Don't Be a Menace to Your Investor Relations
This topic is probably one of those that were lost on very few people from the industry. But if this piece could save another startup founder from making a move that would affect their relationship with investors and probably jeopardise the whole fundraising process, I'll try my chances.
Learn the rules before rushing into the battlefield
Although the venture industry is constantly changing, some things have stayed the same for decades. These are specific ways of how VCs communicate, make decisions, operate. Learning them takes time and effort.
But this knowing helps you build solid connections and use them just when you need them. Nowadays, there are too many 'experts' trying to get in without any knowledge, experience, or relevant background. Every second person is a mentor, advisor, or fundraising consultant. Watch out!
Learn to nurture your contacts, invest in them, don't just send a pitch deck to any email you have
Before looking into a deal flow, people get to know people. Start building your investors’ relations from day one. If you manage that right, by the time you decide to raise funding, you will have many people in your close network who might be interested in investing. That is the CEO's job. No one can do it better.
I often meet great founders who want to build a unicorn, but have no idea how this industry works. That is not rocket science. There are plenty of resources out there, so if you want to be part of it, learn a thing or two about it first. Connect with the right people. Build your network. Make it work for your benefit.
Learn about your 'target' before hitting on the send button
Make sure this is the right person, the good occasion, the correct information. So many emails just shouldn't have been sent. VCs get hundreds of emails per day. There are a lot of brilliant entrepreneurs trying to pitch their idea to them. Among this crowd, they need to pick what to focus on and dig in. So be kind and respect their time and your time.
Please do your homework, study their website thoroughly (including their portfolio), go to Crunchbase, VCs usually have blogs. Yes, this is time-consuming, but in the end, you will be sure that you have reached the right person and not just send another random email that will have zero effect.
Make sure your email contains only essential information: elevator pitch, some numbers, your traction to date, and ask. Don't forget about a CTA. Why are you writing this email in the first place? Attach your executive summary and pitch deck so that they don't need to ask for it if they are interested.
Learn what a forwardable email is
Just google it if you haven't heard about it yet, or ask when somebody tells you to send it.
Respect other people's time. If someone agrees to make an introduction for you and connect you to the potential investor, appreciate it and spend 15 minutes preparing an email. Please don't treat it as someone's caprice.
Learn to ask people before you introduce someone to them. Sometimes you think this connection is a good idea, but it's not
That is just a part of business etiquette. You might have the wrong impression, not enough information, or outdated knowledge about someone. So before you rush into connecting them to someone you want, play safe and check. It will take one additional interaction but will save you from awkward situations and furious people asking you 'why?'
Learn basic communication principles before starting any serious conversation
That is particularly important if you do not use a native language or interact with a new kind of professional. Trust me, so few people understand and follow this simple advice. I work with entrepreneurs daily, and many first-time startup founders have no idea of how to deal with VCs. But they are smart enough to ask around before they initiate any communication.
Learn what the purpose of cc and bcc is
You should know when it's right to add a person, and high time to exclude others from the conversation. Never send your pitch deck to multiple VCs using bcc. That is the worst thought possible. I understand that you are busy but think about how you usually treat such kinds of emails. Will you answer any of those? I don't think so. So why then an idea that someone will have a different feeling about it? As opposed to that, make sure you 'thank' a person who introduced you to someone you needed and add this person to bcc not to trash their inbox. Not that difficult, right?
'Dear Anna, thank you for the introduction, moving you to bcc.' - one sentence that helps me understand that the person I've just introduced to someone important knows how to deal with my introduction further.
Learn to check your emails before sending them out
No one is perfect. That is why there are so many great products, widgets, and tools that help us improve. Make sure you use software to spell check and avoid awkward moments and make a good impression. Be professional in everything you do, especially if you expect someone to treat you that way.
Learn to treat investors as partners
Will you threaten your partner that he has a limited time to make his decision on whether to cooperate with you or not? I believe not. So don’t expect this tactic to work on investors. Sure, you are a successful startup, and investors are getting in line to give you their money. Why then get in touch with investors in the first place?
I could go on, but I guess I've made my point. When building relations is a part of your daily routine, please spend some time to make sure you are doing it the right way. I wish you good luck in your startup adventures!