The question I get asked most often is “would Homebrew like to invest in my startup” (and we do our fair share of chasing too -> “please let us invest in your startup!”). The question I get asked second most often is “if not Homebrew, will you introduce me to some VCs who would like to invest in my startup.” There’s a reason why I won’t – because it means putting my reputation on the line for a founder I don’t really know. And in this business, reputation is very important. That said, Satya and I have made introductions on deals we looked deeply at but passed — in at least two cases these intros resulted in funding. And in many other cases we’ve pinged investors who I thought might be interested even though I didn’t look closely at the deal (usually because it was outside of our themes). What set these entrepreneurs apart from the ones where I just hit ‘archive?’ A lot. So here’s my guide to getting a VC to introduce you to other VCs:
1. DO some work upfront. DON’T just ask me to identify investors for you
Which of these is more likely to gain a response?
(a) “Hi Hunter. We exchanged some Twitter messages. I know you don’t invest in social gaming startups but do you know any investors who do?”
(b) “Hi Hunter. We exchanged some Twitter messages. I know you don’t invest in social gaming startups but I’m not from the Valley and was hoping you could give me some guidance. I checked AngelList and Crunchbase. Funds 123, 456, and 789 all seem to invest in seed stage social gaming startups. Do you think any of these three would be particularly good for me to approach?”
I receive 20 versions of (a) for every one of (b). It’s never been easier to get a sense of what industries and stages are preferred by various investor segments. Do some work upfront and then ask for confirmation, rather than just open-ended asking a VC who they recommend for your company. (b) also leaves the door open to me actually making those introductions because you’re starting to engage me in specific directed conversation.
2. DON’T tell other investors that “Hunter suggested” you reach out if I didn’t actually say you could use my name
If we’ve ever corresponded public or privately and I’ve said something like “so-and-so angel investor is really good” you can’t use that to approach said person with a “Hunter Walk suggested we get in touch” subject line. When an entrepreneur says they were referred to me by a mutual friend, I always immediately forward that note to said friend and 95% of time get back a response that suggests the founder is exaggerating the relationship. This isn’t hustling, it’s borderline duplicitous. I don’t like to be on either end of these ‘endorsements.’
3. DON’T expect me to write your pitch email for you
When I agree to make the intro, send me a new fresh email for each one you want me to forward. Roy Bahat at Bloomberg Beta gives a nice outline of what an intro email should look like. You can even forward me a sample intro email and ask for any feedback. I’m glad to look that over (but won’t always be able to spend time on your deck or product).
4. DO follow-up with me post-introduction
Close the loop. After I make an introduction you don’t have to give me a play-by-play but I’d like to know if it ended up going anywhere. I’ve had founders who didn’t tell me that one of my introductions resulted in an investment from another angel/fund. It’s not just rude but it’s a chance to continue building our relationship. I want to cheer you on!
5. DO update me periodically with news about your progress
Even if all you eventually want from me are funding introductions, you shouldn’t go quiet in-between these requests. Putting me on your “friends of” email update is a great way to keep me passively in the loop. Just ask first but personally I’ve never said ‘no’ to anyone. If we’ve gotten this far, I’m definitely curious about how you progress.
Hopefully that helps you get more investor <> investor introductions. Throw any questions into the comments and I’ll respond.
*Note, I’m talking specifically about introductions when Homebrew wouldn’t be investing, not syndicating a deal where we are participating.