Having built my company Winnie for the past four years and raised over $15 million, the one thing I'm not short on is connections to investors. As a result, founders often ask me for intros to my investors or other VCs in my network.
When I'm asked to make an intro to an investor, I always make sure the investor opts in first. I forward her the email and check to see if she wants to connect with the entrepreneur. Most of the time, the investor responds with a "no, thanks," leaving me to deliver the bad news to the founder.
It's a lose-lose situation. I wasted my time and the investor's time, and the founder doesn't get an intro. This is why I rarely ask people for intros to investors. There are much better ways to get connected with people who might want to fund your company -- here are three:
1. Send a Cold Email
This may sound counterintuitive, but a cold email is so much more effective than a lukewarm intro. There are a few reasons for this. First, you get to craft the message exactly how you want. It won't get lost in translation or diluted by whatever message your connection facilitating on your behalf appends to the top of the email.
Second, and more important, it's harder for investors to ignore someone who has written a well-researched email with a clear request. The VC might not be interested in investing, but they will typically write back to keep the connection alive for the future. If you rely on someone else emailing the investor on your behalf, it's easier for them to also rely on the middleman to say no.
The exception to this is when you get a very warm intro. I like to call these "fire intros," because the connection is fired up about you. If someone respected is willing to put their own reputation on the line -- like another well-respected investor who is investing in your company -- it can make a big difference. But don't mistake your friend or professional acquaintance for someone with the same level of clout or enthusiasm.
2. Don't Ask, Offer
Offer to interview an investor for a blog or podcast you publish. Offer them a speaking opportunity if you'll be on a relevant panel and there's an extra seat. If you have a product that's highly relevant to their needs, offer to send it to them for free.
Investors have to do a lot of filtering based on very little information because of the volume of companies trying to meet with them. Get to know an investor first by doing something for them, and you'll be giving yourself a huge advantage when it comes to their willingness to make time for you.
3. Make Them Come to You
Just like in dating, playing a little hard to get can increase your appeal. When a potential investor feels like they had to work to get the deal, it makes the deal more desirable. This is just human nature.
So how do you make investors want to work to meet you? Get out there. Get your company in the press, win a pitch competition, speak on a panel at a conference that's well attended by investors.
Also, get creative with your ideas. In the early days of Winnie, we surveyed a large number of Millennial parents and published some of our findings in a blog post. The New York Times reached out and published an article related to our findings. Investors wanted more information on what we learned about this new generation of parents, and reached out to us to chat. By creating valuable information, we brought them to us.
Remember, the goal is to get an investor to meet with you and learn more about your business. If you're finding the warm intro isn't yielding success, take initiative and try cold emailing investors, offering something helpful, and making them want to meet you.