Tech

My VC firm takes cold pitches. Here’s a perfect cold email — and 3 things founders should stop doing in their first outreach.

  • Stephanie Rich is Head of Platform at Bread and Butter Ventures, which accepts cold pitches.
  • She shares an example email that’s effective because it’s short, customized, and eye-catching.
  • Omitting teaser information, a personalized greeting, and/or a “why” are common mistakes.

I’m Head of Platform at Bread and Butter Ventures, an early stage venture fund where I work with our General Partners Mary Grove and Brett Brohl

The three of us all do open office hours that are available to anyone, and we accept cold pitches — meaning pitches from founders that have no prior connection to us. 

Between the three of us, we read a lot of cold emails from founders pitching our fund for investment. A lot. 

Here are three major mistakes that startup founders make when sending cold emails to venture capitalists:

1. Not personalizing your greeting

Address your email to a person, not the fund. Not personalizing the email with a name is a quick indicator that you haven’t done much research and indicates that we may be part of a mass email that you sent out. 

Which reminds me! Be careful using a mail merge. We’ve gotten lots of emails that start out “Hi Bread,”.

The way to get around this is pretty simple: use Google! Most funds include their team on their website. Search for their site, a blog, or a social media presence— anything you can do to identify who works at the fund. 

Next, do your best to pick out the person who you think should receive the email. For example, Mary on our team runs our healthtech practice, so if you are emailing our fund about healthtech, you may want to address your email to Mary. Otherwise, you could address your email to all three members of our team or just pick one. 

2. Not including why you’re reaching out to the specific fund

Include why you’re sending the email in the first place. Maybe the fund’s thesis is focused on social impact CPG brands, and you’re a social impact CPG brand. Maybe you heard one of their partners on a podcast recently and really enjoyed it, or you identified with a blog post they wrote. Mention those things!

By doing so, you’re indicating that you’ve actually spent time doing research on whom you’re reaching out to. Again, I go back to my favorite tool — Google! As a starting point, find the fund’s website, a recent news article about them, or some content they’ve created and try to thoughtfully incorporate it into your note. 

3. Not including teaser information in the email itself

Unsuccessful emails in this category usually fall into two types. The first, while it includes an attachment, has a message along the lines of “here’s a great opportunity, check out my deck” with little to no additional information. Frankly, this is a pretty easy email to ignore because I don’t know the stage, the sector, the opportunity, or anything about the team to compel me to open the attachment.

The second type of email simply asks if I’d like to be sent a deck to review an investment opportunity. These tend to include one or two bites of information that might hint at sector or stage but lack anything to make me want to take action and request details.

If you’re going to send a teaser-type email like this, don’t forget to include something that grabs my attention and makes me think it’s something I can’t miss out on. Oftentimes this includes metrics. It may be traction numbers around usage, your ACV, your CAC, or anything that stands out!

Writing a great cold email

As I’ve made clear above, a great cold email is customized and includes some key information to catch the eye of an investor. I’d also recommend that it includes a hook: something memorable that makes me want to not just open the deck, but keep learning more.

This might be a bit about your founder story, a key piece of traction, the enormity of the problem you’re solving, or a clear articulation of your differentiation.

Let’s take a look at an example of a great, short email sent to an investor:

My name is Aneesh and I am the founder of Knit.  At Knit we are building the Qualtrics for multimedia, starting with video. 

Video is 6x more data rich than text and customer feedback in the form of video enables brands to get richer insights, go to market faster and generate more revenue.

However, 1 hour of video requires 10 hours to analyze and draw insights – making it impossible to leverage at scale. Until Knit.

Knit uses AI to pull insights from video 10x faster at 70% less cost than today’s methods. Since launching in January 2021, we’ve booked $XYZ+ in revenue and have built a pipeline of ~$XM in Q2 alone.

Given XYZ Fund’s investments in companies like ABC, I’d love to share more about what we are building.

Are you or someone on your team open to connecting in the coming days for me to share more?

Aneesh introduces the company, identifies what they do very succinctly and then goes straight into the problem they solve. Plus, the momentum and traction that the company has seen recently serves as a great hook. 

He also demonstrates that he’s done research on the fund by mentioning a company they have previously invested in that is in the same vertical as Knit. He’s done his homework, personalized his email, and made me want to learn more, resulting in a great cold email.

Stephanie Rich is Head of Platform at Bread and Butter Ventures where she works to add continuous value to portfolio companies and founders. She is also Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator in partnership with Cargill and Ecolab. She is the founder of Starting Up North, a publication focused on telling the stories and sharing the insights of Minnesota startups, innovators and their ecosystem, and Goby Partners, a marketing consultancy for startups and growing brands. Prior to Goby, Stephanie was employee #1 at Particle, the leading development platform for the Internet of Things.



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