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How to cold email an investor and do it smart

"We are talented and passionate about what we do," one startup founder wrote me last month, describing his team. His cold email lacked only "we are stress-resistant and confident in using Microsoft Office."


Such emails are common, and most often, investors don’t open them or don’t take them seriously. Startup founders don’t know how to "sell" themselves, and as a result, they just waste their time and an opportunity to get feedback from an investor.


Here are some tips to make your cold email stronger.


Avoid abstract words


Phrases like "we develop a unique solution," "we are young and promising," "we use an innovative approach" make it difficult to take pitches from startups seriously. Every one of us is unique and gifted in their own way. But in business communication, you need to prove your uniqueness with specifics and numbers.


In a cold letter, it is better to tell exactly what you do. In simple language.


We develop a service that will change the design industry forever.

Our service helps businesses find designers in a few minutes.


An innovative platform for the offline entertainment industry.

On our platform, people can find tickets for offline events, buy and store them in one place.


Our innovative solution will revolutionize the field of personal finances.

Our application automates personal budget management and helps to save up to 30% a year.


If you mention a founder in your email, don’t say he or she is talented and ambitious — be more specific. What kind of experience do they have? What was the previous project they worked on? How many customers did they have? What budgets did they manage?


Numbers and facts speak louder than adjectives.


Share your metrics


Founders often avoid numbers in cold emails. This usually happens because founders are afraid that rivals may somehow see them; or they think the numbers are not that important; or they are ashamed of the results. The truth is VCs can decide if they want to invest only after they’ve seen the numbers.


So add your sales statistics and revenue growth rate to your email. If you don't have financials at the moment, share other information that demonstrates your progress. It can be info about clients you are talking to right now, or the results of your pilot projects or beta versions.


Google potential investors (seriously)


At least once a month, I get a pitch from an industry F1V doesn't invest in — from a hardware developer, blockchain startup, or a mushroom farm. Our website, meanwhile, has all the information about the fund that may be of interest to a startup.


In the investment thesis, funds usually indicate funding stages, industries they invest in, and the geography. Flyer One Ventures, for example, invests in startups from Central and Eastern Europe at Pre-Seed, Seed, and Series A stages. The fund is primarily interested in B2B & Enterprise SaaS, EdTech, Mobile, Gaming, etc.


Startup founders should google a fund they approach and specify in their email why they think their startup is a good fit for this particular investor.


Take a look at an example of a strong email pitch below.


Hi Elena! My name is Alex — I'm building Bndl (blurb below). We're a U.S.-based company that's currently raising a Seed round with a great consumer VC as the lead investor, [name of the VC]. I'm looking for strategic partners to fill the rest of our round. I was attracted by your various investments in consumer tech companies and your international portfolio. I think we could have a great conversation. Below is a quick blurb on us. Pls, let me know if it's worth a chat. Best, Alex *** Today, the global video streaming market is worth $50B and is expected to reach $330B by 2030. At the same time, only 7% of people in the U.S. can afford to subscribe to six or more streaming services, while 85% of households can afford only one. Bndl makes streaming accessible for everyone. Just for $20 per month, every Bndl user can stream shows from the most popular streaming platforms. Instead of subscribing to HBO only to watch “House of the Dragon,” to Hulu — only to watch “The Kardashians,” and to Amazon Prime — to watch “The Rings of Power,” one can subscribe to Bndl and get access to all these shows. Traction: $10k MRR; ongoing negotiations with Disney+ and Netflix; integrations with HBO, Hulu and Amazon Prime. Team: Alex, CEO — 5 yrs in VC, including One Ventures, TA Ventures; John, CBDO — ex-Netflix (5 yrs), ex-Spotify (3 yrs); Emily, CTO — ex-Reddit (2 yrs), ex-Stripe (4 yrs). User acquisition: Google Ads, Facebook Ads, referrals. Backed by: XX, YY, and angels from Wise, Google, and Revolut. We are raising $1M with [name of the VC] as our lead investor, and are closing the round in the next month. About our lead investor: [short information about the VC which leads the round].

One last detail: Don't twist facts

When people want to impress someone, they may twist or sugar-coat some facts. In the world of startups, it can be a half-truth about revenue in certain countries or about negotiations with an investor who was only once interested in the idea.

The fund you are writing to will double-check these facts at another stage of your communication. And your reputation will be at risk when it turns out that the “star” investor only complimented you at a party and never planned to invest in your idea, and that the startup gets only 5% of its revenue from the US.

This column was originally written for Dev.ua and published in Ukrainian. This is an edited version of the text.

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Cover photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

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