Monday, April 21, 2008

How to Get a VC's Attention

Trying to get money for your great idea can feel a lot like trying to penetrate the “popular crowd” in high school. The fawning, the preening, the right clothing labels, wittily delivering the just-so-perfect cutting remark at exactly the right time. It’s exhausting. How do you “become cool,” bridge the social/economic gap and actually get inside the inner circle where the money is? Here is shortlist of tips to get the venture capitalist’s attention via Guy Kawasaki:

1. Get an introduction by a partner-level lawyer: He/she should work at a firm that does a lot of VC financing work. Best-case email/voicemail says: “This is the most interesting company I’ve seen in my 20 years of legal work for startups.” VCs dream about calls like this. Side note: this is why you should pay top dollar and use a well-known corporate finance attorney instead of Uncle Joe the quicky divorce lawyer. You’re paying for connections, not just expertise.

2. If you’re in tech, get an introduction by a professor of engineering: Best-case email/voicemail: “This team is the smartest one I’ve seen in 20 years of teaching computer science. Larry and Sergie would have carried their backpacks for them.”

3. Get an introduction by the founder of a company in the VC’s portfolio: Best-case email/voicemail: “My buddies are starting a new company, and I think it’s really worth a look.” It helps if the person making the call is from a successful company in the VC’s portfolio. Tap into your LinkedIn network to find acquaintances in the VC’s portfolio. (Maybe it’s just me, but it bugs me when a connection of a connection of a connection wants me to connect them to someone who will look at a deal. LinkedIn enables you to just make direct contact, and that’s my advice… IF you can show success *see tip No. 4*. If you can’t show success, the connection of a connection of a connection is useless anyway.

4. Show success: If you can’t get any of the above types of introductions, the most compelling email/voicemail you can make is: “My buddy and I have been working in our garage, taking no pay,a nd we built a site that is doubling in traffic every month. Right now, we’re at 250,000 page view a day after 30 days.” With these two sentences you’ve proved to investors that you can make a little bit of money (none) go far, your architecture looks scalable so far, and—most important—the dogs are already eating the food.

5. Make sure your company is in the right space: No matter how you get to the venture capitalist, make sure he/she is the right one for you. After all, there’s no use pitching to someone who can’t help you. If have the cure for cancer, contacting a firm’s enterprise software guru isn’t much help, so do your homework.

6. Send a short email: The ideal length is three or paragraphs, and make sure it covers these points—
a. What the company does
b. What problem you are solving
c. What’s special about your technology/ marketing/ expertise/ connections
d. Who you are

These methods can help you become a part of the moneyed in-crowd with their exclusive entourage… what happens next is up to you.

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