(This post was my answer to a question on Quora)
Think of a VC firm as an observatory. A role in a VC firm gives you a vantage position to observe what works and what does not, and what real-world dynamics impact success and failures of businesses. Interacting with successful as well as struggling entrepreneurs provides you an opportunity to learn from other people’s experiences. Of course, being in a VC firm gives you an opportunity to understand what kind of businesses investors invest in, and more importantly, why.
All these opportunities give you a well-rounded view that is made up of different experiences and different perspectives.
Of course, one could argue that you could get this well-rounded view also by working in a consulting company. The difference however is that in a consulting company the discussions are largely about strategy and plans. In a VC firm, apart from strategy, it is also a lot about gut feel, individual insights & beliefs, AND MOST IMPORTANTLY, also about the most crucial factor for the success of a business – the on-ground implementation.
Most businesses fail not because the idea was not good. They fail because the founders made incorrect assumptions and/or were not able implement well in the marketplace.
Being at a VC firm can be a huge learning experience.
I must however also add that i have seen very, very, very few young professionals working in VC firms make appropriate use of this awesome opportunity. Most often they do not recognize the power of learning from other people’s experiences and tend to be clinical in their approach to challenges and opportunities. In the real world, entrepreneurs tend to celebrate successes and introspect on failures. Unfortunately I have rarely seen employees at VC firms spend time to introspect on failures. They just move on. They tend to spend a lot of time on analyzing why a particular model/concept/team was successful… and that is useful too. But is is much more useful and helpful for the future to understand why something did not work.