Character of the Individual
The most important element in the selection process is you, the complete person, the human being.
We are looking for self-awareness and insights you have about yourself after past successes and failures, resilience to spring back from failure, and the optimism to imagine a bright future. Unlike a typical job application, your honesty about your flaws is attractive to us. We are not looking for platitudes: “My biggest flaw is that I work too hard” or “I give 110% effort to every project.” Take a risk. Be open.
We are looking for people with intellectual curiosity and an openness to different points of view. People who have integrity, authenticity, vulnerability, empathy, gratitude, and humility. We have observed over the past 20+ years that Fellows with these traits relate to others in ways that can lead to deep levels of trust, fostering satisfying partnerships and lifelong friendships.
Kauffman Fellows is a mastery program to help venture investors hone their skills in order to enhance entrepreneurs’ impact. We give weight to your investing experience, but the number of years as a full-time investor isn’t as important as the role you have played and your accomplishments. We are most interested in the impact you have had on investment decisions.
We recognize that the innovation ecosystem is comprised of more than just investors. We welcome candidates who have spent significant time understanding venture investing in the service of those they serve, such as ecosystem-builders in emerging markets, policymakers, trade association executives, or COOs at VC and LP firms. These Fellows represent a small but essential part of the class (15% in Class 23), and bring diversity of thought to the conversation.
Although it isn’t the most critical element, we look at your venture firm. Is the firm investing its fourth fund or its first? The benefit of working at a firm that has raised four funds is that they know how to raise funds, which makes them sustainable. We assume that the partners at the firm can share with you—either explicitly or via observation—best industry practices and that the firm has an excellent deal flow, has an excellent reputation among entrepreneurs, works with great co-investors, and so on. The firm’s track record is also considered. It consists of the number of portfolio companies they’ve invested in, capital efficiency (exits/capital invested), network centrality (connections to other firms), investment discipline (anecdotal), and most importantly, how honorably they do business. So we give some weight to your application if you work at a top VC firm or other highly regarded organization.
If you are the founder or co-founder of a first or second fund, we recognize that that takes guts. You are not just an investor, but an entrepreneur. You know how to take a risk and put it all on the line. You started a fund to serve a certain sector—maybe an underserved one. So we give some weight to your investment thesis: why it is unique and why are you the one who will succeed in executing it.
Summing It Up
We seek exceptional individuals to become Kauffman Fellows. Period. We don’t have rigid rules or requirements. Most candidates excel on some criteria, but are light on others.
Help us understand what is special about you. How can we help you achieve the impact you are trying to make, surmount the challenges you are facing, nurture the insights you can share?
We seek input from people who know you well. We hope to learn about your different facets from your nominator, your recommenders, interviewers, and from the community when we conduct due diligence. And of course, we seek your own perspective via the application. From these sources, we assess your ability to gain value from the Kauffman Fellows experience for your own benefit, that of your firm, and as a global leader in innovation investing. We also consider how you will contribute to the Kauffman Fellows Network during the 2-year Program and afterward.
It’s important to express yourself clearly. Be specific. Be succinct.
Your ability to share important experiences in your life—and convey why they have been meaningful, joyous, torturous, or pivotal—will help us understand what motivates you, what has shaped your character and defined who you are. Avoid rehashing the accomplishments we can read on your LinkedIn page and opt instead for something that will make us say, “Now there’s an interesting candidate.”
Kauffman Fellows is committed to providing an environment free from discrimination where all members of our community are treated with dignity and respect, and each individual is valued for their contribution and individuality. Fellows are selected for admission without regard to race, color, religion, creed, gender, gender expression, age, national or ethnic origin, ancestry, physical ability, marital status, sexual orientation, or military status.