"I hope you're winding down your weekend nicely. First off, I apologize for the "cold" outreach..."
This is an excerpt of a recent email I received--and a good example of one that will get deleted in record time. As a venture investor in early stage startup companies, I receive a steady stream of email pitches like this every day.
Unfortunately, all of them get the deleted without a reply. There might be a nugget among the daily onslaught, but I have never seen a company come over the transom ("cold") that resulted in a great exit.
The only investment opportunities I'll consider reviewing come through referrals from founders, VCs, or trusted industry veterans. "Ok, great Chris," you're thinking. "I live in Boca Raton, Florida, and I don't know anyone in the venture business, or anyone in Silicon Valley. What am I supposed to do? How can I connect with you and avoid the delete key?"
I'm glad you asked. Here are suggested steps to help you rise above the noise, and make the right connections to get a proper referral:
1. Connect to a connector.
It's easy to go to LinkedIn to see my connections and discover our common connections. If there are none, find someone who you can approach, send a request, and begin to build a relevant network.
2. Join an incubator or accelerator.
There are hundreds of accelerators across the country, in almost every town and major city. Most accelerators have a network of local investors and entrepreneurs, and some of those people will allow you to leverage their extended networks. Undoubtedly there will be a Silicon Valley connection within that network.
3. Research your target's interests.
Like everyone else, I have personal interests and social causes that I am actively involved in. I love to cycle, and I am drawn to people who are fitness focused. I also co-founded a non-profit called The Last Mile that has very strong touch points in the technology, philanthropy, and investment communities.
4. Send me something of value, article, introduction, etc.
When I invest in a company, there is a value exchange. I provide money and expertise for equity in your company.
You can start that value exchange long before I take a meeting with you. Find some information or article that might interest me, or some book recommendations. I'm always looking for interesting (and unusual) books.
5. Become a published domain expert.
There are many platforms upon which you can express your opinions or provide information that is relevant to your domain focus. Anyone can create a Medium account and share their writing on social media. You can answer (and ask) questions on Quora, and you can do the same on Whale (one of my portfolio companies).
Find an outlet and be consistent.
6. Show up at meet-ups and conferences.
Network, network, network. Find local meet-ups that cater to entrepreneurs, your domain, or your hobby. You need to dedicate time to meet people and share your ideas.
Networking is easy for some, and difficult for others. If it's difficult for you, find a "wing person" who can help generate conversations, and make you more comfortable in these situations.
7. Take a trip to Silicon Valley.
Silicon Valley is still the center of the innovation universe, and visiting here will expose you to driven entrepreneurs, in the most competitive market in the world. You never know who you'll bump into in a coffee shop, restaurant, or at a local event. If you can't get to Silicon Valley, go to New York City, Los Angeles, Austin, Boulder, or any other innovation hub and start networking.
So, please don't make me hit delete. Try a few of these tips, and see if they lead to green.
Seriously, I look forward to hearing from you through someone in my network--and if I do, I'll gladly take a meeting. Good luck and happy networking.