Getting investor introductions
Don’t ask for “an intro to some VCs”—do your homework and make a targeted, tactical request.
687 words • 3 min read
About once a month, I get an email from someone asking: “Can you intro me to some venture capitalists?” This is the wrong question to ask, and won’t lead to much success. Here’s why, and what you should do instead:
Asking for “an intro to a VC” doesn’t work
All investors are not created equal. They generally have their own investment theses, industries they like to fund, and check sizes they like to write. If you’re building a consumer gaming app and looking for an initial $1 million seed check, you’re wasting your time talking to a VC who writes $100m checks to late-stage B2B fintech companies. The conversation will be useless to both of you.
Said another way: most investors are not relevant to you. When someone introduces you, they’re expending their own social capital with the introduction—they’re vouching for you and for the fact that the introduction is a good use of time. But if it’s not a good use of time (for either you or the investor), your introducer won’t want to make the introduction.
Finally, this request puts the onus on me to do the research into who might be a good fit for you—but this research should really be done by you. After all, you know your business far better than I do.
So how do you do that?
Finding relevant investors
Your most likely potential investors are going to be ones that invest in your space, and that invest at your stage. You can find investors that are a good fit in the following way:
Are there companies that are in your space? Look them up on Crunchbase or Pitchbook. Which venture capital firms invested in them? Which partners at those firms led those investments? Are there a few investor names you regularly run across in this process? Those investors might be good candidates for you.
Next, do some additional research on them: read their bio page on their firm’s website, find articles they’ve written, etc., and see who your mutual connections are on LinkedIn.
This search is about the partner more than it is about the firm. The wrong person at a great firm will not be of much use to you.
Don’t reach out to people that have invested in your direct competitors—they won’t be able to invest in you because of the conflict of interest.
The strongest VC introductions
The gold-standard VC introduction is one made by a founder of a previous investment who can also vouch for you.
For example, when Pilot was raising money, we’d asked Patrick Collison from Stripe to intro us to the team at Sequoia. The Sequoia team of course thinks highly of Patrick, and Patrick could also vouch for us—he’s known our team for almost two decades now.
Unfortunately, that’s not really an option for most folks—and that’s okay. Of the two attributes above (founder in the VC’s portfolio, can vouch for you), I’d most optimize for “can vouch for you.”
As a concrete example, if you, dear reader, emailed me and asked me to introduce you to a specific investor who’d invested in Pilot, I’d consider forwarding along your email. But the first question the investor will ask me is “How well do you know this person, and can you vouch for them being good?”
If my answer is just “I’ve never met them but they read my Substack,” it’s not a compelling introduction, even if it demonstrates that you have good taste in Substacks.
But if someone in your network emailed the investor—even if they don’t know them as well as I do—and said “I used to work closely with so-and-so at Company X and they were in the top 5% of engineers I’ve ever worked with,” that’s a much more powerful introduction.
Actually asking for the intro
Once you’ve identified a specific investor you’d like an intro to, and you’ve found someone they’re connected to (on LinkedIn or otherwise), craft a forwardable email for your shared connection—something they can easily just hit “forward” on, that tells your target everything they need to know about your company.
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