An investor receives on average 10 unsolicited emails per day. Almost all of them are irrelevant, awkward, or plain bad. No wonder most VCs hate cold emails.
We at OpenVC built this guide with both founders and VCs in mind.
By providing clear, transparent guidelines, we hope to improve the quality of cold emailing, and ultimately see more success for both sides of the table.
Table of Contents
The Golden Rules AKA Don't be a spammer
This is the most important part of the article. Please read it carefully.
It's very easy to become a spammer when you email VCs, because their criteria are so specific. Before emailing VCs, validate the 5 following points:
- Are you VC-fundable? VCs have precise requirements about the types of companies they fund: market size, scalability, capital efficiency, traction... Make sure you qualify before reaching out. Don't pitch a VC without this checklist.
- Is there a thesis fit? Being VC-fundable doesn't mean that you are fundable by all VC firms. Filter your VC list by investment thesis: geography (where your company is incorporated), verticals (SaaS, biotech, web3...), maturity (MVP, PMF, growth...), and cheque size.
- Do you have positive signal? VCs won't invest in completely unproven projects. You need to show 1 or more positive signals: strong traction, significant IP, lead secured for your funding round, an exited founder in your team... Having a prototype or a waitlist is usually not enough. If you're too early, consider accelerators or angels instead.
- Do you customize your emails? Show the VC that you did your homework. Find something relevant about them (blog post, tweet, portfolio company) and use that as a segway to introduce your message.
- Do you know how to cold email? The rest of this article is about how to execute on a great cold email. You need to nail the 3 steps of the cold email: subject, body, deck. Your message must be compelling and crystal clear. And you need to do that with as few words as possible.
23 rules for a killer cold email
We've collected 23 practical rules that you should follow to instantly improve your cold emails
6 rules to improve your email subject
- Keep the email subject under 60 characters. The subject must be readable in full from the notification of a mobile phone.
- Don't write "investment opportunity" or "investment idea" in the email subject. You're wasting precious space with zero-value wording.
- Include one piece of information that shows the VC a thesis fit. For a SaaS VC, "SaaS for supply chain". For a biotech VC "Scaling up gene therapies", etc.
- Include one piece of information that show the VC your project is great. It can be growth (40% MoM growth), signal (lead investor secured), the team (2x exited founder)...
- Include your funding stage. This reinforces the fact that your company may be a good fit for the investor. It also explicits the purpose of your email.
- Include your company name. Not critical, but convenient when searching old emails.
15 rules to boost your email body
- Avoid generic greetings, like "Hi there" or "Dear Sir/Madam". Use the first name of your recipient e.g. "Hi John". If you're emailing a generic address like firstname.lastname@example.org, try something like "Hello SuperVC team".
- Don't call people Sir or Madam. In most cases, it's perfectly fine to go by first name. The only exceptions are with Dr titles (frequent in deeptech, biotech, medtech...) and in some specific geographies where social rules differ.
- Don't apologize for sending an email. No need for "I'm sorry to disturb you" or "I thank you in advance for reading this email". It's unnecessary. Just go straight to the point.
- Don't outsource VC outreach. Especially at early-stage, the email should come from the CEO and nobody else.
- Keep the email body under 1,000 characters. It's a universal rule: the longer the email, the less reply you get.
- Don't ask if you can send your pitch deck in the next email. Attach your pitch deck to begin with.
- Don't add legal mentions to your company name like legal structure (LLC, SAS…) or trademark (TM, C). You are the CEO of Tesla, not Tesla LLC or Tesla TM.
- Use simple words when describing what your company does. Don't say "we're a mobile technology platform that empowers travelers by allowing them to search for the best-rated cars with chauffeurs while securing the financial transaction". Instead, say "we're a mobile app that connects drivers and passengers in a safe and convenient way"
- Don't make vague statements like "the growth has been impressive" or "traction is encouraging". Instead, give numbers "MRR has grown 25% MoM over the past 12 months".
- Don't mention a 20x growth when you've just grown from 1 to 20 users. Investors won't be fooled and it's a sure way to lose your credibility.
- Never write long paragraphs. Write short paragraphs.
- Use bullet points. If you want to expand on 2-3 key points, bullet points are great because they allow the VC to quickly parse your email for them.
- Don't close with a meek CTA, like "I'd love to meet and exchange notes in the spirit of networking" or "We hope to peak your interest for the opportunity to pitch to your fund.". Instead, try a more confident "Looking forward to show you how XXX will change YYY".
- Keep your signature short. There's no need for a fax number and 5 social accounts.
- Don't stuff the email with links and images. They will distract the reader. There should be 1 link (your pitch deck) and zero images. Also, links and images trigger spam filters.
6 rules to strengthen your pitch deck
- Get the basics right. A pitch deck is not a business plan. Your pitch deck should be in slides (landscape format) and in PDF.
- Keep it short. 12 slides is the maximum for a first contact. Don't go into details. Keep things high-level and focus on the key messages.
- Keep the file name clean e.g. "Tesla - Seed round", not "V6 - Pitch deck".
- Host your pitch deck online: Google Drive, DocSend, etc. That way, you can easily track metrics and update the file as needed.
- Use the following resources to build your pitch deck:
- Invest in your pitch deck. Once you have nailed the content, pay a professional designer to redo your deck. It may be frustrating, but it will 2x the amount of time a VC will spend on your pitch deck.
3 rules to win at cold emailing
- Send your email at the right time. Email VCs on weekdays and during working hours to maximize exposure.
- Send from a professional email address. Don't use a generic "gmail.com" or "icloud.com" email address.
- Secure plenty of time for cold emailing. It takes ~10 min to craft one customized email. If you're emailing 100 VCs, that's 16 hours of boring work. Secure a recurring time slot in your calendar and stick to it religiously.
14 cold email examples sent to VCs
We've collected 14 examples of actual, real-life cold emails that were sent to VCs. You can check them out in this post.
Conclusion: If you do it, do it right
Fact: Warm intros are always better than cold emails.
An intro will guarantee you at least 5 minutes of attention - versus 2 seconds for a cold email.
Having said that, even well-connected founders eventually resort to cold emailing: one cannot just get a personal intro to hundreds of VC firms out there.
There's no shame in cold emailing VCs.
Just do it the right way 😊