It's a truism that if you can't secure the right meetings, you can't grow your business. With that in mind, the editors at Inc.com pointed me to an article about Christian Hernandez, co-founder and managing partner of London-based White Star Capital.
- He only replies to a very few emails.
- Most of his replies are to people he already knows.
- He does most of his emailing while commuting.
- He replies slightly more frequently on Wednesdays.
- He's more likely to reply if you're recommended by a mutual acquaintance.
- He's more likely to reply to a personal email than one from a financial adviser.
- Don't lie. Specifically, don't say you're talking to other VCs if you're not.
- Do your research before contacting him.
A Real-Life Example
As some of you are no doubt aware, I have written extensively in this column about securing meetings with VIPs (including VCs) using email. I also (very) occasionally give free webinars on the subject. (One is coming up soon.)
A client of mine recently used the techniques I share to set an appointment with a real live VC. Since her email matches exactly what Hernandez said he wanted to see, here it is (with the names altered):
I read about Wayne Capital in Inc. magazine and was completely wowed by the company's track record and focus on mentoring/guiding businesses who help humanity.
Last spring, I launched a startup, Acme.com, a community-building website in Gotham that links the caretakers of patients with Alzheimer's disease with local service providers.
Over 100 providers have subscribed and 200+ caretakers have joined the community, a success that obviously reflects a pent-up need for this type of website.
Could you possibly give me a pointer or two on how I can take this concept to the next level--regional and national?
I look forward to hearing from you.
The VC responded:
Thanks for reaching out. How can I help?
So, obviously it is both feasible and possible to send a cold email to a VC and get a positive response, if you know what you're doing. I could deconstruct that email and tell you exactly why it worked but that would take several posts. Meanwhile, though...
Some Quick Pointers
I'll shortly be giving another free webinar on securing meetings with VIPs using email. However, since not everyone can attend the webinars, here are some tips:
1. Get a recommendation, if possible. While a cold email can work, VIPs in general and VCs in particular usually don't open emails from people they don't know. In most cases, you'll want to "know somebody who knows somebody" who will make an introduction via email (while copying you on the email).
2. Get to the point quickly. This isn't Shark Tank; it's an email. VCs don't have time unpack your product pitch or think about a bunch of features and functions. They want to know, in a few sentences (at most):
Why this idea? You must succinctly communicate why your business idea is worthy of the VC's attention
Why you? Even if VCs think you've got a great idea, they want to know why you, personally, are the right person to make it happen.
3. Never B.S. Contrary to what Hernandez says, VCs aren't very good at detecting B.S. (As Dilbert creator Scott Adams once told me: "What other job allows you to be wrong 90 percent of the time?") Nevertheless, any time you B.S. in business, it eventually comes back to bite you, so just don't.
4. Never assign homework. Your goal is to open an email conversation (i.e., a back and forth) with the VC that will result in a telephone or face-to-face meeting. During that email conversation, you may end up providing all sorts of information, but flooding the VC with all sorts of things to see will, best case, delay the response.
5. Follow-up immediately. Once you've gotten a response, you have about two days (max) in which to move the conversation forward. You've got to move quickly because: 1) VCs have a short attention span, so it's easy to get off their radar, and 2) VCs like go-getters, not procrastinators.