November 13, 2012
How Do I Get In Touch With a VC?

I got this question on a panel last week, and coincidentally, I had a
couple folks on Twitter tweet out the same question.  Generically
speaking, the question is “how do I get in touch with a potential
investor about my company?”

I don’t know for sure if this is true, but I have the impression that
early stage VC’s as a whole have gotten more accessible than probably
any time in the past. Many investors I know (myself included) do read
every email that is sent to them and make some mental decision about
whether they want to engage or not.

Speaking for myself, I triage all my email.  In most cases, I will
respond with a pretty quick “no thank you” with little feedback on the
specific opportunity.  We invest in about 10 companies each year, out of
the thousands that we screen, so it’s impractical to give substantive
feedback for each one.  In most cases, the companies that approach us
are pursuing interesting opportunities and led by impressive folks, they
just don’t hit the bar we set for ourselves for the level of passion we
want to have about every opportunity we invest in.

I will admit that in some cases, I won’t respond or fail to respond
right away.  This occurs mainly when I just think the founder hasn’t
tried at all to make a real connection.  This is usually because of a
very generic email, or a company that pings me that is very obviously
outside of our scope of focus.  I find that most savvy entrepreneurs do a
little research on the investors they reach out to to figure out if
it’s a fit and a mutually effective use of time.  We are pretty explicit
that we are a dedicated seed stage fund focused on internet-enabled
businesses.  I have a couple blog posts that also lay out some more
specifics of our portfolio too, such as the fact that 80% of our
investments are based in the US East Coast and the rest are
opportunistic across the rest of the continental US.  So I’ll often
quickly scan and ignore emails pitching companies that are really far
afield from our stated focus area, stage, or geography. I just presume
that I am part of a scattershot email outreach approach. By the way,
most of these emails tend to come from intermediaries of some sort, not
the founders themselves.

I also explicitly don’t list my email address on our website,
although it is findable if you simply go to my blog and click “about
me”.  Again, part of this is to create just a bit of friction so that I
can spend as much time as possible with a) our portfolio companies b)
the potential investments we are seriously considering and c) founders
who are resourceful and are reaching out to us because they have done
some research as to why we would be a good fit. Finally, I’m also pretty
responsive on social media when folks engage with us.  In fact, we have
actually invested in a company that first connected with us through a
comment in a blog post. Here was the text (edited for privacy):

Rob –

 I run a [edited] software company that
has caught some fire. I don’t think I could have verbalized the way we
want to continue to build our company better than how you did today. We
have an amazing product, fantastic team members/advisors and the best
stakeholders involved. We also have [edited blurb about customer
traction]. A recent article about us that gives a good 10,000ft view
(it’s short!): [edited out this link]

We have some VCs that we really like
and have developed a relationship with – but I’d love to meet with you
guys (I’m also a fan of Lee’s). Any chance we could make it happen at
some point? In either case, thanks for the piece.



Finally, a couple final more generic suggestions on how to reach out to an investor:

  • How you get connected matters quite a bit. The best way is usually
    an introduction through an entrepreneur or trusted advisor to the
    investor.  Often, the most straightforward way to do this is through the
    founder of a portfolio company.
  • Social media can be an effective way to build some rapport with
    someone before even having met them.  I’ve gotten to know a number of
    investors by first interacting with them on social media months before
    we ever met in person.  As with all things, how you interact is a signal
    of your personality, judgement, and EQ, all of which does have bearing
    in an investors impression of you.
  • Many investors have forums where they are open to meeting folks in a
    completely open-ended, and unqualified manner. Take advantage of
    these!  These take the form of office hours or other sorts of informal
    sessions.  Again, I came very close to investing behind a founder who I
    first met during an open office hours session.  What I was impressed by
    was that this founder left me a great impression as being someone who
    had a) deep domain expertise, b) a really earnest and effective
    leadership style and c) laid of what he was going to do next and
    promised to come based on that plan.  He did come back in a few months
    with tons more learning, great insights, and a more fully formed team
    and product plan.  It was really impressive.

I hope this doesn’t come off as conceited.  We try to behave like invited guests
at the entrepreneur’s table, for both our portfolio companies and
prospective founders.  This demands that we leverage our time
efficiently, and that we are as transparent and responsive as we can be.
 But there are probably a lot of ways that we can improve, so as
always, I’m open to suggestions if any readers think that the practices I
describe above come off badly or short-change entrepreneurs.

is a Co-Founder and Partner of a seed investment firm called
NextView VenturesYou
can find this post, as well as
additional content on his blog called  You can also follow Rob (@robgo) on Twitter by clicking here.