A Day in the Life as a Harlem Capital Intern

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By Jailany Thiaw (Fall 2021)

Applying for a job or internship can be stressful already, but it is even more so when applying to roles in an industry as opaque as venture capital. That’s why at Harlem Capital we’re doing things differently.

My name is Jailany Thiaw and I’m a 21-year-old undergrad at Princeton University taking a gap before my senior year to build an edtech startup. Before HCP, I had some exposure to VC through student groups at school such as Prospect Student Ventures, but I was thrilled to get my first real industry experience at Harlem Capital during the last few months of Fall in 2021. 

Below I outline what a day in the life of a Harlem Capital intern looks like. I also gathered the other interns to help answer some of the most frequently asked questions regarding the program.

You can also check out the Live Twitter Q&A we did with our Fall Intern Class of ‘21.

TLDR: What is Harlem Capital’s Internship program exactly?

The Harlem Capital internship is a 10-week program that gives ~6 interns a chance to break into Venture Capital and work with our full-time team of 7. During the internship, they are responsible for diligence work, joining weekly meetings, and contributing to one special project such as our HCP Podcast, Monthly Newsletter, or our Reports on VC.

Ok, so what does Harlem Capital do and how do they stand out in the VC landscape? 

HCP is an early-stage venture capital firm dedicated to investing in the best and brightest startups founded specifically by women and founders of color – people with groundbreaking ideas who are often overlooked by the industry at large. So far, we’ve invested in 39 companies across multiple industries such as e-commerce, fintech, consumer, and logistics.

Our interns are core to making this all possible and as one, highly talented individuals have the chance to help us change the face of entrepreneurship by investing in 1,000 diverse founders over the next 20 years.

What is the kind of work you do during the internship?

Typically we spent our time doing “Deal Work”, which includes a few calls with founders every week or so (the sourcing side) along with analysis to understand prospective startup investments (the diligence side). During the founder calls, interns typically put together call notes and identify the preliminary questions that the team will want to ask when they speak to the founder. 

The diligence process is more in-depth and can look like market research, building models in excel around the potential revenue of a company, or identifying and sizing up other startups doing something similar.

That being said, each intern’s experience will vary slightly based on their interests and deal flow. Here’s what I did:

What are some of the special projects you work on?

For me, I got to work with Melody Hahm to engage with our community of founders and was proud to have a real creative license to bring ideas to life. Overall, though, HCP regularly takes on 6 special projects:

1) Monthly Newsletter (subscribe!)
2) Reports on Diversity in Entrepreneurship
3) Community Building Events for our Founders
4) Industry Research
5) HCP Podcast
6) Report on Diversity at Top Accelerators

Usually every intern will take on one project each, based on the cohort’s preferences. Here are some of the other cool things my intern class did. Check out this full thread for our Twitter AMA.

Interns are also encouraged to bring their ideas with them and new project proposals are more than welcomed!

Is the internship virtual or in-person?

Virtual. Our partners are based all over the country and this year we had interns tune in from California, New Jersey, Michigan, Chicago, Atlanta, and Pennsylvania.

How much time do interns spend working per week?

I often spent about 5-15 hrs a week working on HCP stuff – a manageable amount while juggling a startup and another day job. When it’s slow, work mainly consists of reviewing companies who are looking to raise, a few calls with founders, and a weekly team meeting to catch up on everyone’s deals. There is also a resources syllabus the team put together which allows every intern to build their VC knowledge throughout the program through informative articles and videos.

When it’s busy, it’s often because there are a few important deals the team is trying to close and you are contributing to the diligence process in addition to the normal workload. Weeks like these can be a bit stressful your first time around but the partners do a great job leading the interns and outlining clear deliverables to avoid any superfluous work or late-night keyboard smashing.

What can I expect if I apply for the HCP internship?

Applicants will first hear back from the HCP team within a week or so of the deadline and are invited to participate in the subsequent round of a 4-stage process. 

1) The first round is the initial application itself (“Resume Round”)
2) The second is a virtual interview where the team tries to get to know a bit more about you (e.g., “Tell us about yourself.”, “Why do you want to work at HCP?”)
3) The third round is more of an assignment and the HCP team asks you to put together a market analysis (~3-page deck) on one industry. You get to do this over a week or so and you email it in when done
4) If you make it past all three rounds, the final stage is to present the market analysis deck to the HCP partners over a virtual conference.

For the Fall ‘21 batch of interns, HCP saw 635 applications and took 6 (3 MBAs, 3 undergrads) for an acceptance rate of 0.9%.

Any tips on the interview process?

I asked the Fall Class of 2021 what the best tips are for applying for the HCP Internship. Here’s what my fellow interns said:

What is your favorite part about working at HCP?

Jailany Thiaw: “For me, it’s all about the people! When you think about an internship, there aren’t many other jobs that allow you to meet with elite entrepreneurs and investors building the business of the future on a day-to-day basis. Harlem Capital is one of those special few and I was so thrilled to get to meet some inspiring founders and the incredible HCP team.”

Soumya Tejam: “As interns, we get paired with a mentor from the HCP team and touch base weekly creating the perfect environment for reflection and learning. Our conversations cover life updates, deal work, project progress, questions, feedback and always go overtime!”

Darius Johnson: “My favorite part is the culture of learning by doing and how you have the chance to work directly with partners on the team and learn a large amount of knowledge in a short period of time.”

Sharlene Guiriba: “Being an HCP intern affords you the chance to examine a wide variety of startups and meet talented founders. You see the impact of your work right away, as you become involved with every step of the deal. I am grateful to work with such a humble, brilliant, and funny group of investors.”

Lizbeth Nunez: “Harlem Capital’s internship is distinctly marked by a no-frills communicative culture and a thoughtful approach to team development. I really enjoyed being part of every facet of the deal process and having a great team of people to learn alongside with!”

Orlando Gomez: “From Day One of the HCP internship, you’re part of the family. There’s no paying dues first. From the moment you start. Your voice matters. Your thoughts matter. Your contributions matter.”

Harlem Capital welcomed the 2022 Winter Interns this month — Sharlene and Liz returned as fellows for the season!

Intrigued by the internship? Want to dive head first into venture capital? Our Summer 2022 application is now open until February 15th, APPLY or SHARE!

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