Raising money: How to get an intro to a VC

Raising money: How to get an intro to a VC

By Oleksii Yermolenko, co-founder and partner at F1V

Startups typically raise funds for 18-24 months. When there is less than a year of runway left, especially as they approach the 6-month mark, it’s time to start fundraising. When looking for a way to find and talk to investors, all you need is a good ol’ intro. But how do you get it right?

The whole process of getting an introduction to a VC is surely not as hard as building a company, but it can be tricky. The devil is in the details. If you know these details and do your homework, you will get what you need.

Using network for warm intros

A warm introduction is the best way to get investors’ attention. For that, someone needs to introduce you and your company to a venture capital fund, an angel, or someone else who you can raise money from.

Your job is to find a person you want to be referred to and the most suitable one in your network who can make an intro to them. Pay attention to who will make an intro and don’t hesitate to take extra steps to reach the strongest person you can for that. The personality and reputation of an introducer have an impact on how people perceive you.

When you find your perfect matchmaker, make it easy for them to help you: Prepare a short blurb about your company that can be forwarded. You will have much higher chances to get attention if you make your message personal, describing why you want to speak to that particular VC and why they could be interested in your company.

Before writing anything, it's a good idea to check your target VC’s investment thesis, including the industries, companies, and geographies they invest in. You have to be certain you’re a good fit.

It would be perfect if this investor — not just the fund they work for — focuses on your industry or is currently looking for deals in it.

It’s also important to retain a friendly relationship with the individual giving you an introduction. After the introduction, send them a thank-you message. This person would likely be curious if their assistance was helpful and how everything went. If you keep asking people for a favor and then forget about them for months, they may not be so enthusiastic about helping you the next time.

I highly recommend watching the video about networking by Tom Friel.

Cold introductions still work

There are two things about cold outreach to remember: 1) venture capitalists receive dozens of cold pitches per week, and 2) they spend 2-3 minutes looking through them.

It’s much harder to get attention with a cold email. So, personalize your message as hell. You should research the person you are writing to — their experience, industries they invest in, companies that they advise — and use this info to make your pitch more personal. And, keep it short, really short. No one will read an essay in a cold email.

A good idea is to follow an investor on social media and read, like and comment on their posts. Once you send a cold email to them, they may remember you and go through your pitch. Social media posts can also provide you with an excellent icebreaker.

I receive many emails from founders every day but still remember a few that stood out. All of them were written with attention to what I do, which companies I invested in, and what our fund does.

You can also add a bit of storytelling to your email. One company I received a cold pitch from was building an app to help kids learn good habits. The founder said he was a swimming coach and saw many parents encouraging their kids to swim. This sparked the idea for his startup, and I still remember that. But, again, keep the email short, it’s very important.

Write a simple, concise story and keep your eye on the ball — you’re doing it to get a call from this investor. Here’s a starter cold email template by F1V that may help you.

Don’t forget to ping! Most people send one email, ping one-two times, don’t get a reply, and give up. Don’t be afraid to follow up for up to six times. And don't feel uneasy after your second try — remember that your pitches actually help investors do their job.

My last advice: Quality is always more important than quantity. Spamming investors is not the way fundraising works: Prioritize 10 personalized emails over 100 generic.

The article is based on Oleksii Yermolenko’s lecture for StartUp Academy organized by Genesis and Meta.

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