Email Pitch to a VC

Note: This blog is for first time entrepreneurs who are looking to raise their first cheque.

“There are apocryphal stories on founders being able to raise funds via email pitch”. Founders need to understand that no VC is going to invest money on email content. Email is medium to get VC attention and in turn, an in-person pitch meeting. VC email boxes all are the time are flooded with potential deals. Founders to grab VCs attention, need work on email subject line, body content and deck that is noteworthy enough to cut through the noise and get a response. The fundraising process is never a straight line; a journey filled with weak moments when VCs don’t respond to the email pitches.

VCs strongly believe that as a founder, you should be giving attention to detail. Email pitch gives in the first impression; everything comes in later, so email pitch communication matters. More the flaws, errors in email pitch VCs believe that as a founder, you are negligent.

These simple hygiene tips are to make your email pitch read by the VC as you would have wished. VC reply to the email pitch will depend on its content. Invest time on your email pitch so that the startup idea is clearly understood by the VC even when you are not present to defend it.

  • Keep it short. Ensure [that] the pitch has a human aspect. I have received an email with Hey, or just a Hello greeting, no name mentioned anywhere. VCs know that the founder has done a broadcast on every investor email id in the database. Learn about the VC portfolio. Personalize the email explaining why their firm and partners are a good fit for you and your idea. Max 300 words email, anything beyond doesn’t register.
  • Do not send email without attachment; deck should be shared only in PDF format. Pitch deck should be with a maximum of 20 slides. Never do multiple attachments. All communication has to be mobile friendly as the chances are that the VC would look at your email pitch on mobile. Work on the pitch deck aesthetics, font size and themes. Ugly decks with bad English, spelling mistakes are repulsive.

Image Source: DocSend

According to the DocSend pre-seed analysis, the narrative and the order of the story takes a big difference in successful vs unsuccessful decks. Potential investors also expect the founders to be clear about why now is the right time to invest.

  • Work on your subject line, elevator pitch - the short story in the email body has to be compelling for VC to continue to open the pitch deck. VCs love focused entrepreneur, so keep it a single idea, market, geography in your email pitch. Seed stage VCs write small cheques so they would want to see efficient use of capital to show traction in focused business.
  • Not every startup idea thrills every VC. Give investors the chance to learn something new. They should experience an Aha moment as they read the email. OMG, I think I found something, Show things that the VC has not thought of or not seen any similar pitch deck before. Once the VC gets excited, they feel the fear of missing out and want to engage.
  • VCs mustn’t feel awkward sharing the deal to fellow investors, and it must feel authentic. Avoid sending emails pitch mentioning “Take Permission Before Forwarding”. It does not work. Do not send decks with passwords or big confidentiality statement slide.
  • A picture says a thousand words so always use good images of founders, products, advisory board and or customer case study.
  • Point the VC to specific content which they should not miss. These one or two slides has to be the most important slide of your deck. Numbers talk so share high-level numbers, metrics and traction. Do not paste an excel sheet with 3-5 years projections.
  • Founder forget to write their full contact details in the deck, email signature and follow up email. Avoid putting lofty designations or dream statement.
  • Do not ask pointed binary questions to VC in your email pitch like “If you are interested, then we would share more details”. Instead use “We would be happy to share more information, so kindly please advise us on next steps”. For a VC, it is easy to say NO, so do not put them on the spot.
  • Narrow down the list of VCs in your geolocation, first pitch them as they are quicker to close the transaction as meetings can be scheduled quickly and then extend the email pitch to other geographies VCs.
  • Do not put a deadline for VCs to engage unless you have a binding alternative term sheet on hand. At the seed stage, the first cheque fundraises setting a deadline in email pitch with VCs backfire.
  • Lastly, be grateful to the VC for their attention & reading your email. Do not ask for a pitch meeting. Your email pitch has to generate the response from the VC end. Finally follow up till you get a formal NO response from the VC.

Fundraising is hard work; it’s brutal on the emotions of the founders as they keep hearing NO or get no response. Key is to engage with a ton of VCs. Founders should target sending out at least ten emails to new VC every week. Create a follow-up sheet, keep detailed notes of each meeting, stay organized and follow up like mad. You already are at a disadvantage as you are sending a cold email pitch. Think that your email pitch worth is same as the money what you are looking to raise from the VC so invest time accordingly.

- Sanjay Mehta

Published on: January 5, 2020