On the Go with Jay Bigelow - 1

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On the Go with Jay Bigelow - 1
Jay Bigelow's column is part of a regular series. Why Jay? Because, as director of entrepreneurship at the Council of Entrepreneurial Development (CED), he's charged with meeting and learning the needs of entrepreneurs all over this region and connecting them with the resources and people to help achieve their goals.

For the past three months leading up to the CED Tech Venture Conference (see the recap here), the team at CED has been busy making matches between potential investors/corporates and ventures seeking funding/partners. Expanding and utilizing this network is a key pillar in CED’s mission going forward. In many cases, it involves the 'warm introduction.' 

The warm introduction happens when an informed and trusted individual connects two people who don’t know each other, and it's a must if you want to meet new investors. These introductions can come from existing investors, key advisors or other supporters (like CED). Sounds simple enough, but I want to share a best practice for handling them in the most appropriate manner.

Here’s an example of a great approach to take advantage of an introduction: (name & details redacted) 

“(name of friend making introduction), - many thanks for the introduction (moving to you to bcc)

(name of investor), I've been in VC-backed startups in Silicon Valley for over 20 years and just returned to NC last year with my family and my new startup, (xyz). I'd love to set up some time to meet you in person and give you a private look into (product) and how we've been able to (proof point of traction). We also recently won an (validation point #1) and are a (validation point #2).

Let me know when you can find time to meet at (specific event/location and time). I'll be there and would love to talk.”

I am not advocating you follow this as a cookie-cutter template. Above all, be genuine. But from my perspective, this is a great response for four reasons:

  1. It acknowledges the person making the introduction. Good introductions are purposeful. The person making one (match maker) has probably done a good bit of homework to ensure it’s the right connection and is offering an endorsement of you and your venture. You owe that person big time, so be sure to be thankful and bcc the person on your initial correspondence to show you followed up. 
  2. It gives the recipient a few additional personal proof points setting up why this new venture should be successful. Use proof points if you have them, but do not make them up if you don’t. As an alternative, intro with how your background makes you a domain expert and/or shows your passion for the venture.
  3. It provides a very quick summary of the product, its primary benefits, market and stage. This summary is something that the investor may know already (if the match maker may have already done his/her homework and shared some of this), but it is great to see the founder/CEO deliver a clear, crisp and compelling pitch.
  4. It is polite but specific, suggesting a meeting/next steps. Leverage the meetings/conferences you attend to schedule one-to-one meetings with those you need to meet. Don’t invite the person to “stop by your booth.”
Key connections made at the right time by a trusted source can dramatically accelerate your company. Learn to handle them effectively and graciously and you will raise the odds that you’ll get to “yes.”