In the fundraising world, personal introductions and referrals are king. Word-of-mouth is still one of the most common ways deals get done. In order to land a meeting with a venture capitalist, you need to get introduced and referred.
The world of VCs is notoriously exclusive, but despite how hard it is to land an introduction, there are ways to manage the process and maximize your chances of success.
It boils down to this: get the right people to introduce you to the right connections—and do it in a way that makes the person introducing you look good, rather than sacrificing their reputation because of you.
Do your research
Before you ask anyone to introduce you to anyone else, do your research. After all, you want to make sure that you get introduced to the right person at the right firm. You need to identify which VC firms most likely have an investment thesis that matches your business. Look at their portfolio based on industry, stage, and how much capital they’ve deployed. If possible, identify and approach a person with decision-making power—likely a partner.
Not only does targeting the right firm and partner increase your chances of success, it also helps make the person doing the introduction look good. Even if the VCs don’t end up investing in your company, they will know that their trusted source introduced them to someone who understood and valued what they do.
Ask the right person for the introduction
Once you know who you want to be introduced to, you need to figure out who can make that introduction. Ideally, that introduction should come from one of the VCs trusted sources—a colleague, a trusted business advisor, or an entrepreneur in whom they invested in the past. Since you may not know any of these people directly, this is where you may need to work your own network to find someone who can connect you to one of these people.
When asking for an introduction, make it easy on the person who’s helping you
Making a good introduction takes time, because as the introducer, you need to make sure you’re connecting the right people—and explain to each of them why they may want to meet the other person.
As the person looking for help, the onus is on you to give the person introducing you all the information they need to pull this off with minimal effort on their part.
If you’ve done your homework, you should be able to clearly and succinctly state why the other party would want to be introduced to you—that is, why that potential VC would be interested in your company.
Once the introduction is made, you should follow up immediately with a short elevator pitch (2–3 sentences), a one-page business plan, and a request for meeting. Time is of the essence here so you don’t want to be unprepared after the introduction is made.
Be polite and respectful of everyone’s time
While it’s easy to get caught up in the fundraising process, remember to be polite and respectful of everyone who has helped you along the way. Thank everyone for their help, and think about how you might be able to repay the favor with introductions or referrals of your own.
And remember to respect everyone’s time. Should you get introduced to the investor you’ve been seeking, request an initial meeting or phone call of 30 minutes. That is enough time to potentially pique the investor’s interest, but not so much time that, if they’re not interested, you will have wasted a large chunk of their day.
By following these guidelines, you’ll increase your chances of landing that first VC meeting. You’ll also ensure you maintain good relationships with those who have helped you along the way, which will make them more willing to help you again, should you need it.