If you’re a startup on angelist, crunchbase, or have had any kind of publicity, chances are good that VC are emailing you about raising money. Here are some tips to maximize the benefit of these inquiries:
Emails from decision makers are good. Knowing principals, managing directors, and original founders at venture funds is a good thing. These individuals are real decision makers, won’t waste your time or theirs, and should try to ascertain fit quickly. If they reach out and you have the time for a call or are fundraising, take it.
Emails from associates. More than likely, you’re going to get an email from an associate. Unless you’re raising, feel free to ignore this. The job of an associate is to get on the phone with as many startups as possible so they will waste your time just to stay busy in front of their boss. It’s not out of line to politely ask to be connected with a principal. If the associate wont push you up promptly, he’s just fishing.
Don’t feel the need to respond or take calls. Even if you’re emailed by Vinod Khosla (well known venture investor), don’t feel pressured to take the call, especially if you’re very busy or not raising any time soon. Believe me, we’ll email you in a few months. Another acceptable deferral is to intro them to one of your board members, and let that board member handle the communication. Using your board is very effective way to save your time while also building familiarity with a venture firm.
Beware of those fishing for information. Before taking a call with a VC, make sure he doesn’t have competitors in his portfolio. If he does, then it’s likely he’s wasting your time just tying to get intel. Feel free to be up front and ask that question directly.
Don’t ask one really annoying question. Responding with “so what value are you going to add” is like a job interview where you’re asked “so what are your strengths?” It’s a bullshit question that’s going to get a bullshit answer, and at worst you’ll turn off the really good VC who will view this question as arrogant. Finding out about the value-add of an investor is best done by asking for reference calls to other companies in their portfolio during your raise.
Save the email address. If you don’t respond, no problem. Do save the email address though and reach out to that person when you are about to raise.
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