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How to write a cold email to an investor and grab their attention

How to write a cold email to an investor and grab their attention

12
min read

So you’re getting ready to cold email an investor, hoping it might result in an opportunity to pitch.

How are you going to cut through the noise?

When even a modestly sized venture capitalist sees 12 pitches a day (already filtered down from many more cold emails), grabbing an investor’s attention is challenging, to say the least.

In this article, we’re going to give you some inside tips. 

You’ll learn: how to craft emails that get opened, what investors are looking for in a cold email, and how to track whether your emails are getting through.

First off, do cold emails with investors work? 

When investors receive so many emails from startup founders daily, it’s a fair question to ask.

The truth is this:

Cold emails can work in building a relationship with a potential investor. Not every cold email to an investor will get a reply (many won’t), but there are some pretty impressive success stories out there.

Take Dhruv Ghulati, CEO of AI startup Factmata.

Ghulati closed a $1m seed round from some huge names in tech using cold email outreach. These include:

  • Mark Cuban (probably every founder’s dream VC)
  • Craig Newmark (the guy who started Craigslist)
  • Biz Stone (one of Twitter’s co-founders)

So, yes, cold emails to investors can work, as long as you:

  • Don’t mass email blast everyone on your list
  • Remember to do your investor homework first
  • Follow our investor email checklist below 

How to write a cold email to an investor: our 5-step process

Are you hoping to join the ranks of founders like Dhruv Ghulati, who’ve used cold emails to connect with investors and raise funding?

Follow these five steps:

  1. <a href="#step1" class="anchor-link">Do your homework first</a>
  2. <a href="#step2" class="anchor-link">Master how to write a cold email</a>
  3. <a href="#step3" class="anchor-link">Beware the dreaded spam filter</a>
  4. <a href="#step4" class="anchor-link">Use these 7 investor-specific tips to perfect your cold email</a>
  5. <a href="#step5" class="anchor-link">Hit send and track your results</a>

<div class="anchor-wrapper"><div  id="step1" class="anchor-target"></div></div>

1. Do your homework first 

You’ve got three goals here:

  1. Establishing a positive signal that proves your company is ready to grow
  2. Ensuring your company is a good fit for the investor you’re considering emailing
  3. Gathering sufficient intel on the recipient to write a personalized email

This should all happen before you start writing your cold email, so close that Gmail tab and check off the following.

1. Establishing a positive signal that proves your company is ready to grow

An inspiring business idea is a good start, but it won’t be sufficient to convince investors to meet with you.

They’ll want to see the proof that your idea has the potential to grow, which generally means you’ll need to have gained demonstrable traction.

Examples include:

  • A track record of consistent revenue growth
  • A stable base of existing customers
  • Endorsement from a reputable player in the industry

For instance, when Dhruv Ghulati cold emailed Mark Cuban, he introduced himself as the “founder of a Google-backed startup called Factmata.”

Calling out Google’s support gave some credibility to Factmata and was enough to grab Cuban’s attention.

2. Determining that your company is a good fit for the investor you’re considering emailing

Many venture capital investors have very specific requirements for companies they’ll consider funding. Some only work with California-based startups, for example, while others only fund tech companies or partner solely with businesses with sustainability initiatives.

Beyond that, many only invest in certain funding rounds. For instance, Notation Capital is a strictly pre-seed fund, meaning pitching them for a Series B is a waste of time.

Before reaching out to an investor, find their investment thesis online, and check that you meet all their requirements.

3. Gathering sufficient intel on the recipient to write a personalized email

Start with the simple stuff like their name (avoid sending a “To whom it may concern” email).

Then, dig a little deeper. Find an old Twitter post you can connect with, or call out one of their previous investments that you admire.

Take Allie Janoch, CEO of Mapistry, who used the below email to close a $2.5m seed funding round.

Take note of the last two paragraphs, where Janoch refers to a recent talk her investor gave and adds a few of her own thoughts.

