Nice piece, although the same problems apply to VCs getting cold pitches from entrepreneurs. Everyone is better off when pitches are personalized and helpful.
I get dozens of them a day at Accomplice, an early stage tech VC firm in Boston, so I wrote up tips to send to cold pitchers to help them up their games.
Sending a cold pitch over email is a bad way to get investors’ attention. Still, a lot of people do it, and there’s a way to make yours less bad. If you must do a cold pitch over email, at least make it rise above the (crappy) crowd.
Cold email pitches should:
- be personalized, explaining why this firm and these partners are a good fit for you and your idea
- be very brief, with just a high-level idea, who you are, and maybe a link to a slide deck for more info (think of the slides as an appendix: they’re extra, not necessary to understand the company)
- link to files, not attach them (opening your giant PDF attachment sucks on a mobile phone)
- have a reasonable ask (like “do you have 10 minutes for a call?” not “please invest $2.5M”)
A few other pitch tips from Bram Kanstein of Product Hunt:
- Tell about the problem you’re solving
- Show your solution
- Show early results if you have them
- Why are you the man/woman/team that’s going to take this to the moon?
- Asking for specific feedback is also good. It’s difficult to help when your question is simply: “what do you think?”
The goal of a cold email pitch shouldn’t be to get money. That’s not going to happen, at least not through one email. The goal is to get the investors to like you and feel like you put thought into having them–not just any random person with a fund–to back you, and to get them curious about your company idea.
Invoke the idea of your company in a way that creates a fear of missing out. Give a hint of being the next big thing. It’s better to have fewer details at this stage than too many: it’s easier to pique interest in someone who’s naively optimistic than skeptical about details that seem off.
Some bad email pitch variations:
“My name is John Smith. We’re at the earliest stage of building a startup. Please consider a face to face meeting so you can really see our vision.”
“Please review our pitch for possible funding.
I’m a co-founder of a start-up building [insert product here] platform.
We are currently looking for a seed investment and would like to interest you in an investment opportunity. Attached is a document containing further details about what we do, what’s our status and what our plans are for the future of the company.
If you find it interesting and relevant to your portfolio, I’d be happy to further discuss in more details.
And then the person attaches a 16-page PDF packed with text and grammatical errors that, again, has nothing to do with why the readers are a fit for him and his business and reads like a first year business school project.
Now here’s a good example that could get you past inbox purgatory:
I’m John; I’m a co-founder of a stealth startup making an app that lets users see how crowded their gyms are to make smarter choices about when to go. I know you’re big into the sports and fitness space, so I think your expertise and enthusiasm could be a great match for us with funding.
We’re seeing 70% month-over-month growth in downloads with zero marketing spend and 70k MAUs. It’s really taking off. Here are some quick slides if you want more info (link to slides).
Do you have 10 minutes for a call sometime this week to see if it could be a fit?
VC networks can be intimidating, and you haven’t always met the investor you want to pitch. That means cold email pitches are here to stay. It’s a tough tactic that’s unlikely to succeed, but if you adjust your expectations and spend a little time personalizing, you’ll stand out from the rest.