The VC world is very relationship-based. This is changing, but many VCs prefer to meet with founders who come highly recommended by close connections. The problem is that well-connected people who can help with introductions are often inundated with requests.
So, even if you ask your well-networked friend who is a total supporter of you and your company for an intro, it could still take him/her a couple of weeks to get to your intro request.
Unfortunately, as a founder, you really don’t have time to wait a couple of weeks just to get an intro. And sometimes, you need to get an intro from one well-connected friend to another well-connected friend who can do a strong intro for you. And that could take weeks!
So what do you do?
You need to make it super easy – as easy as possible – for people to do intros for you. Here’s how.
1. First briefly ask your friend or acquaintance if they wouldn’t mind pinging Investor John Doe with your request
Tell your friend that you’re raising a round, and you’re interested in talking with Investor John Doe to gauge his interest in your business. Ask your friend if he/she wouldn’t mind pinging John Doe with your request to meet up briefly. Tell your friend/ or acquaintance that if that’s cool, you’ll send a separate email with the request.
2. Write an email that makes it super easy to forward to John Doe
THIS IS SUPER CRITICAL. If your referrer needs to think, write, or spend any more than 5 seconds on your intro, then it will not get done for weeks.
Write the email from you. DO NOT TRY TO WRITE THE EMAIL FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF YOUR REFERRER. It will not be in his/her voice, and he/she will end up spending a ton of time editing it.
Here’s an example of a very good email requesting an investor-intro from one our batch founders (with details of the business changed for confidentiality reasons):
Thank you in advance for sending this to Martha at BigCrazy VC. We’re raising our seed round and I’d like to get her thoughts on HippoCo. Here’s a quick background:
The $180 billion hippo education market is antiquated and ripe for disruption:
1. Highly fragmented – over 80% of hippo education is distributed through mom and pop stores and only 20% is branded, elite hippo education
2. Structurally inefficient – archaic supply chains require significant working capital for inventory and long lead times to launch new classes / educational content for hippos
3. Un-segmented – Product offerings are split mainly into expensive, elite hippo education or cheap made-up content for hippos with nothing in-between
HippoCo has addressed these issues and created a direct-to-consumer educational brand that offers affordable, useful educational content for the millennial hippo. We co-design and market new educational products in collaboration with top teachers at traditional hippo schools.
The results are validating our model and popularity with hippos:
- Annualized revenue: $900K USD, growing +70% QoQ
- Margins: 50% – 60%
- Strong unit economics: CAC: $25, 25% repeat purchase rate in the past 6 months
Founders are third generation hippo teachers and technologists from the Bay Area.
When I forward an email, I simply add my note to the top to give my thoughts and perspective on the founder and/or company. The email above covers everything that needs to be said, including context (why the founder wants to talk with Martha) as well as key information about the business (KPIs and a description).
These are the biggest mistakes entrepreneurs make when asking for intros, which delays them:
- Not providing any context (why the hell do you want to meet?)
- Sending a blurb that doesn’t say anything (vacuous)
- Neglecting to include a couple of KPIs
- Asking for 9 intros but only sending one email that can be forwarded (you should create a SEPARATE email for each intro you want)
If you do any of these bullets, it means your referrer has to THINK about what additional information to add OR do a lot of copying and pasting.
These may seem like silly deal breakers, but if each task takes 5 minutes, and your referrer is inundated with even just 10 requests like this a day, it will end up taking him/her an hour to fulfill this. This means that your intro requests will end up being neglected for a couple of weeks.
3. Follow up.
If you don’t hear back from your friend/acquaintance within 5 days, follow up. It may be that he/she forgot to reach out to the investor you want to approach. Or, it may be that the investor never got back to your referrer.
People’s inboxes get buried quickly, so don’t feel bad about following up!
4. Optional: Let your referrer know how things went
Lastly, assuming you get connected, let your referrer know how things went. It goes without saying that you might like to thank your referrer at some point during this process.
If you end up sealing a deal with the investor, make sure to mention that to your referrer.