The point here is to make it clear you know who they are and that you’re emailing them because you’re interested in working with them, not just mass emailing a huge list.

<div class="anchor-wrapper"><div  id="step2" class="anchor-target"></div></div>

2. Master how to write a cold email 

Emailing VCs is super competitive.

For instance, White Star Capital’s Christian Hernandez receives more than 1,000 emails from unique senders every month.

Mastering the cold email format is your key to cutting through. Here are our top tips:

Optimize pre-header text

Hopefully, you're already optimizing your subject lines for every email you're sending.

But are you focusing on the pre-header text, too? 

Pre-header text is the short preview of your email displayed in inboxes and mobile notifications, like this:

Source

This is one of the first things investors will see, and they’ll likely use it to judge whether or not to open your email.

So, focus on building curiosity in your pre-header text, and keep it between 85 and 100 characters for optimal readability.

Keep it short

Current research demonstrates that between 50 and 125 words is the optimal length for cold emails.

We’d recommend erring on the longer side for investor emails since your target audience is likely to want more details than fewer, but avoid a wall of text at all costs.

Include a clear CTA

Your CTA (call to action) tells the reader what you want them to do next.

It’s what you’re hoping to get back from the investor – for example, feedback on your idea or an expression of interest.

<div class="anchor-wrapper"><div  id="step3" class="anchor-target"></div></div>

3. Beware the dreaded spam filter 

The last thing you want is for your email to get flagged as spam by your investor’s Email Service Provider.

Unfortunately, this can often happen with emails that appear too promotional or talk about “great opportunities.”

When crafting your email copy, avoid phrases that scammers and spammers often use, such as:

  • 100% more
  • Cents on the dollar
  • Extra income
  • Financial freedom
  • Free trial
  • Pure profit
  • Risk free
  • Promise you
  • Don’t delete

This is just a short list of many words that can be flagged as spam. So, when in doubt, swap it out.
There are a few other ways you can protect yourself against spam filters:

  • Keep using your email address. Sending hundreds of emails one day and then not using your address for several days after can look suspicious. Use your email address regularly for purposes aside from sending cold pitches en masse.
  • Add SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail) records. These protocols signify that your email address is authentic and help email servers confirm that you are not a spammer.

<div class="anchor-wrapper"><div  id="step4" class="anchor-target"></div></div>

4. Use these 7 investor-specific tips to perfect your cold email 

The tactics we’ve discussed so far apply to most cold emailing. 

Here, we’re going to explore seven more tips specific to cold emailing investors.

1. Don’t waste your subject line 

Nearly half (47%) of people decide to open an email based on the subject line alone.

It’s the first thing recipients see and your first shot at getting through to an investor.

Avoid bland, ambiguous subject lines like “investment opportunity,” “10 minutes of your time,” or “investment idea.” Email subject lines like these don’t tell your reader why they should open your email. Since these are what every other founder is writing, they will not help you stand out.

Instead, tell your investor exactly who you are and what makes you a valuable investment, for instance:

  • Subscription-based talent suite with SHRM backing
  • Airbnb for the event space seeking $200k pre-seed
  • Biotech startup with 400% YOY growth

2. Get right to the point 

Investors hate emails that avoid sharing critical details (like current growth trajectories) but still ask for their attention. They also hate long-winded emails that overshare or beat around the bush.

Finding that happy medium is your key to connecting.

Keep your email short and simple, and share the most critical information. Three key things to bear in mind:

  1. Show them why your startup is a good match
  1. Build a personal connection – explain why you’re emailing them and not other investors
  1. Highlight key figures such as your current revenue and growth, market potential, and what kind of funding you’re seeking

On another note, avoid stuffing your email with links and images. Investors should be able to grab all the info they need from your email rather than dig through 20 links to various market research studies or founder profiles.

3. Ask, don’t sell 

This isn’t your chance to pitch. That comes when you secure a meeting with the investor.

“So, my email should ask for a meeting with the investor?” you ask.

Well, no.

