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The Do's and Don'ts of Asking for an Intro to a Venture Capitalist

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I've been getting a large number of bad requests for introductions to venture capitalists lately. Here are some examples:

  • "Do you know anyone who might be interested in investing in my company?"
  • "I am in New York City next week. What investors should I talked to?"

The problem with these asks is that they make me think too much, they show that you did not do the work and they aren't actionable. I say no to all of these requests.

Very often these asks come from companies that I don't know well. This actually compounds the problem. For me to start introducing a company that I don't know well is really difficult. It's taxing and unfair for my personal relationships with investors. 

Related: The Top 5 Places Entrepreneurs Meet Investors

Another problem is these bad asks are also missing the why: why this particular introduction makes sense and why is this potentially a fit for investor. In my post about forwardable introductions, I discussed setting the context and making it easy to do the intro. 

So what is a good VC ask? Simply put, it is specific. Here are some examples:

  • "We are building a network-based business. Do you think Fred Wilson might want to take a look?"
  • "We looked at Jim Robinson's portfolio at RRE, and we think that he can be potentially interested in our business."
  • "We are building a business that has data at its core and would love to connect with IA ventures."

These are better asks, and a lot more actionable. I don't need to think. It is simple yes or no.

The requesters also score a lot of points for actually doing the work by researching the venture firms and partners. Read my post about raising venture capital for more best practices. 

It is pretty simple to get this right: do the work, create a pipeline, understand who you want to reach out to and why then use your current network to get introductions.

To get you started, here is an awesome guide to venture capital from Alley Watch.

Related: Anatomy of a VC Deal: How One Seattle Startup Raised $12.5 Million

Alex Iskold

Written By

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.