How to Network to Startup Investors
Tonight I hosted an impromptu AMA on Twitter, and I was surprised by how many people asked about how to network to startup investors. The question itself isn’t surprising, but when I responded with “get introductions via their current portfolio founders, or do some good old fashioned networking to get there” the reply was “on what platform?”
Platforms have adverse selection. They say, “I am too lazy to actually network!”
AngelList and LinkedIn have this problem, and when investors are looking for the top 1% you better believe they don’t have fleshed out profiles on these platform a lot of time. And so what if they are there, they’re already picked over. Is this true? No. But it is how investors think.
If you are a founder who wants to get in touch with investors I would take two approaches, and do them simulatenously.
1. Just cold email / call them. I mean, why not? You’re going to have to sell something to someone, someday. Why not start here? And if you are seriously thinking the lack of contact information is the barrier you are one lazy motherfucker and should not be funded.
2. Network your way there. Draw a map on a piece of paper of each person you want to get to, and identify with your email, alumni network, friends and family, facebook, twitter, linkedin, etc. how to get to them. It might not be just 1 degree of separation. I have people several degrees away from me that I have been working on for 5 years. This is the game, and if you are a founder (and particularly CEOs) get ready to play. At each meeting, your goal is to sell why you should meet with the next person in the chain. Along the way, you need to be charming, interesting, add value for the person you are currently talking to, and maintain that relationship so that when you finally do get to the person who was your target your reputation is impeccable.
TRUTH: Fundraising is hard because 99% of people are not willing to do #2. This is how we got connected to Brad Feld, who lead our Series A. A warm introduction via Rand Fishkin of Moz. I had tried the cold angle on Brad and kept following up for 6 months until we finally got the warm connection. Remember, do #1 and #2Â simultaneously.
DARE: Drink a whisky right now and email that investor you admire most and have up on some pedestal with the best one liner of your life. That’s what I did when we had just $150K left in the bank, and he came through.
Most people seriously underestimate the amount of time fundraising takes, especially if you’re not an insider. To build these relationships you first must “give before you get”, establish trust and value, then make an ask. This part can take literal years. However, once you are able to land someone like a Brad Feld, his network and reputation will enable you to scale from 1 to 20 investor convos in a relatively short amount of time. This is why poor people cannot be startup founders: the sheer number of hours it takes to succeed as an outsider can only be applied if you’re not worried about feeding yourself tomorrow. Sad reality that nobody acknowledges.