Ask an Investor: Cold Outreach Do’s + Don’ts

Posted by: Leila Chreiteh

Posted on 08/31/2021

Ask an Investor: Cold Outreach Do’s + Don’ts

First impressions matter—especially when you’re making a cold introduction to a potential investor. And in order to make sure you put your best foot forward as a founder, you must broaden your scope from merely raising funds to building lasting relationships.

We surveyed our network of pre-seed investors to determine what elements of a cold outreach are most likely to work in a founder’s favor and what aspects of a cold intro compel them to immediately delete. Here’s what they shared with us:

The Do’s

The only thing that works in a cold outreach is heavy background research on the target so that you can carefully customize the inquiry. – Lister Delgado, IDEA Fund Partners

  1. PERSONALIZED PITCH – The most common feedback from investors revolved around personalization. Almost every surveyed investor wanted to know, “Why is your venture a good fit for my investment thesis and vice versa?” Ultimately, raising venture capital is about more than just the check. So starting with the cold introduction, respect investors’ time by doing your own due diligence and only pursuing mutually beneficial relationships based on their interests, too.
  2. PROOF POINT METRICS – Be sure to include top-line metrics that convey early traction, such as positive revenue, customer growth, consumption growth, engagement growth, growth efficiency, and user experience, etc. As with choosing a North Star Metric, do not focus on the vanity or laddering up metrics but on the metrics that highlight your company’s rate of growth.
  3. WHY YOU? – Briefly highlight your founding team’s background and caliber, but remember that investors are looking for ambition, not personal ego. Keep it concise by including the founding team’s LinkedIn profiles, plus any pertinent personal story that contextualizes your company’s vision and growth up to this point. 
  4. BRIEF COMPANY OVERVIEW – Obviously, make sure the central info is there, like your company’s name, a link to your product and/or website, your company stage, and your current location. But, keep it short and sweet (3-4 sentences max) and let your website/deck elaborate further.
  5. FUNDING ROUND + HISTORY – If your terms are set, feel free to include them as well as what allocation you have left. Give investors an idea about your total target raise, timeline, and how far along you already are. 
  6. VISION + CONTEXT – As always, the why is essential. What are you building, and how does it offer a value add to customers? Include who your first target customer is/will be and why. Break down your company’s market briefly, unless you’re reaching out to an investor who is already actively working in that specific industry. 
  7. CONCISE MESSAGE + DECK/DEMO – Include a clear, concise pitch deck that provides an attractive summary of the items listed above and/or a demo of your product. And remember Alex Camacho’s advice: the sweet spot for an introductory email is around 800 characters.

The Don’ts

Your goal from the email is a call or meeting, so don’t be over the top, don’t ramble, don’t give everything away, and avoid long, form emails and super rapid follow-ups. – Betsy Hoover, Higher Ground Labs

  1. EMPTY PROMISES – First and foremost, don’t jump into a cold intro with tons of exaggerated statistics or promises about what you can deliver. Scarcity tactics, gimmicks, and sales stunts are also an absolute NO. Investors will be quick to see through anything along those lines, and then they’ll be even quicker to pass on you.
  2. MASS EMAIL BLASTS – Investors will immediately know if you’ve just BCCed them on a mass email that’s in a boring template, and it’s a definite turn-off. Spend the time and energy it takes to learn about each investor and be sure you’re able to speak to exactly why they’d be a good fit to partner with your company. 
  3. NO DECK, LITTLE INFO – While our surveyed investors universally dislike long introduction emails, you’re also unlikely to get a response from one lacking the elements on our “Do” list. Investors’ time is precious, and they’re not going to give you a shot without at least some idea about what it is you’re seeking and why. So don’t expect a meeting if you haven’t sent over a thorough deck or substantial summary info. 
  4. CLASSIFIED INFO + NDA – Don’t ask an investor to sign an NDA on a cold email. Your goal for initial contact should be to gain their interest, and the summary information you’re sharing shouldn’t require an NDA.
  5. DISREGARD INSTRUCTIONS – If a VC’s website or LinkedIn directs founders to submit information in a specific way, do not circumvent that process. After some time has passed, you can follow up with a very brief email or message.
  6. SPELLING/GRAMMAR ERRORS – This should go without saying, but have someone glance over your email or use a program like Grammarly to make sure you’re expressing yourself as eloquently as possible. 
  7. RAPID FOLLOW-UPS – No one—and I repeat no one—wants to be pestered into responding to an email by being continuously peppered. Just don’t do it. 
  8. BROKER REACHING OUT ON FOUNDER BEHALF – Don’t have someone do this work for you. If you’re the leader of your company, you need to be sending this email and building this relationship.

These may seem like a lot of Do’s and Don’ts, but the bottom line is simple: be clear, concise, and courteous of an investor’s time. Remember that the primary goal of your cold introduction is to pique their interest enough for a call or meeting, so focus on being straightforward and factual without getting too in the weeds. Finally, if you want to grab their attention, do your research and personalize your pitch! 

Ready to test out your new-and-improved cold outreach? Send your best pitch to!

For more expert advice on building and scaling your startup, check out our event library and Field Notes.

Leila Chreiteh

Director of Community, Outlander VC

Leila is a communications strategist who believes in investing in a better, more progressive future.


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