Tools Used In This Recipe
Although the practice of warm introductions can be rightly criticized as exclusionary to new or underrepresented founders, it’s still very much a part of the fundraising process. In this Recipe you’ll learn how to leverage this process to help you connect with investors that are a good fit for your current and future fundraising needs.
Before you begin
A critical part of getting an introduction to an investor is having someone already in your network to make the introduction. This is a process that takes time; after all, every time someone makes an intro on your behalf they’re spending a little of their credibility on you, and that trust is built up over time. A lot of the success of your fundraise will depend on the network you’ve built over the years.
You’ll be asking your connection to send a message on your behalf introducing the company and the opportunity to their connection, so your job is to make that process as easy for them as you can. You don’t want to ask them to write the email; instead you’ll write a version that they can just forward (more on that below). You also want to have a list of specific investors from their network. Start with the investors you are targeting for your fundraising round and either ask your connection if they know anyone at those firms, or you can either go through their direct connections on LinkedIn and identify anyone you want to get introduced.
Once you have a list of investors that your contact can definitely make an introduction to, use LinkedIn, the firm’s website, social media, or any other public source to learn about the person you are seeking to connect with. Your goal here is to include a specific reason in your forwardable email why you want the connection. You want to go beyond just that you’re hoping they will invest; why is this specific investor a good fit for you, and vice versa? Maybe they have invested in other companies in the space (but be careful; investors will not fund a direct competitor to a company they’ve already invested in). Maybe you share an alma mater or a hobby. If you don’t have a meaningful individual connection, if the investor does a lot of blogging or other publishing you can let them know you’re a fan of their work. The more personal and unique you can make this connection, the better.
You’ll also want to have three things prepared to include in every email forward you are looking to send:
- A 2-3 sentence summary of what your company does. If you don’t already have this developed, the brand positioning statement Recipe is a good place to start.
- A bulleted (preferable) or 2-3 sentence summary of your key traction. This will vary with what type of business you have, but your goal here is to get them excited to learn more. Even if you don’t have customers yet, you could use landing page signups, newsletter subscribers, active members of a community you’ve built, or other things that demonstrate interest.
- A summary of your ask. Usually this will describe your fundraising round and that you’d like to schedule a meeting to discuss further.
- Key links, in case they want to research before replying: To your website if you have one set up, to your LinkedIn profile, or if you use AngelList you might include a link to your company’s profile there.
Crafting the email
The contents of the email will vary depending on your traction, product, and the investor you’re hoping to reach. Warren Shaeffer has an excellent twitter thread on the process that you should read before continuing with this Recipe:
There are examples from his personal experience in the thread that you can use as a guide, but if you need additional inspiration you can use this blog post from Tristan Pollock.
When you write the email you should expect that your connection can and will simply forward it to their investor connection. This means that the subject line you use is important, since it will show up in the investor’s inbox. We recommend the following format:
[Your company name] would love to connect with [investor name]
As the thread from Warren indicates, the first paragraph should be your note to your contact asking them for a connection, and explaining why you think this investor is a good fit. You can use a divider in the email to separate this note from the actual information about your company. Investors will read this and appreciate that you have put some thought into why you want to connect; you aren’t just emailing everyone you know hoping for a response.
When you get introduced
When your contact makes the introduction don’t wait for the investor to be the first to reply. Respond quickly, thank your connection for the introduction and request a meeting. There’s an art to the meeting request. Fundraising is at its core a lot like sales, and a lot of sales psychology works in the fundraising process as well.
If you simply ask the investor to send some times that work for them, they’ll need to move away from your email to their calendar to identify some options, then in their reply they’ll need to type them out as options for you. That’s a lot of work that you don’t want to put on them if you can avoid it. Instead, do this:
Pick three thirty-minute time windows that work for you, however do not propose any time within the next 2 business days (the investor’s calendar will likely already be booked). Also don’t offer Monday times (typically their Mondays are filled with internal meetings) and don’t offer Fridays (it’s a frequent vacation day, especially in the summer).
Next find the investor’s time zone, if it’s not the same as yours. Use either the location on their LinkedIn profile or the address listed on their fund’s website) and figure out the time zone it’s in. Next use a site like TimeAndDate.com to figure out what the local time is for the investor, and when you list options, write out the day of week, date, start and end in their local time zone (and include the equivalent time for you in parenthesis). For example:
- Wednesday, September 7 from 1:30-2:00pm Pacific Time ( 4:30-5pm Eastern)
- Thursday, September 8 from 9:30-10:00am Pacific Time ( 12:30-1pm Eastern)
- Thursday, September 8 from 11:30-noon Pacific Time ( 2:30-3pm Eastern)
By providing specific options you’re introducing forced choice - Instead of asking the investor for a good time out of all possible options you’re asking them to pick the best option out of a specific list. However there’s a chance that none of the times you picked are open for the investor, so immediately after the choices you should say the following:
If none of those times work for you, feel free to use my online calendar to pick a time that fits better, or if it’s more convenient feel free to send me a link to your calendar or some times that work for you and I’ll set something up.
Replace the linked online calendar above with a link to a scheduling service like Calendly where the investor can book a meeting directly with you. All of this probably seems like a lot of formality just to set up one meeting, but the last thing you need is a logistic problem setting up the meeting to derail your presentation. You likely won’t get a second chance.
One of the reasons startup CEOs say fundraising is like a full-time job is because even things that seem simple, like sending an email, require careful planning and thought. There’s a strong argument that the product that wins in the market isn’t the one with the best features or the strongest team, it’s the one backed by the team that makes the fewest mistakes. In this Recipe you’ve learned a formula for maximizing your chances of getting investor meetings, and the more meetings you get the faster you’ll close your round and get back to building and scaling your business.
The contents of this Recipe are © Innovation Works, Inc. and are licensed under CC-BY-SA 4.0 . Contact us with questions or feedback, or to learn more about our structured program in Entrepreneurism based on Startup Recipes.