Finding your initial investors can be a daunting task for first-time founders — especially those who are outsiders to the startup investment community and don’t have “friendlies” and “warm intros” to contact. We’ve been in your shoes and know exactly how intimidating this can be. That’s where investor outreach comes in. Many founders will send hundreds of cold outreach emails before landing their first investor commitments.
Reaching out to potential investors is an essential step to find the resources you need to grow your business. But how do you go about reaching out to investors in an effective and compelling manner? Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or just starting out, this comprehensive guide will cover all the steps you should take to connect with investors and make your business dreams a reality.
Credit: Much of this guide has been adapted from Matt Preuss & Ash Rust.
1) Understand the Market
First, you need to understand the market to help understand why an investor would want to fund your business. Ultimately, you need to understand the person you are “selling” to — like any sales process. Investors are particularly interested in the size of the market you operate in, because that will determine whether the opportunity is large enough for them to make a return on investment (ROI).
2) Research Your Target Investors
Just as you would build a list of potential customers that fit your ideal customer profile, you should do the same for a fundraise.
A few important filters / fields to consider when doing so:
- Market focus
- Stage focus
- Check size
- Fund size
- Portfolio makeup
3) Build a List of Potential Investors
Once you have a thorough understanding of your ideal investor, you’ll want to start building out a list of potential investors. Generally, founders should reach out to 60+ investors during a fundraise (of course this number differs from company to company). You will likely only schedule meetings with a fraction of the people you reach out, and only a few of those meetings will win you funding — as such, reaching out to 50 – 100 investors is a good baseline to boost your odds of success.
4) Draft Your Outreach Email
Once you’ve got your list of investors together it is time to craft messages to reach out to everyone. Cold emailing investors comes down to a fine balance between personalization and focus.
The easiest way to do this is to include a one-sentence “opening line” customized to the recipient of your email (ie. congratulating them on recent news, position, or funding).
5) Start Sending!
Of course, putting everything in place is only half the battle. You need to start actively reaching out and moving investors further through your funnel.
Tip: one effective tactic to boost your response rates is to connect with investors on LinkedIn after you email them. LinkedIn messages have read receipts, and many investors have LinkedIn Premium, which allows you to send them one free “InMail” message even if you’re not connected!
6) Prepare Your Pitch Deck & Fundraising Materials
Investors will ask for different assets, metrics, materials, etc. throughout a raise. Founders should have these details prepared in advance so they can respond to an investor quickly and efficiently. Generally speaking, investors will want to see your pitch deck first, followed by your data room for further due diligence (click on the links to read more about what to include in these).
7) Follow-up With Potential Investors
Any good outreach strategy has a set plan for following up with targets. This will typically vary depending on the conversation, but a general rule of thumb is to follow up a week or so after if an investor has not responded. Investors receive thousands of decks every year (5,000 on average), so you’ll want to ensure your pitch doesn’t get lost in the shuffle.
Tip: Rebump and Boomerang are two great tools for automating follow-up.
8) Track and Measure Email Performance:
Gauging investor interest throughout a raise will be an important skill to hone. You’ll want to spend your time on the truly interested investors. Use email engagement data (ie. open and click rates) to uncover who are the most interested and engaged with your company.
9) Schedule Meetings and Close Deals:
If you’ve researched and targeted the correct investors and sent them the information they need in advance, you should be able to schedule at least a handful of investor meetings. From that point, it will be up to the strength of your idea, investor presentation and data room to secure funding.
How to Follow-Up After an Investor Meeting
The majority of investors will not reach out right after your meeting, so you must take the next step. After the meeting, you should follow-up via email and include:
- The deck you reviewed with the investor in the meeting (attachment or Docsend is fine).
- Answers to any outstanding questions from the meeting.
- Any materials the investor requested
Pleasure meeting you today. I appreciated your questions around engagement and went through our data to get an answer on daily active users — we currently have 5,233 up from 789 six months ago. I’ve also attached our monthly cohort analysis, and our deck from the meeting.
I’d love to schedule another chat to review your questions. Would Oct 4 at 10am work for you?
Although emailing investors without a reply can be hard on your confidence, you should ontinue your outreach until they give you a clear answer. Your ongoing follow-ups should be sent every 3–5 business days and include:
- Mention of the round is filling up (use the reservations system).
- New investors in the round, who have signed and wired funds.
- Product and Sales launches wins (traction, launches & new customers).
Quick update here — we now have $700k spoken for out of the $1M target for this round with Sterling Road and Pear VC committing this week. We also just launched the MVP of our most requested feature: the iPhone app. I would love to continue our conversation before the round closes, would 2pm Oct 7 work for you?
Most investors don’t like saying no, even if they will not invest. Thus, after 2 weeks without a reply, you should push for a decision even if it will be a “no”. Your final follow-up should include:
- A reminder of the original meeting.
- Top company highlights (traction, team, investors).
- Decision deadline.
Hi Jess, Thanks again for meeting with me on Sept 13. We’re now moving into the final stages of the round, so I’d love to know if you’d like to be involved? If I haven’t heard from you by Friday at 5pm, I’ll assume we should move forward without you.
As a reminder, here’s some quick company highlights:
$100k ARR growing 15%/month.
We are Oxford graduates with a decade of experience in this sector.
Pear VC is leading the $1M round.
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At this point, you should have a clear understanding of what it takes to connect with potential investors. From researching VC firms to crafting your pitch and following up, you now have the tools to approach investors with confidence and conviction. Consider checking out our fundraising resources page for lists of investors, VC firms, accelerators to jumpstart your fundraising efforts!
Remember, investor outreach is not a one-time event, but an ongoing process. Keep refining your pitch and adapting to feedback, and don’t be afraid to reach out to new investors as your business grows and evolves. The most successful entrepreneurs are those who are persistent dedicated to finding ways to improve their business.
Finally, don’t forget that the most important part of investor outreach is building relationships. Investors want to work with entrepreneurs who are passionate, dedicated, and trustworthy. By being transparent and open, and by building a rapport with potential investors, you can create the foundation for a successful and mutually-beneficial partnership.