Is 27 too old an age to become an associate at a venture capital firm?

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JASON LEMKIN

Almost.

Let me step back — of course 27 isn’t “too old” to pursue your passion. If you really are insanely passionate about VC, do it. I started at rather older than that 🙂

But it takes about 16–22 years to get anywhere in VC from an associate position:

Let’s break down why:

  • Years 1–3: do grunt work, hopefully source 1 or 2 great deals. If lucky.
  • Years 3–6: get promoted, at Year 5/6 become junior partner. And this is Hard.
  • Years 6–9: “partner” in first fund. Maybe decent carry for this point in life, but not real partner yet. You are still a glorified associate in many ways because you have no control of your fate.
  • Years 10–20: true GP in first fund, with material carry. But. Need 3+ funds to make real money. And — funds have 10+ year lifetimes.
  • Years 13–23: true GP in second fund. Hear, you are on track to Managing Partner if you’ve made some awesome investments.
  • Years 16–26: true GP in third fund. You’re King of the Hill here, but really, maybe already peaked.

So 27+16=age 43 when you’re in your prime when you kick off as a General Partner in your third fund as a partner, and second as a full partner. That’s about right. And that’s if the stars align. If the fund can raise 3 funds at a fairly decent pace (every 3 years). If the fund can even raise another 3 funds at all. If you actually get promoted. Etc. If the stars don’t align, but you still crush it — you could be 46 or 50 by the time you reach real GP in your second fund.

So 27 is OK if you totally crush it, and can source unicorns relatively early in your career (which many of the very best GPs have). But you can’t scale too slowly at this point.

Don’t do it at 27 just for a job. Do it at 22 just for a job.

Only do it at 27 if it’s a true calling. You can only bend time in VC just so much.

The most successful VC firm of all time views 30 as about the “oldest” you should be to make junior partner for this reason.

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Published on December 23, 2016
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