According to Fundable, only about .91% of startups get funded by angel investors.
So if you don’t already know wealthy people who could potentially be interested in investing in your business, and if no one has ever heard of your company, why spend the time and energy trying to fundraise?
The first thing to realize is that the vast majority of companies start out with little to no access to a big network of investors. Most founders have to hustle to find angel investors who actively invest in startups in their space, and are willing to write a check quickly.
Should you avoid cold-pitching?
Founders are often told to avoid reaching out to people with cold pitches. Some of the more active leaders in the startup space hear hundreds — if not thousands — of pitches per year, so the conventional wisdom is that it’s not a worthy pursuit to e-mail them.
I don’t disagree with this notion completely. It’s true that your conversion rate in terms of meetings held will be low at best. But it’s not a waste of time to try cold outreach if you have absolutely no other way of reaching someone.
If you do your research ahead of time and find people who are already interested in your industry, that have made investments in similar companies in the past, you’ll be able to generate at least some conversations.
This is already incredibly valuable, because you will be able to generate momentum by showing others that you’re capable of getting investor pitch meetings, and you’ll get a better understanding of what investors in your space look for in the process.
But cold outreach is only enough to get the fundraising process off the ground from scratch. There’s a better way to start generating warm calls with investors — even if you don’t know any.
How to meet people who know investors
Consider the perspective of the investor. They want to be sure that you’re a committed entrepreneur who’s going to do the things you say you will, so it saves them a lot of time when they only take calls/meetings with people who are pre-vetted by others in their network. That means you should start building relationships with people that they already trust.
So where do you start?
Some of the most impactful introductions are those from other successful founders. It makes sense that a good founder should be able to identify another strong founder, and they would likely be selective in who they introduce to an investor of theirs, so you have implicit trust right from the get-go.
The best type of founder to reach out to should meet the following criteria:
- Someone in a similar industry, but who does not have a competitive product to yours
- Someone who raised the amount of money you want to raise right now
- Someone who raised funds within the last 6-12 months, so it’s fresh in their head.
Chances are, they’ll remember how difficult it was to get funding and will be more open to helping you out. Of course, if your company has no traction at all, then even the kindest soul won’t be very receptive to lending a helping hand.
Angel.co and Crunchbase are great resources to search companies by industry and funds raised.
Busy founders don’t spend a lot of time hanging out at networking events, so you’ll need to leverage your LinkedIn network for introductions, or reach out to them cold.
Remember that you’re trying to build a relationship, not just blindly ask for intros, so you should ask them to speak on the phone with you to learn about their fundraising experience. Here’s a very simple e-mail that I wrote a few years ago that got me a 40% meeting set rate.
The best e-mail pitch to get a phone meeting
Subject: Interested in Speaking
Congrats on the great work so far with ________.
I’m a co-founder of a startup (Tascit) here in NYC, and since you also run a B2B company and are ahead of us in traction, I was hoping to get your input on your fundraising experience.
Do you have 20 minutes to connect on the phone sometime next week?
Let me know what works best.
This email was so effective because it was genuine. I really was impressed by this company, and I was honest about the fact that I was still learning about the fundraising process. In fact, over the course of two weeks and 15 calls held, these founders provided a better education on fundraising than reading 10 blog posts or even a book ever could.
At the end of every call, I asked the founder if they would be open to introducing me to one or two investors who funded them. I made sure to have specific names of people I wanted to speak to ready to share.
Though a few people declined, many were super receptive to make an introduction, especially if the founder was excited about my product. Some founders wanted to follow my company’s progress for a few months before committing to an intro, and I was happy to continue proving myself to them further to gain their trust and ultimately win the intro.
Of the .91% of companies that raise from Angels successfully, each has its own story and process. Though some folks get lucky and find someone through their network that’s excited enough to write a check immediately, for most people the process takes months.
If you treat your outreach strategy as seriously as you would any sales process, and focus on establishing relationships with people who are more likely to be receptive to hearing your story, you’ll start to build the momentum necessary to drum up excitement about your fundraising round.