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Investor outreach: how to write a perfect cold email, and more expert tips

Published:  May 31, 2024
Kaylin S.
Copywriter
Kaylin Sullivan

Copywriter

Eva Dobrzanska
Expert
Eva Dobrzanska

Investment Manager

Yana
Expert
Yana Abramova

Founder of Pretiosum Ventures

We spoke to two top startup investors and guess what – they love a cold email. So if you’re on the hunt for startup funding, read on to learn how to do cold outreach well, how to maximise your warm intros and best of all – become a magnet for investors so they can find you.

How to meet investors

There are three main ways you can meet investors. To give yourself the best chance of finding the right ones for your startup, make sure you combine all three.

  • Cold outreach – you email or direct message investors you haven’t met
  • Inbound – investors contact you first
  • Warm intros – you’re introduced to investors via a mutual contact or you meet them in person

Cold outreach

Cold email works. It’s just about how you do it. We spoke to seasoned investors Eva Dobrzanska and Yana Abramova, who both shared that they’re fans of cold outreach (when it’s done well).

 

Eva Dobrzanska

The methodology I developed for writing cold emails, which I share in my Fundraising Playbooks Course, is nested at the intersection of a number of strategic playbooks: (1) build a relationship with the individual first, (2) don’t play all your cards at once, and (3) do the right research so you can be strategic and personal.

I’ve seen these strategies used by professionals who landed jobs with a16z, raised from the likes of Sequoia, True Ventures, and Lakestar. In one of my Masterclasses, a founder who cold emailed a VC with an email built on this methodology received a reply just twenty minutes after he hit ‘send’ and went into successful fundraising discussions.

Eva Dobrzanska

Investment Manager,

Sixth Wave Ventures

Know your investor

The most important thing to do before sending a cold email is to understand who you’re sending it to. You don’t want to waste your time or theirs, so it’s important to make sure that they:

  • invest in your company’s sector (sometimes called ‘vertical’)
  • invest at the stage your company’s in (eg Pre-seed, Seed, Series A, B, C)
  • have the right expertise and experience to advise you (if that’s what you’re looking for)
  • align with your values

You may not know everything you need to before you meet, but the more you can learn about them before you email, the better.

Eva Dobrzanska

How you reach out cold to angel investors differs from how to reach VCs.

Angels typically invest in what they know (based on their past experience, background, skillset) and often syndicate a bunch of small cheques to spread the risk. Angels would see a potential early exit (within 5-7 years) as an incentive to invest as well .

VCs follow a specific investment thesis usually determined by geography, stage of growth, sector, revenue criteria, amongst other requirements. They prioritise long-term scalability potential behind your business: around 100x return for Seed to Series A, 10x return for Series B to C and at least 3x return Pre-IPO.”

Eva Dobrzanska

Investment manager,

Sixth Wave Ventures

Typically, you have a better chance with angel investors when you’re in the very early stages of your company. VC’s usually want to see more traction, so you’ll have more luck with them when your company has grown a bit. Some VCs do invest at the pre-seed and seed stage though, so do a bit of research on both.

Get the subject line right

Eva Dobrzanska

Mark Cuban revealed that he has invested more than $100 million in companies through cold outreach alone. Most famously, Tim Ellis, founder of Relativity Space, cold emailed him at the age of 23 asking for investment. The subject line said, ‘Space is sexy 3D Printing an entire Rocket’, and Mark Cuban replied minutes later with an investment offer five times bigger than what Ellis asked for. Today, Relativity Space is worth ~ $5.2b and is one of the most important names in SpaceTech.

Eva Dobrzanska

Investment Manager,

Sixth Wave Ventures

    Your subject line determines whether your email gets read or not, so put some thought into it and craft it well. While a creative and edgy subject line can work, sometimes it’s smarter to get straight to the point. Test out a few variations and monitor the results. Here are some tips:

    • Keep it concise, attention grabbing and relevant
    • Keep it to 60 characters
    • Include stats if you can – e.g. B2C sustainable skincare | +40% MoM | Seed | UK
    • Mention what you do – e.g. B2C sustainable skincare | +40% MoM | Seed | UK
    • Avoid spam filters – do your research on what types of words trigger spam filters and don’t use them (eg opportunity, solution, 100%, million, billion, etc)

    Make it personal

    Yana

    Make your email personal enough so the recipient feels you’ve done your homework and looked up their profile. Convince them that they are exactly the right person to talk to, and explain why.