Michael Seibel of Y Combinator, one of the biggest startup accelerators around, lists this as one of his top three pet peeves in cold investor emails.

Source

So don’t pitch, and also, don’t ask for a meeting to pitch.

Instead, include your pitch deck (which allows the investor to dive into the details if they’re interested), and ask for specific feedback, for instance:

“I’d love to hear what you think about X.”

4. Forget the apologies 

Drop the “Sorry for cold emailing you” from your email intros.

You’re not sorry (or you wouldn’t do it), and you have no reason to be – this is how investor outreach works.

While you’re at it, you can avoid other vague pleasantries like “I hope you’re doing well” and “Nice to digitally meet you.”

Get straight to your point. Investors are busy people, and their time is valuable. They’ll be glad you recognize this.

5. Send the email from your CEO or founder email address 

Avoid using a group (e.g., hello@yourdomain.com) or generic (e.g., ceo@yourdomain.com) email address when contacting founders, and whatever you do, don’t send the email from your personal address.

Using a company email address shows you’re legit and committed (something investors require). Using one with your name and profile pic assists in building a personal connection with your recipient and helps them verify that you’re a real person.

6. Sell the dream, but don’t overreach 

While your cold email shouldn’t be a sales pitch, you do want to get your investor excited and inspired by your idea.

A tricky balance, yes, so the best way to find a good middle ground is to use cold hard numbers.

Recall the beginning of Allie Janoch’s cold email:

Source

Janoch lets the numbers “sell the dream,” talking about current revenue and growth but also referencing revenue possibilities and the total addressable market.

7. Prove that you’re a fit for them 

Recall one of the first steps we discussed in this guide: Determining that your company is a good fit for the investor you’re considering emailing.

You should do this for your own sake (because emailing investors who aren’t a fit is a waste of time), but you should also make an effort to make clear to your recipient that you’ve done your research.

This doesn’t need to be much. For example:

“I understand you’re currently looking for Series A funding opportunities in the energy tech sector.”

Then, go on to explain how your company meets those requirements.

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5. Click send and track your results 

You’ve done all the legwork. It’s time to send off your first investor email.

It’s wise to take advantage of email tracking tools to understand performance and get the most out of your time investment.

With capable email tracking software, you’ll be able to understand:

  • When your investor opens your email
  • How many times they’ve opened your email
  • If they’ve clicked any of the links in your email

These metrics give you insight into engagement. 

You’ll know if your subject lines are effective (your open rate will be high), and you’ll be able to identify the most interested investors (those who’ve opened your email several times or clicked on a link).

Investor outreach email template 

While we recommend crafting your emails from scratch (to ensure they reflect your own voice and are hyper-personalized to your audience), we do understand the need to get started quickly.

Use this investor cold email template as inspiration and as a starting point for your own email.

Hi [investor first name],
I’m [your name], founder of [company name], a [category your product fits into] that [primary product value propositions].
We’re a team of [number of employees and expertise], working to help [your target market] solve [target audience pain point]. [Your product name] solves this by [how your company solves that pain point].
We’re looking to [your goal] to capitalize on our current growth trajectory:
  • [Number that demonstrates a positive growth signal and “sells the dream”]
  • [Number that demonstrates a positive growth signal and “sells the dream”]
  • [Number that demonstrates a positive growth signal and “sells the dream”]
I saw [personal connection - a social media post, a LinkedIn announcement, a recent talk, an investment success, etc.] and [your thoughts and/or question].
I’m interested in working with [VC firm name] because [how and why your company is a fit based on their investor prospectus].
I’ve attached a copy of our pitch deck for further details, but I’d love to know [question for the investor].
Thanks in advance for your time,
[Your name]

Write the perfect cold email for investors

Cold emailing potential investors is competitive. 

You’ll need to find a personal connection, demonstrate why you’re a fit (based on their investor prospectus), and track and manage investor communications effectively to cut through the noise.

Follow the five steps we’ve outlined above, and you’ll achieve that goal.

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