How to Cold Email Venture Capitalists

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I'm a venture capitalist in my day-to-day work. Specifically, I work for an early stage venture capital firm as a principal. This means I review a lot of deals and take the time to do phone calls with our inbound and referral opportunities.

It also means I get a LOT of cold email. And I ignore most of it, because it looks like spam.

If you've read my blog for a while, you know I have plenty of content on cold emailing (check out the resources tab for more on this).

Generally, this content comes down to a core idea: the difference between a cold email and spam is that spam looks like it could have been sent to 10,000 people. Cold emails look tailored for the recipient.

Writing a cold email that doesn't look like spam means you need to tailor the email to your recipient so that they think, "oh man, this person actually emailed me, I should at least chat with them."

Specific to venture capital, this means a few things.

Make sure you're targeting the right-stage funds

1517 Fund is a pre-seed fund. In 2019, that means we typically write checks when companies raise $500k-1.5m. We're pretty clear about this in our content.

So when I see an email from somebody saying they're raising $10mm, that screams to me, "Spam! This person didn't research our fund."

If I see an email where somebody says, "We're raising a $1mm (pre) seed round," that at least tells me that this person might have researched what we do before emailing me. That's a great start.

Take the time to figure out what stage the fund you're emailing invests at. "Early stage" usually means seed or pre-seed. Growth stage means later and larger amounts.

Tailor your pitch to their thesis and sector focus

Most firms have a thesis. They're investing in certain types of founders or companies. At 1517 Fund, we like founders who dropped out of, didn't go to, or started their companies while in college. We make some exceptions, but we're focused on that niche.

Bedrock looks for narrative violations. So if you're emailing somebody there, you want to tell them what narrative mirage there is around you, your industry, or your problem and how you're violating that narrative and on which layers.

Similarly, some funds have sector focuses. We don't at 1517 Fund, but 8VC, for example, focuses on biotech and logistics in their latest fund. So it wouldn't be surprising if you emailed somebody there while pitching a D2C subscription service and didn't get a reply.

This can be a simple message in your email, something like, "I know you look for X. We meet that in this way."

I recently had an exchange with a founder who cold emailed me and it wasn't until the 4th email that he mentioned he didn't have a degree. I told him to lead with that and I would have probably gotten right on the phone with him given our very specific thesis. Know your audience and tailor your message appropriately.

Let them know how you got their info

People who get a lot of cold email always appreciate you telling them how you got their info. If it was from another person, your subject line can be as simple as, "So-and-so told me to email you," if you think they'll recognize that person's name.

Make it easy for them to reply to

This is something I harp on a lot in my other posts -- your call to action at the end of your email should be actionable. I prefer "Yes/No" replies to make it really easy to reply to. Realize the person you're emailing is probably reading your email on a phone in between meetings -- stack the deck in your favor by making it easy to email them.

If you want to email me, feel free to send a message to zak [at] 1517fund [dot] com.

I'm Zak. I'm a venture capital professional and writer focusing on how to build a great career. You can find my writings here or reach out to me at zak@1517fund.com.

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