Cold-calling/emailing/LinkedIning is never said to be recommended for founders. I’ve heard advice from multiple investors saying to always ask for an intro and avoid reaching out cold at all costs.
For a long time, I thought I was the only one who responds to (and likes!) cold-emails. However, it seems that an increasing number of investors are growing more fond of cold-outreaches. And so, I believe it’s not the cold-outreach itself that’s wrong, its how most founders do it.
Email is best, LinkedIn is second best
I mostly read my emails on my computer during the workday, which is also how I prefer to review startups. Sending a LinkedIn message is also nice and professional, but I’m much more likely to view a LinkedIn message on my phone — increasing the chances I’ll miss it or read it with little attention.
Any platform that is considered more social than professional — Facebook, Whatsapp, Telegram or text messages will feel intruding on the investor or even creepy so best to avoid them.
Twitter mentions are a cute way of grabbing someones attention, but it will be hard to move from the investor thinking “oh, she is funny” to “let’s take a serious look at her business” and therefore less likely to get you what you want.
I’ve intentionally left out phone calls as an option since no one really answers their phone anymore.
Do your homework!
I think the biggest problem with cold-emailing is that it is easy to do in mass, and as such, can be very overwhelming for investors. I also believe this is why investors work so hard to discourage cold-emailing — if everybody did it, we’d be forced to manage thousands of emails a day.
For the investors’ sake, as well as for other founders who are hoping to get investors’ attention, try to avoid emailing investors that are clearly not relevant for you. For example, I invest only in Israeli-related startups at the seed and pre-seed stages, it should be pretty easy to understand that from looking at my LinkedIn, asking people who know me or browsing through our fund’s website. I wouldn’t expect a founder to email me about a business not based in Israel or not raising a pre-seed/seed round.
Short, clear and semi-personal
Here’s an example of an email I’ll 100% respond to (all titles, names and other details are completely made-up, this is not a real email):
Hi Liron,I decided to reach out after I read your Medium post about cold-emailing.I am Liat, former VP Product at Immunai, and alongside Tomer, a PhD in Machine Learning from the Weizmann Institute, we founded GreatCo.GreatCo uses machine learning to detect patients’ proclivity for post-operative congestive heart failure at hospitals. We are currently raising a $2M seed.If you find this interesting, I’d be happy to set a meeting or a call to further discuss. Would you have some time next week?Best,Liat<LinkedIn link>
Let’s look at this email line by line:
Hi Liron, I decided to reach out after I read your Medium post...
//mention something about the investor to show this is not a mass-email. This one is especially good as it's short and flattering to the reader. I am Liat… and alongside Tomer… we founded GreatCo.
// This shows that you are especially talented for a specific area — Immunai is a great startup in the AI/medical space, VP product is a senior position and Weizmann PhD shows your co-founder must be at least at the top 10% of ML researchers. Plus, we absolutely invest in AI for medical so I’m already listening. GreatCo uses.. we are currently raising a $2M seed.
//I don’t need the entire pitch, just the tagline of what the company does and what stage it is — I don’t need to be convinced at this point, just need to make sure the deal is relevant in terms of industry and stageIf you find this interesting...
//a call to action, but a nice, not-too-pushy oneBest,Liat<linkedin link>
//saves me the 10 seconds of finding you on LinkedIn myself…
It’s also worth discussing what I intentionally left out of the email: superlatives, over-flattery and overly-personal appeals. Saying how much you loved my post or how much you’d appreciate meeting me might make me feel uncomfortable or think that the compliment is not genuine when coming in this context. Saying your startup is innovative, first of its kind or brilliant wouldn’t carry much weight coming in an email from someone I don’t yet know. Short emails will get you the most attention — so best consider each word carefully.
In sum, while a personal introduction is preferred in most cases, cold-emailing shouldn’t be completely forsaken. To me, a short, well-crafted email would be much better than an intro from an investor who saw you but didn’t want to invest, or a remote acquaintance that can’t vouch for you personally or professionally.
And by the way, I’m at firstname.lastname@example.org