The Art of a Cold E-mail (Part I)

I have been blown away by the kindness total strangers have shown me, responding to my notes, even interviewing me, all after a cold e-mail.  For sure, there is no substitute to a warm introduction, but in my case, I simply didn’t have the network.

I entered business school straight out of the world of professional poker and living abroad.  I had a strong network in the gaming industry, but little connections elsewhere.  Of course, one of my reasons for going to business school was to expand my network, but when I turned my sights towards VC, I knew I’d have to get creative and fully leverage what little I had.

Here’s an example of one of my early cold e-mails:

Although this e-mail didn’t elicit a response, I do believe I did a number of things well.  My goals were:

  1. I expressed a level of credibility (albeit small) by mentioning angel investing and close contact with a number of online gaming firms.
  2. I aligned the e-mail closely to his interests (rather than spewing e-mails to people at random).
  3. I made the e-mail about him, not me, by offering to chat about my knowledge in online gaming.

As regards #3, the truth is this: I’m not fooling anyone offering to chat “opportunities that may be available for [the] fund.”  Anyone who reads this e-mail gets that I’m trying to build a network in VC.  Which is okay – AS LONG as you’re communicating a value add for the person on the other end of the phone.  VC is an industry where high level people are generally altruistic, but simply constricted by highly limited time – and the best way to bring out their altruism is to generate creative ways to engage them, offering a value-add for them, and let their nature come out once connected.  IT IS A MISTAKE to request altruism from the start without offering anything in return – not because VCs are evil, but simply because they don’t have the time in their day.  You need to first make a credible case that you add value.

Ultimately, this e-mail didn’t connect, but I learned a lot from my early misses.  In my next post, I’ll discuss why you should drop the resume and find an alternate creative marketing tool to express yourself.

About the author

Ezra Galston
Ezra Galston

Consumer focused hustling @Chicago Ventures, Young Entrepreneur @Foundation Capital, Class 18 @Kauffman Fellow, and Chicago Booth MBA. Former professional poker player, with 4 years experience doing marketing/biz dev in the online gaming industry. Launched a "poker hedge fund" in 2011, a record label in College, and produced a festival screened short film in 2006.

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