    Yana Abramova

    In your cold email, you should always show that you’re familiar with the investor’s work. Make sure to reference something they’ve done, and why you’re the right fit for each other. Address them by name when you start the email, don’t say “Dear sir/madam…”

    Eva Dobrzanska

    Some of my favourite cold email openers include:

    1. “I read your article on X, and I’m seriously impressed with the numbers”

    2. “Great panel talk yesterday – you said X and this made me think of Y”

    3. “My advisor, [Name], who you worked with at ABC Ventures, mentioned that you’re the best person to talk to about X”

    4. “Know this is a bit of a long shot, but figured I might as well give it a shot” (this is taken from an email that landed at job at a16z)

    Eva Dobrzanska

    Investment Manager,

    Sixth Wave Ventures

      Keep it simple

      Keep the information straightforward and explain things in simple terms. Your email should be quick and easy to read and understand.

      Yana

      Never use overly generalised words or make it sound complicated. As a founder, you should be able to communicate your ideas and problem-solving strategies simply. Avoid unnecessary complex phrases like “AI-driven solution powered by blockchain with a data approach” or “new and innovative investment opportunity”. Speak as a human to a human.

      Yana Abramova

      Show proof of success so far

      Investors will only invest if they actually believe you have the potential to be successful. Think about it from their perspective: anyone is more willing to invest in a business that has more going for it, so put your proof of progress and success upfront. Make sure to include some stats and facts that show what you’ve got going for you. This can include things like:

      • User numbers
      • Revenue
      • Growth rate (MoM or YoY)
      • Your lead investor (if you have one)
      • A strong team with the right mix of expertise and experience (include details on this)

      Include your pitch

      Include your pitch deck and/or pitch video or a link to your pitch page on SeedLegals. Make sure your pitch is easy to view with the click of a button and is concise. You don’t want the investor to have to spend more than three to five minutes on it.

      Get your pitch deck right: Download our free pitch deck template

      Add a call to action

      What do you want out of this email? Make it clear. Suggest a meeting (ask for their availability) and mention how much you’re looking to raise.

      Yana

      Investors are actively seeking fresh solutions that disrupt the market, so they read all the messages. You can absolutely have success with it if you can write a cold email that yields a high response rate.

      Yana Abramova

        Cold email example

        Yana says that a well-crafted cold email can make a significant difference. When you get it right, the response rate can be an astonishing 80%. She advises to:

        • Start with something very personal, like the recipient’s name. Avoid generic salutations like “Dear Sir/Madame.”
        • Compliment their work, whether it’s a podcast, newsletter, or blog. Mention if you’ve seen their talk or checked their company website. Honesty is key here.
        • Provide a brief context (one sentence) explaining why you need to speak with this person.
        • Share how you can be of help (one sentence). This isn’t necessary, but it’s a nice touch.
        • Ask for a short introductory call (15 minutes max).

        Example

        Subject line: B2C sustainable skincare | +40% MoM | Seed | UK

        Hi Jane,

        I loved your LinkedIn post about how to market green products authentically. I’m really impressed with all the work you’re doing to help make the cosmetics industry more sustainable and transparent.

        My Company [Name and link] makes high-quality, plant-based skincare products more accessible and sustainable. In the last year, we’ve seen 40% MoM growth while remaining 100% carbon neutral. You can learn more in our pitch deck attached.

        Given your passion for investing in sustainable, plant-based consumer products, we thought you might be interested in investing in [Company Name]. We’re raising a £100k Seed round to expand our team and product line over the next year.

        We’d love to discuss the opportunity over a 15-minute call. Do you have availability next week?

        Thank you for taking the time to read my email and look forward to hearing back from you.

        Regards,

        Sam Anderson

        Inbound (investors contact you)

        What easier way to find investors than to have them find you? So how do you do that? By making noise.

        You’ve got to put yourself out there as much as possible through social media, content and events. Go crazy getting seen.

        SeedLegals CEO and co-founder Anthony Rose has great tips on how to do this 👉 watch the video: How to find angel investors

        Warm intros

        Warm intros are golden. Make sure you’re getting out there and meeting as many people as possible to build your network. Yana’s advice is to make sure you build relationships as much as you can before fundraising. To build and nurture your network you can:

        • Participate in tech meetups and founder dinners
        • Engage on platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn
        • Attend conferences, preferably smaller, niche events that align with your product rather than large-scale gatherings
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