Everyone knows that you’re supposed to get introduced to angel investors and venture capitalists – before simply cold-emailing (or Twitter stalking). We hear it from entrepreneurs and we hear it from investors (Chris Sacca’s Lowercase Capital has NEVER invested in a company that approached via [cold] email).
What we don’t hear enough about is “how do I actually get introduced?” If you’re a veteran of an established startup ecosystem, this isn’t a problem. But for first-time entrepreneurs or those located outside the established ecosystems, landing investor introductions can be a make-or-break hurdle for your startup.
Here are two tips to land investor introductions…they might be closer than you think.
Step One: Examine Your Network
The most likely investor is one you already know. Getting your email opened is half the battle, so why not start at the 50 yard line with people in your network?! You’re probably rolling your ideas and muttering “if I knew investors, I wouldn’t be reading this stupid article.” My challenge to you is to consider the possibility that (1) you know more people than you realize, and (2) investors come in all shapes and sizes (especially given the rise of equity crowdfunding) – you may not even realize you know one.
Try this simple exercise, replace the word “investor” with “supporter” and start building a list of your supporters – starting with your strongest supporters (family, friends, mentors) and moving on to more casual supporters (alumni, coworkers, teachers, peers). These are where your conversations should start: Create a community of “supporters” – some of whom may show their support financially or introduce you to someone who can. The old adage is true: Ask for money and you’ll get advice; ask for advice and you just may get money. And where better to seek advice than within your own network.
Step Two: Expand Your Network
If you can’t find an investor within your immediate network, it’s time to start looking at (what LinkedIn calls) your “second-degree connections” (i.e., your connections’ connections). Even though you don’t know an investor, you may still know someone who knows an investor. Here’s how you find out. First, begin creating a list of target investors. You can use the search function on Angelist to filter investors by stage, geography and market. Don’t waste your time (and your contact’s social capital) seeking introductions to investors who aren’t a fit.
Once you’ve established a list of target investors, it’s time to identify your connections. Use the search function on LinkedIn, to look up each investor on your list. From there, you will be able to determine “How You’re Connected.” If you have any “first degree connections,” add them to the list you created in Step One and reach out to them immediately. Any “second degree connections” should be seen as opportunities to expand your network. People are proud of the networks they have built and are often willing to make introductions, if only to flaunt their connections. All you have to do is ask…