned at a startup the summer after I joined the Fellows program and saw what it means to be a founder. From that, I started my own podcast to talk to other female founders about their journeys.
Talk about your college experience and what drew you to entrepreneurship in the first place.
– Did you take entrepreneurship classes?
– Did you have any internships?
– How did your education influence your career path?
Why are you interested in venture capital?
Let me first talk more about my passion for early-stage ventures.
The process I use to evaluate a company and its founder changes depending on the stage of the company.
I am particularly drawn to early-stage companies because of the passion I see in entrepreneurs. They have a vision and a problem they are determined to solve.
This is the kind of drive that inspires me.
I find tremendous value in being a first believer in an early-stage company. It’s empowering to be a part of a venture before others realize its potential.
By supporting founders and helping build their vision, I am both solving problems for today and contributing to the design of the future.
An early-stage venture is the best way to do just that. It allows me to be in the trenches with these entrepreneurs.
The statistics speak for themselves: starting a business is far from easy. This is why I am drawn to early-stage venture capital and believe it is such a great opportunity.
What is the role of an early-stage VC?
A big part of early-stage venture capital is circled around the founder. It’s primarily about their idea and how they want to make their vision a reality.
There are many ups and downs in starting a new company. To help founders succeed, an early-stage VC must provide financial and personal support.
This support can involve helping with funding, guiding them through pivots, and encouraging them during difficult or stressful times.
With all the challenges founders face, early-stage VCs must offer valuable insights and support to help them navigate this complex process.
One particularly effective approach is to see the founder as a person first and foremost. Invest in their potential and ideas.
Ultimately, the role of an early-stage VC is to help founders succeed and achieve their goals.
Why Floodgate Capital?
The founding partners of Floodgate, Ann Miura-Ko, and Mike Maples Jr., practically invented pre-seed investing.
Pre-seed investing refers to the initial stage of funding for a startup company. This funding covers the costs of researching and developing the business idea.
They defined what it means to believe in a founder before anyone else.
For example, Floodgate invested in Lyft early in its founding when it was still called Zimride. They did the same for Twitch.
These successes show that they can see different factors within a founder. It shows that they can say this person will build and design a future that we want to live in.
So, as someone breaking into venture capital, this kind of learning environment at Floodgate is valuable to me.
I am drawn to the hands-on approach of helping founders build and design their vision.
Another reason I’m drawn to the firm is because Floodgate has done an excellent job on diversity. There’s a fairly even split between men and women, and I really find that incredible.
What companies in our portfolio get you excited?
I recently came across a company called Mem.ai, and I am incredibly excited about it. It is an AI-powered workspace that centralizes all my work tools into one place.
Many tools are available today, such as email and calendars, but what sets Mem.ai apart is its seamless integration with these other tools.
For example, I can access my calendar events directly from the Mem.ai app and take notes. As someone who values taking notes, I find this feature particularly valuable.
Having all my knowledge in one place and using AI technology to streamline my work is incredibly exciting.
The AI also suggests syncing similar information from different meetings, which makes it easier to organize my knowledge base.
Integrating AI in knowledge management and workspaces has a bright future, and I am eager to see its development.
What trends and startups are exciting?
The education industry is undergoing a significant transformation with the rise of the learning economy and technology integration.
The learning economy refers to a system in which knowledge and learning are valued as critical drivers of innovation, economic growth, and competitiveness.
Many industries are embracing technological advancement and innovation thanks to this integration. This presents a wealth of opportunities for those passionate about education and technology.
The learning economy is a dynamic and evolving space. Many tools and resources are available for individuals to continue their education and professional development.
These tools can take many forms, such as traditional classroom settings and online courses. One company, called Antimatter, is even using memes as a tool for learning.
A move towards more personalized and creative approaches to learning is happening throughout the education industry.
The wide range of tools and resources available provide the flexibility and accessibility that was previously impossible.
The attempts to go beyond the traditional and explore new and innovative learning methods make it an exciting time for those passionate about education and personal growth.
There is another trend worth mentioning here. That is the integration of e-commerce with socializing and entertainment.
This approach to e-commerce views it as a social activity, aiming to bring the two together in new and innovative ways. I have noticed some early-stage companies revolutionizing how we consume media through e-commerce.
This trend will likely grow as creators, influencers, and personalities look for new ways to monetize their influence and build products their audiences will love.
Integrating e-commerce with creators, as seen on TikTok, is just one example of this trend taking shape.
For example, Mr. Beast, a popular YouTuber, has recently opened his own restaurant. These developments highlight the shift from traditional media consumption to monetizing one’s influence through e-commerce.
What is one startup you’d want to invest in?
When considering investing in a startup, the founder is one of the key things to evaluate.
I would start with the following:
- Talk with them to gain a deeper understanding of their idea and its origin.
- Ask questions to understand why the founder is the perfect person to start this venture.
- Understand the founder’s motivations and unique qualities to help to assess their potential for success.
- Evaluate why now is the right time to bring this idea to market.
I would ask myself questions like:
- Has this problem existed for the past five years and is only now being addressed?
- Is this a problem expected to emerge in the coming years?
It’s important to consider what factors are propelling the startup forward. What inflections or market changes will help them grow in the coming years?
An inflection point refers to pivotal moments in a company’s growth that can cause significant acceleration or a change in its trajectory.
These inflections can come from various sources, including technological advancements, societal changes, and government regulations.
For instance, the rise of AI and video chat during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I also consider the potential for the startup to become a billion-dollar business. This includes evaluating the marketing strategy and understanding the customer and the problem being solved.
Finally, I focus on understanding their plan for generating revenue and their current progress.
Although specific numbers and metrics may not be as significant at this early stage, I still want to gain insight into their plans for making money, revenue, and serving customers.
What are the top questions to ask a founder?
If we were using the founder of the meme ed-tech company, Antimatter as an example, I would focus on the founder’s understanding of memes and education.
They must understand the target market and their needs, as both teachers and students are potential users.
I’d also inquire about the problem the company aims to solve.
- Are you targeting a lack of engagement or ineffective learning methods?
- Why do memes provide a solution?
By understanding these factors, I can assess the potential value the company can bring to its users.
Education is a challenging field to enter. So, the key question is how the founder differentiates and positions themselves to become the next successful education company, like Coursera.
This requires understanding where he fits into the larger picture and what sets him apart from the competition.
Notes from the interviewer
- Do your research. Before your VC interview, familiarize yourself with the firm and your interviewer. Look into their background, interests, and investments to tailor your pitch to their specific interests.
- Show your genuine interest in entrepreneurship. Your passion for the industry and entrepreneurship should shine throughout the conversation. Be energetic and well-informed about different sectors, such as education, e-commerce, entertainment, or other industries in which the firm invests.
- Be well-prepared. Know how the firm works and what sets them apart from other venture capital firms, and be clear on why you are interested in early-stage investing.
- Show your likeability. Being supportive and compassionate can go a long way in the venture capital industry. Showcase your interpersonal skills and your genuine interest in helping others succeed.