I'm a Harvard CS & Econ student, startup investor, and Elpha's First Ambassador – Jessica LiFeatured

kuan's profile thumbnail
This is the first of our new series highlighting members in the Elpha community. We're curious who you are, what you're working on and what inspires you. Jessica is our first Elpha Ambassador! 🎉To learn more about Elpha Ambassadors: https://elpha.com/posts/2ggzna4y/be-an-elpha-ambassador
amazzocchi's profile thumbnail
Hi Jessica! As a fellow student (PhD candidate) - I'm interested in learning about how you started working with VCs. I'm unable to participate in many of fellow programs right now due to finishing up my PhD but would also like to hear your opinion on reaching out to VCs with interest in internships (local or remote).Thanks!
jessicali's profile thumbnail
Hi! Thanks so much for reaching out and glad to hear you are interested in getting into VC! With regards to reaching out with VCs for local or remote internships (or even fellows programs that work with your schedule) more practically, one main thing to emphasize is your value add in sourcing technical companies and doing technical diligence. I have seen this play out quite frequently where even seasoned VCs have spent so much time solely or mostly on the business side that they only have surface level familiarity with the underlying technology in more deep tech businesses. Your unique perspective from your own research, familiarity with that of others, connections in the research community (many researchers end up spinning off their dissertation work into companies so you will be first to hear about those/have the deepest insights on the founders/have the best starting point for building these relationships) would be a huge value add! More broadly, I think having some exposure to what the day to day or week to week work of a VC is like will be quite eye opening and help you decide if that is something you want to do in the future. Also, each VC firm can be quite different in terms of how they operate and their cultures, so being able to see a couple (depending on time - maybe you can do something term time and something else over the summer or a longer break, like winter break) may be helpful as well to see whether your positive/negative experiences are firm specific or more a product of the industry to better help you decide. Even remote work, I have found, can help you get a great sense of what a role may look like, especially since frequently many investors will work in distributed style teams. On my own experience, I started through a good amount of cold emailing early on in college and going to events where I met investors at different funds and kept those relationships warm throughout college. In keeping the relationships warm, I thought about not just periodic catch ups or the like but rather how I could be helpful through sharing articles, connecting them with relevant student groups, helping pub their accelerators/events, sending over top student companies, making warm intros, providing feedback on a particular space (especially one more Gen Z oriented). Hope this helps :) and best of luck!
amazzocchi's profile thumbnail
This was so helpful, thanks @jessicali! I feel much more confident in pursuing VC internships and cold calling.
feliciachang's profile thumbnail
Hi Jessica,You are literally so inspiring. I've seen your name a few times on the Accelerated slack channel as well and just want to reach out and say hi (as well as ask a few questions)! I am currently a junior at Yale studying computer science and am interested in working in the technology branch of an investment bank or consulting firm. I would love to hear more about your work at Morgan Stanley and what the interview/application process was like for your role. Also, how much did studying economics help you with investing as a VC or your career goals? Many people complain that economics is too theoretical to be useful, but the research you conducted seems very much based in reality. Are there any areas in economics you would recommend me explore while still in college?
jessicali's profile thumbnail
Hi Felicia - thank you so much for your kind words :) it is so great to be in touch with you! With regards to the work, much of it revolved around creating presentations and analyses to help large tech companies think about financing based, growth driving strategies. For the interview and application, if you are focusing specifically on tech, it is helpful to show why you are passionate about tech specifically and how you have followed the space in depth over time. Definitely have some unique theses on where you think particular verticals are going on why! To this end, I have found it helpful to read a lot of books from top VCs and founders (for big ideas) as well as similar blogs (for more ongoing updates on the industry). I also try to track my own investment picks (to calibrate my company analysis ability and strategy) and come up with my own analyses from first principles before reading the thoughts of others. With regards to economics, I think that some of the course work was a bit more theoretical than the job demands, but I think a lot of the skills you learn around 1) understanding the gaps between the theory and empirical side, 2) deriving results from first principles, and 3) using frameworks to understand the fundamental drivers of real world events continue to be quite relevant in VC, banking, and more broadly. I think doing economics research (beyond the course work itself) is also helpful to bridge some of the gaps between classroom learning and real world understanding. While economics research is still probably more theoretical than banking or VC work, the process you go through of learning about an entirely new field, navigating a steep learning curve, communicating information in an accessible manner, etc. is really valuable. For specific areas of economics, definitely focus on what you find most interesting! I personally really liked behavioral finance and international trade. But I think any area of economics can teach you the above skill sets if you approach it with the right mindset!
feliciachang's profile thumbnail
Thank you so much for taking the time to provide such a thoughtful answer. This is so helpful.The work you are doing at Morgan Stanley sounds super interesting and exciting! What are some books/blogs from VC's and founders that you would recommend? Most of the tech analysis I read comes from Stratecherry and Justine and Olivia's blog. Would love some other great sources, if you are willing to share.Also, I love your point of view on economics. I had never really considered the skills you can build through discipline, but those skills are very valuable. That's such a great insight to have.
jessicali's profile thumbnail
Of course :) So glad this was useful and always happy to help! For recs on what I follow, see below! Blogs/Weekly Content: Fred Wilson USV, Brad Feld, Sequoia 7 Questions, Andrew Chan a16z, Chris Dixon a16z, Benedict Evans a16z, Eugene Wei, Retales, The Algorithm, Chain Letter, Tomasz Tunguz, Oversharing, First Round Review, Both Sides of the Table, School of HerringNewsletters/Daily Content: Bloomberg Tech, Axios Pro Rata, Fortune Term Sheet, Recode, Axios Markets, Fortune Broadsheet, PitchBook News, Fortune CEO Daily, StrictlyVC, TC, AngelList, Fifth Wall, Fortune Eye on AI, Fortune The Ledger, The Proof, John Gannon Books: Hard Things About Hard Things, Venture Deals, Startup of You, Alpha Girls, Blitzscaling, AI Superpowers, Zero to One, Bad Blood, Change by Design Podcasts: Village Global, 20 Minute VC, How I Built This, YC, Masters of Scale, The Pitch, Ventured, Acquired Also following people on Twitter like Ryan Hoover and Ryan Caldbeck and following interesting people on Medium!