Trace is a serial entrepreneur in NYC and now the Managing Director of NYVP making angel investments
If you don’t live and breathe the tech, startup, entrepreneur and VC world like most people, it can sometimes be challenging to get in touch with investors. When you go out for your first round of funding — the friends, family and fools round — it might be your first time asking people you know, your 1st degree of separation, for investment.
Generally this will be <$1M and currently called your pre-seed round that will hopefully be enough to build a MVP or prototype and get some early clients/users. At this point, you might just keep it to people you know or potentially reach out or ask for intros to others who might be interested.
There is and will always be questions about how to get in touch with investors who you want to pitch at every stage. Almost every panel, podcast, post etc will generally mention that a warm intro through someone they know is the best way. Generally, that’s true but there really should be a sliding scale…
Ice cold — A copy/pasted email with different colors, texts and super long that starts with “Dear Investor” or “To whom it may concern.” We’ve all seen these and it’s basically spam.
Cold — Better formatted than above, maybe even with our name but still mostly copy/paste and no mention of why this pertains specifically to us. Long paragraphs, still not sure what you do and what you want
Mild — Short and sweet with action items outlining what you’ve done, who you are and what you want. Deck attached and mention of what we invested in that pertains to you or something we wrote/tweeted. I try to respond to most of these when you put the effort in.
Luke Warm — An intro from someone we kind of know, maybe met at an event or connected with on Linkedin. Their friend is working on something they think we will like, so they just want to forward it to you. Always ask for permission and double-opt in!
Warm — Someone we know, have worked with, trust and are happy to help. They send over some info about you and your company, maybe forward an email from them tailored to us and then intro us regardless. Will definitely check it out and let you know if we’re interested.
Heating up — Other investors we know, really close friend or even a founder we’ve invested in wants you to look at this. They might be considering an investment, previously invested or are investing in this round. Time to dive in!
Too hot — Top investor, founder or professionals sent you something or wants to make an intro and the answer to if you will meet with them is by default yes. Unless it’s a definite no based on industry, terms etc, you will meet, diligence and get back to them with a thoughtful response. Also be careful of FOMO with these.
As you can tell, there is no right way to get in front of an investor but there are definitely righter ways. And to be clear, not every warm intro is guaranteed to lead to a meeting, we do pass on those too. Sometimes even a mild cold email is better than a warm intro — I’ve met with a bunch of cold emails, though I haven’t invested in one yet but definitely getting closer.
However you decide to go about it, just please make it clear that you put in some effort, care and tried. It’s a long and draining process but it sometimes can be indicative of your fortitude and sales ability that we will take into consideration. Not every founder is a great fundraiser - it definitely is a skill that some are just better at, so then you just need to play to your strengths.
I would love to know how you’re doing it, what’s worked and your journey if you would like to share your experience. The startup/VC world can sometimes be a blackbox, so anymore light we can shine on it, can only benefit everyone else!
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