One of the great things about Silicon Valley is the genuine pay it forward attitude toward anyone, and I mean, everyone.
It’s crazy to admit since this is (literally) one of the most competitive cities in the world. Startups journey to the Valley to place their company on the maps. Shooting for that ‘unicorn’ status. Heck, maybe even IPO.
Fostering your success is on full-support within a 50 mile radius. No one left behind.
As long as you do it correctly, that is.
That’s what we’re covering in this post today. I’ll give you a rundown of how to not only ask for help, but ask for the most valuable type of help given in SV – intros.
Point 1: When to ask for intros
During the first weeks of our startup accelerator, we ensure that the foreign founders in our fleet is aware of this cultural phenomenon here. The European culture, for example, frowns upon asking for help because it shows weakness, which is certainly not the case...
You should always be curious.
It’s important to understand that asking for help is something you should do often as an entrepreneur. Well, it’s a best practice for anyone really.
Basically, anytime is a good time to ask for help, however, you must be well-prepared with company milestones and proof of traction. We’ll talk about what you need to have prepared next.
Point 2: What do I need for an intro?
Your goal is to create a ‘forwardable intro email’ for the person you’re asking to introduce you.
The purpose for a forwardable intro is to make it easy for intro-er.
I know it sounds obvious, but when you ask for an intro to someone in SV as a foreign founder, do it in english!
You can't imagine the number of intro requests our General Partners receive in French.
It’s great to connect with your cultural similarities, but it’s not considered a forwardable email since it would need to be translated before they do the intro. More work for the intro-er will make it less likely to be forwardable.
So what’s considered a forwardable intro email?
Glad you asked ;)
Rules for a successful forwardable intro email:
1. One sentence explaining what’s up to the introducer
2. Who you want an intro to
3. What your startup is doing now
4. How would (X) benefit from meeting you
5. Why you want to meet (X)
6. Data! (traction in numbers)
7. 3 milestones in bullet points
8. Add your AngelLink
9. End with a call-to-action (i.e., request a meeting)
Don’t be intimidated by this. It’s actually not bad at all.
When you put this into an email, you should have no more than 4 paragraphs and your milestone bullet points.
Point 3: Who to ask for an intro
You should figure out who you want to get introduced to.
Really map out why you need to meet this person versus anyone else. This process will allow you to identify your core purpose for meeting person (X).
Who should I ask, though?
PRO TIP: The Refiners has a Network page dedicated for our entire network of entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors. A smart thing would be to see who on that list has a connection with the person you’re trying to meet, then reach out to The Refiners to get you an intro :)
Point 4: How to ask for the intro
First and foremost, your best bet is to ask for an intro via email.
Remember how I talked about creating ‘forwardable intro email’? Well, this is the reason why email is your best platform (aside from a face-to-face intro, obviously).
Here’s an example of an intro email from Tristan Pollock’s Medium post:
Subject: Intro to [Investor] at [Fund Name]
I would like to get in touch with [Investor Name] from [Fund Name]. They have a very strong portfolio of [business type] with [company 1], [company 2], [company 3] and would be a great strategic fit with [your company name].
Forwardable email part:
Below is a quick blurb you can forward.
[your company name] is a [explain your business in one sentence]. Think of it as [example businesses like you].
– MRR / ARR is $X
– Growth is Y% average of past 3-6 months
– Average transaction size is $X or Raised $Z from notable investors A, B, C
We are raising our seed round and would love to talk.
You can download the app here: [insert website] or visit our AngelList Profile.
Point 5: After you request the intro
It’s up to the introducer to decide whether they want to forward your email or not. A lot of things come into play: excitement about your product, the founders, team, market.
If they decide they are, they’ll more than certainly forward your email to person (X).
Please, please, please remember that if you get the intro via email, you make the first reply no later than 24 hours!
A quicker response shows that you live the Silicon Valley response rule and that you’re on your A-Game.
Point 6: Thank your Intro-er
In your (hopefully within 24 hour) reply, you must always thank your introducer at the top of the email and BCC them as a way to show you’re accepting the email.
And it shows that you actually got the email.
Here’s an example of how to thank your intro-er:
If you don’t get a reply from person (X) after your initial response (i.e., your acceptance email), wait at least one full day to reach out.
You’re allotted one follow-up then you maybe contact your introducer to find out what happened.
Always be thankful and respectful toward everyone. You never know who you might know that knows person (X). It’s unwise to burn any bridges you have in Silicon Valley.
Don’t forget to adopt the pay it forward attitude so when it does come back around, it’ll be well-deserved.
Tell us how you've made an introduction for someone. What things do you look for before you decide to make the intro? Let us know in the comments below.
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