internship talks: online edition
Given the success of Internship Talks organized by the Rotterdam chapter of the IFSA Network, we have decided to turn it online! Each edition of Internship Talks focuses on different fields of finance explained through the views of fellow students who have experienced these fields themselves.
Venture Finance Intern at NLC
Can you give us a brief personal introduction about yourself?
Hi, I am Kevin Boekholt, currently a third-year Econometrics student at the Erasmus School of Economics. I am Dutch (from my father’s side), but had my upbringing in Ecuador. I arrived to the Netherlands a few years ago when I turned 19, just before the start of university. I mostly decided to follow my studies in the Netherlands to explore more of the Dutch part of my heritage. Having been raised in a foreign country, this is something I never had been able to fully experience. Choosing Erasmus in specific was due to the fact that they offer the best studies in anything business-related in the Netherlands.
Like many other students, I did not really know what I wanted or what I liked when I arrived to university. But throughout the years, after being involved with various student associations (ECE Students, B&R Beurs, SKADI), I finally realized that my fit is within Finance. There are many things I like about it, but what I appreciate the most is the atmosphere of doggedness; we don’t seem to ever want to stop.
Which firm(s) did you intern at? And why did you pick this field?
I interned at NLC: The Healthtech Venture Builder at Amsterdam. My position was within the Venture Financing (VF) team where I worked for almost six months. You could tag my internship as in the field of venture capital (VC), but there are a couple of characteristics of NLC that make it diverge from an ordinary VC fund. You can visit their website (https://nlc.health/about-nlc/) to understand a bit better what they do.
What were your main tasks and responsibilities? What was the most exciting? And what was the biggest surprise of the internship?
My work in the VF team was quite varied. As an intern, you have to help with various minute tasks to support the work of the senior people in the team. The most exciting of these tasks, however, was to support the creation of a fund that would close at €2.2M. The objective of this fund was to bring pre-seed financing to 11 of the ventures in our portfolio. In specific, it fell to me to do some preliminary research on the structure of the fund that would serve as a template for the final legal entity. Moreover, it was up to me to design most of the pitch deck that we would send to people interested to invest in the fund.
The biggest surprise I got from the internship was how calmed and controlled everyone was. Even though our team was working overtime to get things moving quickly, no one seemed to be fazed about it. This is in stark contrast with what you experience at Erasmus or, at least, in my Econometrics study. You see many people worrying about so many things: their future, their studies, their grades, the exam, the assignment, the coffee that they drink and even the coffee that they don’t drink. And this is not needed. There is a false permeating belief that worrying will drive you to do more and to perform better. That worrying is the key to moving forward and achieving success. But, as unintuitive as it might sound, taking a step back to breathe can give your mind the room it needs to flourish. Without this headspace, you are guaranteed to miss the mark; you are running towards the target, but not paying attention to where the target actually is.
What did you dislike about the internship?
I didn’t like that there was barely any intellectual challenge. In contrast with what you get at university, the focus is a lot more on ‘executing’. This means that your chances for discovering and learning new concepts are quite restricted, and opportunities for creative work are also limited. However, it could be that this was due to me being an intern, and moving up the ladder would have opened possibilities to more substantive work. Or maybe it is due to the nature of the field: there does not seem to be a lot of ‘complicated’ things to uncover in Venture Capital. At its core, it’s about valuing companies and negotiating the right price to buy them.
As an advice, if intellectual challenge is something you crave, you should be very mindful about the positions you apply for. Luckily, Finance is quite broad.
What would you say the most essential skills are?
Communication. You need to be able to make people understand your stance so that they understand your work. And you need to learn how to read people to understand what they expect from you. If you manage to get this right, the rest is quite simple.
What courses did you find relevant to your internship?
None. Although Econometrics was incredibly helpful in providing me a mathematical background to understand the numbers quickly, I do not believe this put me at great advantage. The tools I needed for the job, I learnt at the job.
This is not always the case, however. Some positions do need a strong understanding of your academic courses. A quantitative fund, for example, requires comprehensive statistical knowledge. And a tax advisory firm might require a serious grasp of the tax code of the country.
What’s your take on academic studies versus extracurriculars? And how did each prepare you for the internship?
I think you always need a combination of both. But how you decide on academic vs extracurriculars activities should align with your personality. Do you get more of a kick from getting good grades? Then focus on your studies a bit more; try to get into that Honours class. Do you like organizing events more, socializing with other people? Then try to get into a committee to organize something you find interesting. But always try to have a balance of both.
How did you end up at the firm? How did you network and where did you get started?
I applied to around 10 companies I found interesting. NLC was one of them. B&R Beurs was incredibly helpful to source around half of the opportunities. For the rest, I went to different internet job boards to find positions that would interest me.
In your opinion, what is the aspect that a lot of participants lack in the interview process?
Not enough confidence. You need to clearly demonstrate that you are able to do the job, even if you don’t know exactly how to. This is not lying or faking. As I said before, the specific tools you need at the job, you will mostly learn at the job. The interview is, therefore, not about showing that you know it all. Rather, it is for you to show enough confidence and understanding of the position so that your interviewer can trust you will do a good job.
What is your most vivid memory of the internship?
Drinking champagne with our team once we closed the fund at €2.2M. We did it on the first days of January, so it was a great way to start the year.
What is the most valuable thing that you learned?
My powerpoint and excel skills are now on point. 😉
What would your advice/tips be for students currently looking/applying for an internship?
Think carefully about the things you like and what type of personality you have. Then find a position that suits that. Your chances of getting the internship will be a lot higher since (1) the interviewers will like you a lot more (you ‘fit’ the culture) and (2) your final choice of internship positions will be much smaller, allowing you to put more work into each application. But don’t make the mistake of only applying to just one or two positions, you would be playing too much with your odds in that scenario.