An Efficient and Effective Way to Ask for an Introduction
I get asked to make many introductions. I don't mind. I love it actually, because my job is to create a bigger network, to connect the dots.
The first rule of any intro is do your homework, and make me do as little work as possible. The best ask looks like this:
Subject: Intro to X at Y?
Body: Please intro me to X (his/her LinkedIn) at company Y. I am looking for (job / mentorship / biz dev / investor).
When you make the ask efficient, and provide a link to the person's LinkedIn profile and a reason for connection, you not only save my time, you are showing me that you are doing the work.
Once I agree to the intro, I am likely to reach out to the other person to confirm they are OK with it (double opt-in via @fredwilson). To do this, I would need a paragraph description of what you are looking for, or I may ask you for a clean email that I can forward and add my bits on top.
If this is a mentorship introduction (I do a lot of these for Techstars companies), my ask would be that the person commits to a 15-minute call. Being clear about the purpose -- mentorship/feedback and the ask to do a 15-minute call, which is the smallest unit of business commitment, is important and gets good results.
If this is a business development intro, I would make it clear right off the bat. Stating the purpose up front sets the expectations, and if the other person isn't interested they have a chance to opt out.
Finally, investor intros are probably the trickiest ones.
To start with, I won't do them if I don't know the company and/or the founders well. The reason is my intro carries weight, and when I recommend a company to a venture capitalist or an angel I want to know why this might be a fit.
Sometimes I meet the company and I immediately think of an investor who might be interested. In those situations, I would offer an introduction myself, because it benefits both sides. That does not happen very often.
Now if we are working together on an introduction to a potential investor, much like with a business deal, it is important to explain why the investor should agree to the introduction. Two bits are proving to be effective in this regard -- a single paragraph about what the company does and their traction/background that clearly shows something interesting.
Second, a sentence about why this is a good fit for this particular investor -- they are interested in this space, this is their kind of stage of the company, it feels like they would connect with the founders, etc. Read more about investor introductions in this post by @davidcohen.
The best introductions are thoughtful. You put in the work, you've done your homework and you get a great intro as a result.
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Alex Iskold is the managing director of Techstars in New York City. Previously Iskold was founder/CEO of GetGlue (acquired by i.tv), founder/CEO of Information Laboratory (acquired by IBM) and chief architect at DataSynapse (acquired by TIBCO). An engineer by training, Iskold has deep passion and appreciation for startups, digital products and elegant code. He likes running, yoga, complex systems, Murakami books and red wine -- not necessarily in that order and not necessarily all together. He actively blogs about startups and venture capital at http://alexiskold.net.