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:
- I expressed a level of credibility (albeit small) by mentioning angel investing and close contact with a number of online gaming firms.
- I aligned the e-mail closely to his interests (rather than spewing e-mails to people at random).
- 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.