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Cut through the (inbox) noise
Everyone is just an email away. The problem: Most cold outreach emails suck! A well written email can go a long way - here's how I think about writing an email that stands out.
You no longer need a “warm intro” to get in front of an investor. Everyone is just an email / DM away.
See e.g. Apollo.io’s plugin to get anyone’s email from LinkedIn 🙃
The main challenge:
How to grab an investor’s attention / stand out among hundreds of email pitches?
A warm intro is one way to do so. A well written cold email is another. Let’s dive in.
(lots of this is applicable to any sort of cold outreach, not just a fundraising email)
The goal of the email is the intro call
Fundraising is a step-by-step process along a funnel (similar to a sales funnel). Each step takes you closer to the ultimate goal of securing an investment. Approach it this way - be laser focused on getting your prospect from one step to the next, don’t try to jump too many steps ahead.
In line with that, the sole purpose of your cold email is to pique the investor's interest enough to secure an intro call. Not more and not less.
Keep that in mind as you read the rest of this post as it will help you keep things simple. You don’t need to give all the details upfront. That can come later in the process.
Five things to keep in mind
Be quick: On TikTok, you have 3 seconds to get someone’s interest. With emails, it’s 15 seconds of scanning before interest is lost. With investors it may be even less as Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix put it well:
Thus, make the email count. Grab the attention quick and get to the point before the 15 seconds are over. Personalizing the email can help but it can’t be the only way you’re trying to grab attention.
Keep it short: Use as few words as possible. Only state what’s absolutely necessary to get the intro call. There you can dive into more detail. I like the analogy below (though I’m breaking it with this list of 5 points 😅):
Keep it simple: Avoid any jargon, buzzwords, etc (no: we’re Ai for x, future of work y, productivity tool z) - communicate value only (i.e. what value does this bring to your customers) and explain it in a way your grandmother could understand it.
Be differentiated: This is the most important yet hardest to achieve - unless investors understand why your idea is uniquely better (i.e. “differentiated and 10x better”) within the 15 seconds, they are unlikely to proceed further. In other words, your short and simple email also needs to do a great job at outlining how you stand out (Elizabeth Yin explains this well in her Twitter post). A counterintuitive way to help with that: Address potential key risks, challenges, or concerns proactively. It gives you more credibility vs less.
Make it frictionless: Don’t make an investor ask for a deck or guess how much you’re looking to raise. Make it frictionless for them to get all the information they need to say “yes” to an intro call. Attach the deck and tell them about the round.
A cold email template
There are many different ways to write a cold email. A format I like is:
We are [1 liner - no industry jargon, focus on customer value]. Given your [add personalized statement - e.g. experience with portfolio company 1, 2, 3 / operational background at x or y] I could see a great potential match.
[customer] has [problem]. Currently, they are doing [current solution].
[our insight] and [why now]. That’s why we’re building [our solution]. It [value it creates for the customers].
[highlights - max 3 (!!!)]
[the team / why you are the best to do so - can be part of highlights].
We are looking to raise [financing] with [details on anything already confirmed in the round such as how much has been raised and at what terms if they are set].
Here’s our deck.
Looking forward to hearing back from you,
For us as a pre-seed fund introducing ourselves to entrepreneurs, it could look as follows (I welcome any feedback here 😃):
We lead pre-seed rounds across the US and Canada, backing software, platform, infrastructure builders reinventing how industries operate and business is done. [add personalized statement].
Capital was everywhere during the “0% interest rate phenomena” days. This has dramatically changed. Today, many venture firms advertise themselves as 1st check investors yet when you pitch them for your pre-seed, you hear back “you’re too early” or “come back when you find a lead” (bye bye small check party rounds).
Not us - we thrive where others say “too early” and catalyze your first round of funding: We lead your pre-seed round, joining you from the start with up to $750K for up to 10%.
We are stage specialists, laser focused on helping you cut through Seed and get to Series A and beyond with velocity
We invest with a concentrated strategy to maximize the bandwidth and capital reserves to back you up from the start
We help you blow past traction metrics with our early GTM expertise and enable you to learn alongside our GTM community of 100+ revenue executives at leading startups
We know that kind of talk is cheap. Thus, we encourage you to reach out to our founders directly to form your own opinion.
Looking forward to working with you,
Three final comments
Nailing your intro deck is as important as nailing your cold email - it’s the other half of getting you into the intro call. I will address this in another post.
You only get one shot at a first impression - make sure to spend significant time on nailing your outreach email and intro deck before reaching out to investors.
Do your research - don’t waste your own / the investors’ time by sending them a pitch that is clearly outside of their investment scope.
E.g., we focus our investing on the following startups:
Software, platform, infrastructure builders reinventing how industries operate & business is done (no consumer or hardware); originated in the US or Canada
Pre-seed only (meaning raising your first round of funding < $2M)
Strong product builders with 1+ technical (co-) founder(s)
Until next time,
If you enjoyed this post, please share it with one early stage founder / operator. Really appreciate it 🙏.