Startup Networking Tips from Silicon Valley VCs

There are two main components to the “magic” of Silicon Valley:

  1. High concentration of the best talent in the word;

  2. Extreme openness and willingness to help by that same talent.

One of the biggest surprises for international founders when they come to the Valley is how easy it is to get a hold of very successful entrepreneurs, experts, and mentors.

If you’ve got something interesting to share, the best minds of the world are just one (or two) emails away.

You just need to know how to write good cold email, which is exactly what I teach below.

One of HACKT Mission participants Andrey used the tactics below to meet an expert who helped them win TechCrunch Disrupt! Here’s what Andrey said: “You need to cold contact people without excessive pleasantries. We did a cold reach out to this expert, and he helped us so much that we attribute some of our success at TechCrunch to him! After that I realized that you can get lots of advice and value just by cold contacting people.”

Below is HACKT guide on cold emailing partners, experts, and investors. If you want the full 30-page startup networking guide that includes much more than cold email, download it here.

Cold Email Hacks

Be cool

If you’re contacting a busy, highly networked and popular Silicon Valley figure, this tactic will improve your chances of getting a response.

Successful people meet dozens of people every day and can’t remember them all. When you contact them, write short, nonchalant emails. When they see such an email (especially in a personal inbox) and don’t recognize the name, they’ll think they must have met you somewhere if you had the guts to write such an offhanded email.

For example:

Drop names

Find a mutual connection with the person you’re emailing (use LinkedIn). Make sure it’s somebody influential, well-connected and busy. Someone who meets hundreds of people every week.

Use this person’s name in a cool, nonchalant way to use it as a semi-recommendation.

Example:

Make sure Jason is actually interested in autonomous cars (at least remotely). If he goes back to Dave and asks who the hell you are, Dave will simply brush it off with “Dude, I meet dozens of founders every day. I can’t remember everybody. We probably met at a dinner or something.”

Lead with numbers

People (especially business people) like facts and new information.

If you want to get their attention, it’s best to start a conversation with new facts or numbers. If you send a two-paragraph teaser email, make sure it contains 2-4 numbers.

Example:

Hot-shot investors like three bullets of milestones, such as:

  • MRR / ARR is $X.

  • Growth is Y% average over the past 3-6 months.

  • Raised $Z from notable investors A, B, C.

Three reminder rule

When you ask someone for a favor (a question in your email counts as one), you are the one who needs it. Even the most organized people can forget about your question, and you should understand that it’s low on their priorities list.

It’s your job to remind them.

It’s absolutely acceptable (and sometimes even polite) to remind people about your question.

Do it three times. The cadence of reminders depends on the situation, but here’s a general advice that would apply in 80% of the cases:

  • Reminder #1: 3 days after the original email

  • Reminder #2: 5 days after reminder #1

  • Reminder #3: a week after reminder #2

Rarely do people get to reminder #3. If someone you’re emailing does, it’s either because:

  • they are categorically not interested, or

  • your emails are not getting to them / you’re doing something categorically wrong.

If they’re not responding, find a different way to hack the system. Try other channels, other people, or different approaches.

Don’t ask for too much

If you want people to respond to you, ask simple questions. Don’t make people work on the answer, because they won’t. Don’t ask for a big commitment — you won’t get it.

Instead, make it super easy for them to get back to you. Use the 30-second rule: can they answer your question in 30 seconds? If they can, your chances of getting a reply increase.

Email introductions

BCC email introducers

Always thank the intro person who made the email introduction and move them to BCC.

Example: “Thanks for the introduction, Kasey! Moving you to bcc.” at the top of the email body.

There are two reasons for moving your contact to bcc:

  • to spare their inbox from getting multiple thread updates

  • to discuss something privately with the recipient

It’s a standard practice to move the introducer to bcc, and it’s more strange not to do this than it is to do it.

Why not just not include them on a response at all? The person doing the intro will want to know that you’ve responded politely. This is reassuring and they won’t have to chase you up to make sure you reached out.

Response time

Respond to email introductions quickly (24 hours or less). The faster the better. It shows that you are on top of your game, and that you care.

WANT MORE?

The full Startup Networking Playbook is 30-pages long and filled with actionable tactics (like above) as well as advice on SIlicon Valley mindset that helped HACK Temple CEO and VC investor Pavel Cherkashin build a networking empire.

Date of publication: 07.02.2017
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