How to Refer a Startup to a VC

Semyon Dukach
Jun 25 · 3 min read
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Photo by Kon Karampelas on Unsplash

As a VC, a big part of our daily routine is fielding referrals. Such referrals usually ask that we take a look at Company X’s deck, or that we set up a meeting with X founder.

These types of referrals are great–and we always review the companies sent our way. However, we do not always have the capacity to respond to every email with detailed feedback (We are also simultaneously balancing meetings with companies in our pipeline, check-ins with our current portfolio founders, and the daily operations of a small firm).

We know it can be frustrating to receive a short “it’s not a fit for us” response to these referrals, so we wanted to provide some transparency on how we decide whether or not to take an intro/first meeting. More importantly, we want to map out how you can effectively get our attention via email.

What are we thinking when we get a referral?

Generally, if someone tends to send us a lot of referrals (which means they are not doing much filtering themselves), then we end up saying no very frequently. If someone hardly ever sends any referrals, and we know they’re an active investor, we will take it very seriously and are much more likely to set up a meeting.

How can you write a referral that gets our (and any VC’s) attention?

Example Referral Email:

Hi [Investor Name],

There’s a fintech company that graduated from the 2020 Boston Techstars cohort that I think you might be interested in investing in. They were by far the strongest in the class, and I’m considering personally investing as well. The founders have deep expertise in the space and stand out amongst all the teams I’ve met in the past year.

[Insert blurb that company writes here — high-level explanation of what the company does, milestones they’ve completed, why they are a good fit for our fund specifically]

This example hits all the primary bullets:

As long as the purpose or intent of the referral is clear, and the email is thoughtfully written, we will take the time to write a thoughtful response/give thoughtful feedback.

We hope this explains some of our reasoning behind how we treat referrals. Unfortunately, it is the nature of the job to have to say “no” a great deal. But, we appreciate anyone who thinks of us and passes along an opportunity to meet a new company.

Thank you to those who have sent a startup our way in recent years–we are grateful for your time and consideration. Please keep sending more our way!

One Way Ventures

Backing exceptional immigrant founders.

Semyon Dukach

Written by

One Way Ventures

One Way Ventures is an early-stage venture capital fund focused on backing exceptional immigrant founders. Entrepreneurship, like immigration, is a journey into the unknown. Let us help you navigate.

Semyon Dukach

Written by

One Way Ventures

One Way Ventures is an early-stage venture capital fund focused on backing exceptional immigrant founders. Entrepreneurship, like immigration, is a journey into the unknown. Let us help you navigate.

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