There is no doubt that the easiest place to raise from is your personal network. Are you best friends with Marc Andreessen? Happy days. The problem is most people aren't.
Building a network is all very well, but the truth is that, for most founders (especially first-time founders) it's impossible to build a meaningful relationship with a large enough pool of investors. You need to get your pitch in front of hundreds of different individuals. Can you really build that many personal connections within the early-stage investing world?
Most people can't.
That means you need to write to people you don't know. Not everyone's favourite job, admittedly, as it's essentially the same as cold calling (although not quite as brutal - someone not replying to your email is much less painful than someone telling you to stop calling them!). Still, it's a necessary evil, and it works.
Fundraising is a numbers game. Your outcome is a combination of the strength of your pitch and the number of suitable investors you get that pitch in front of. It's that simple. Do enough pitches and you'll find someone who likes what you're doing. Don't send enough mails and you won't.
How to send cold emails to early-stage investors.
I've written about writing to investors before, but here's a template you can use. This is based on some brilliant original thinking from OpenVC (link in footer).
So, for anyone raising money at the moment...
When you write to investors, focus on 5 or 6 killer bullet points. Keep your email short and to the point, including the following
– Personal intro.
– Why them?
– 1-line value prop.
– Why you? (5 or 6 bullets.)
– Thank you.
Whatever you do, don't say "we’re growing at 100% month-on-month" when you had 2 users in March (you and your mum) and now you have 4 (your cofounder and her mum). And don't make exaggerated claims. Yes, you'll get a lot of no's, but every email you send is potentially the beginning of a 10-year working relationship. Start as you mean to go on.
Here are some bullets that might catch an investor's eye:
- Last month's revenue.
- Users/revenue growing at >5% week-on-week for >6 weeks.
- Paid vs organic growth (esp. if organic is >50%).
- Best referral sources.
- Size of waiting list (plus rate of growth).
- Big contract / LOI.
- LTV = >3x CAC.
- CAC payback period = <3 months.
- Big customer name(s).
- Annual revenue from biggest customers.
- Entire sector +CAGR.
- Number of employees.
- Founder's previous prestigious employer.
- Founder's unfair advantage.
- Founder's previous exit (show what multiple investors achieved).
- Well-known existing investor (e.g. YC-backed).
- Amount you're raising.
- Amount of raise subscribed / remaining (do not lie).
- Valuation (if already decided).
- Lead investor.
- Percentage of existing investors coming in again.
- Close date estimate.
Cold email template for early-stage investors
Here is my version of the template from Open VC:
Good luck with the raise!
Here's the OpenVC template and a page stacked full of excellent advice.