It might seem incredible that an unsolicited email from a startup founder to an investor they’ve never met could result in a response, let alone a multimillion-dollar deal, but it does happen. I know because we’ve made investments this way, including one of t…

It might seem incredible that an unsolicited email from a startup founder to an investor theyve never met could result in a response, let alone a multimillion-dollar deal, but it does happen. I know because weve made investments this way, including one of the most valuable companies in the Storm portfolio, which came to us through a cold email. 
In this post, Ill explain the qualities that can make a cold email successful at least for me so lets dive in.
Target your email appropriately
If youre thinking about blasting out a mass email to every investor you can find an address for, youre wasting your own time, not to mention that of any potential investors. If I see a message that I can tell has been sent or Bccd to 3000 other investors, Ill probably delete it without reading, as I imagine you would too.
We all get a ton of email, and drawing from my own inbox as an example, I get a shocking number of emails from entrepreneurs who shouldnt have targeted me for whatever reason. For starters, its no secret that my focus is B2B SaaS; if youre working on a life sciences or consumer product business, I wouldnt know how to build that business, and Im certainly not the right fit. 
[Read: We asked 3 CEOs what tech trends will dominate post-COVID]
This advice isnt limited to a specific sector, either it also applies to the stage of your business. If youre just a team with a prototype or an idea and no revenue, you need a seed investor who gets involved pre-revenue. 
Again, its no secret that the seed stage isnt my game: Storm is generally looking for companies that have some early evidence of product-market fit in the form of revenue. 
There are many seed firms that want to be the first check into a business; if youre not at this stage, why target them with a note? No matter how great your email prose, youre not going to convince me to change my investment strategy. Its just not a great use of time.
Personalize your message
Now that youve reduced your investor list down from the entirety of all venture investors, you start to have more time to personalize your message. Dont try to literally make it personal; you dont know me, and I dont know you. However, you can tailor your message in a way that lets me know youve put a little work into convincing me to read on. 
The best bit of homework you can do for this is to look at what your target investor has put their money behind already. Look for companies in their portfolio that are relevant to your business, or other CEOs theyve invested in. 
In my firms case, maybe youve read something someone here has put online or watched one of my videos; maybe something resonated that you want to mention or generated some questions you want to ask. Adding touches like this makes a difference in an investors willingness to respond. 
To be clear: Im not talking about flattery or stoking an investors ego, but displaying an interest that shows youve done just a bit of homework.
Were buried under a constant deluge of emails, so were always developing filters. An email that shows an entrepreneur has invested a little time is a positive indicator of fit. Its only possible if you target.
For instance, one of my favorite SaaS metrics is sales efficiency; Ive made videos and published blog posts about it that anyone can see. If your email tells me you saw one of my videos and your sales efficiency is great, youll get a response from me and if you dont, that means I dropped the ball.
Put your best metrics forward
Except in early cases where a product or team hasnt yet come together, every business has numbers. This is the universal language of business. 
Find the ones that will get an investor interested, put them into a format and context that any investor can understand, and make sure they go into the email. Some typical examples:

  • Churn rate
  • ARR growth
  • Number of customers
  • Upsell
  • Gross margin
  • Sales efficiency

Use bullet points, so its easy to digest. Ultimately, every investor is looking for a certain profile when it comes to business metrics. Your job as a founder is to achieve that profile, and you either have it or you dont. Putting the relevant metrics into your email in a concise format lets the recipient know straight away whether theres a fit. 
Maybe youre worried your numbers arent good enough and you just want the meeting; I get it. The problem is that even if you get a meeting, youre not going to get an investment. Just get the metrics out there and qualify your time.
Less is more
Ive lost count of the number of entrepreneurs whove told me theyre going to change the world or disrupt an industry. I love that there are people out there willing to take on huge challenges, but wanting to be a disruptor and change the world isnt enough for me to take a meeting I need to see why your business is a good fit for Storm Ventures. 
You should be able to explain it in 100 words or less. This word limit helps you focus on the relevant metrics and less on extemporizing about changing the world or disrupting an industry. Save that for your PR strategy. 
If youre worried about sending detailed, confidential information, then the good news is: you dont need to send it. Theres little point to sending a discounted cash flow analysis or whatever in a cold email, because the objective of the message is to get to the first meeting, not to give any potential investor all of your data. 
But if you truly think you need to send more details, put together something simple and enticing and attach it as a PDF.  I personally am not a fan of Docsend its a hassle and feels intrusive but thats just me. Maybe others are fine with it. It doesnt work well on a phone either, which is probably where 50% of my email gets consumed.
Send the email yourself
Having your admin assistant write the email sends a message: This wasnt important enough to me to send it myself. This means I dont have to read it. 
Investors only have so many hours in a day, and small things like this make a difference when they hit our inboxes. If youre so busy that you need your admin assistant to write the email, at least make sure they log into your account and send it from there. Its an easy hack. 
For early-stage companies, bankers and brokers raising money isnt a great way to get introduced either. Maybe they can help you in the background, but this is your business, and raising the next round is critical: make it your priority.
Who to target at the firm
You may have heard advice to the effect of: Only target senior partners within a firm. Ignore it. 
This may vary from firm to firm, of course, but as far as Im concerned, an opportunity that comes from elsewhere within Storm has just as much value as one that crosses my desk personally. Find whatever way into a firm you can. 
We have a team at Storm because we all work together, and leveraging others at the firm can sometimes be an even more effective way to get noticed. With that said: avoid sending notes to everyone at the firm. Its aggravating because youre effectively asking everyone to read the same note, think it through, and respond. We dont talk collectively about opportunities as a team until theyre fully qualified and someone has already met the founder.
Every venture investor I know makes their email address fairly easy to find, including me. My job is to meet the founders I dont know yet. For me, Linkedin is fantastic as a tool, but terrible in terms of messaging. Its not my workflow. I dont want another inbox to deal with, and youre less likely to get a response from me there (see the sections on targeting and personalization above again if you need a refresher).
Following up
Its difficult to gauge how long to wait before following up because it depends on the way a particular investor works or where they may be that week. My rule of thumb is to wait a week, and if you havent heard back, send another message but not the exact same one you sent initially; reply to your sent email with a couple of polite lines. 
If another week goes by and you dont receive a reply, its safe to assume they didnt think you were a fit. And dont let it bring you down that you didnt get a response: everyone is trying to do their job, and its not personal. Its certainly possible they were too busy and missed it, but thats why youre targeting more than one investor. 
While some of this might sound demotivating, remember one thing: cold pitches do work. 
My job as an investor is to deliver returns to my LPs. The only way I can do that is by making the best investments I possibly can in entrepreneurs and companies with the best potential. Im positive that there are amazing entrepreneurs out there who I havent connected with yet, founders with companies that would be a great fit for our firm. 
The global pandemic makes cold emails even more important: I want to meet entrepreneurs in any country, and as far as I can tell, email is the best way to do it going forward. You live in rural Georgia? No problem. 
Keep in mind that the goal of the first interaction isnt to close a deal its to get the next meeting. Build interest in what youre making and move along step by step from there. 
Published September 8, 2020 — 08:00 UTC