Are you frustrated that venture capital firms rarely reply to your cold email messages even though you’ve carefully written and revised them over 10 times before clicking the send button?
I’m a venture capital investor and I get a lot of pitch email messages from all sorts of startups all around the world. So I wanted to provide you with the VC’s side of perspective about your pitch email messages. I hope this will help you enhance your chance of making it past the inbox.
10 things VCs absolutely hate
- Long email, long sentences, and long paragraphs:
Since VCs receive a ton of pitch messages, you should try to summarize your pitch into a few short sentences. Personally, I like two short paragraphs with a link to a slide deck for more details.
- Explaining why you personally wanted to start your company:
Unless why you personally wanted to start your company has to do with the real world, problem-solving idea that is central to your company, please don’t bother. Think of your email as an elevator speech. You should only provide the key points.
- Lack of numbers:
Yes, you need to have numbers down even if your startup makes $0. Remember those résumé tips you learned in college? The same applies to email pitches. Try to sell the numbers (or early results) of some of the key points about why a VC should invest in your company. If you don’t have any number for your startup, do some research and write down a few numbers about your target market.
- Too many attached files:
If you’ve attached more than two files when having your first or second email conversation with a VC, you’ve overdone it. I know you’d like to provide as many credentials as possible, but VCs generally take days before they become interested enough unless otherwise requested. For your pitch email, you should consider attaching (or even better, having a link to) only a slide deck (or a one-pager).
- Lack of a slide deck or a one-pager:
VCs not only hate too many file attachments but also dislike no file (or link) attachment. If you don’t have a pitch deck ready, at least have a one-pager. Think of it as an ID to start a conversation with any VC.
- Requests to sign an NDA:
No VC will sign an NDA with you on your first pitch. In fact, most VCs will not ever sign an NDA with you. If you’re concerned about a VC stealing your idea, read Why VCs Don’t Sign NDAs and You Shouldn’t Worry About It.
- “To whom it may concern”:
No, it doesn’t concern me. Although many say your pitch email should be personalized, a generic but well-written pitch email is fine by me. But even for me, if you’re addressing to “whom it may concern” or “dear sir” you may as well speak to Siri.
- Misspellings and obvious grammar mistakes:
If you have any misspelling or obvious grammar mistakes in the two short paragraph email pitch you send me, you’re also telling me that you’ve spent very little time on that message and you don’t care if I don’t write back.
- Lack of contact information:
You should provide your contact information — phone number, company address, and website address — under your email signature. A good email signature not only shows that you can present yourself (a marketing skill set needed for startups to succeed) but also allows VCs to contact you quickly when interested.
- Pitches through SNS:
Do not send your pitch message through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Many VCs use them to share their ideas but receiving a pitch through them is a totally different story. SNS pitch is unprofessional and unaccepted.
But before you start sending your pitch email,
You must know that cold emailing is the last thing you should do to make contact with a VC.
Most VCs prefer sourcing their deals through referrals from the network of people they trust. These referrals act as a filter. Without this filter, VCs generally do not have enough time to review all the deals that come through.
So what you should really do is 1) to go through your contact list and find a way to get introduced to a VC, 2) to attend the right forum where you know you will meet a VC or someone who can introduce you to a VC, or 3) to join a social club for startup networking and find a way to get introduced to a VC.
If your startup is at its seed-stage, you might want to contact accelerators and incubators first, as their barriers to entry are lower and they provide referrals as well as more in-depth training for future VC funding rounds.
If you still have trouble making contact with a VC and you know your startup will succeed in the foreseeable future, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org but please make sure to avoid the 10 things VCs absolutely hate.
Thank you for reading.
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