For a dozen years now I’ve been sending founders (and others) a link to an awesome article on how to write a “forwardable email” from Alex Iskold. Alex is a fellow venture capitalist and is the Managing Partner at 2048 ventures out of New York City. While Alex and I haven’t co-invested yet, we share a bunch of syndicate partners as well as some portfolio funds from my time at Cintrifuse, the fund of funds out of Cincinnati. Our investors at Cintrifuse were the likes of Proctor and Gamble, Kroger, Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Duke Energy, Standard Textiles, Great American Life Insurance, and the University of Cincinnati - to name a few.
All that said, below is the best way to get an introduction to someone in your network that you have a second-order connection to. The highlights are 1) make it frictionless for the connector 2) Ensure your value to the connection is specific and direct and 3) Ensure there is some type of call to action (contact, sign up, please provide insight, etc.)
Now the long form of the above:
My name is Patrick Henshaw and I’m the Managing Director of Render Capital. Render is a ~$30M venture fund focused on two distinct areas of deployment 1) Anywhere in the Midwest / South (said differently non-coastal) and 2) deploying directly in our own backyard of Louisville and Southern Indiana. We have two (essentially) vehicles to deploy this through and you can find more about how we do what we do on our website at Render.capital. We are an open VC fund and don’t require warm introductions - you can apply directly for funding here today and it will go straight to my inbox (and the rest of our team).
Knowing this - introductions from trusted network professionals and especially established / successful founders, funders and customers who know your problem, pain point / solution and your space do add additional validity to your offering.
As a startup founder, getting an introduction is something you'll do frequently. Today we'll discuss forwardable emails, which we want our portfolio of companies to practice and be diligent about to lead to the best and fastest possible outcomes for their respective companies.
Why use a forwardable email? According to Fred Wilson, a long-time VC and partner at Union Square Ventures, double-opt-in is the typical way people (in an ideal world) expect to be introduced. Even if you know the person on the other end of the introduction, you could simply introduce them but often times these asks come from individuals that are either unknown or aren’t direct about the value that they would add to either side of the equation. Best practice is to ask if they're interested and have time to connect. So, you'll need to send an email to inquire. Writing this email from scratch can be time-consuming. You'll need to explain the business, why the connection makes sense, and add a few bits about the founder. Typically this process takes a good 20 minutes to understand who the connection is and what value you bring to the connection as well as what value they could collectively add.
Sending a forwardable email from the founder reduces the friction and frankly the work for the connector, as the founder explains the business and the reason for the introduction. All the connector has to do is click the Forward button, add a sentence or two about their experience with the founder and the company, and send it over.
The structure and style of the forwardable email are important, and if not done correctly, it will create more work for the connector and oftentimes might end in the connector simply (not because they don’t care but just because they are busy) allowing the email to fall below the fold of their inbox and the connection is never made. Many times, I’ve received emails from founders for connections to a list of a dozen or more people and that requires me as the connector who doesn’t know the intimate needs of the founder as well as they do to conduct much deeper digging to understand the need, desire and value that is to be driven. The point is to avoid copy/paste and having to fix the email. In a nutshell, the forwardable email should be addressed to the final recipient. Here's a full example:
From: startupfounder @ founderscompany.com
To: Patrick @ render.capital (yes this is my real email 🙂)
Subject: Patrick (Render Capital) <> Cheryl (VC firm) Intro to Startup Founder at (Amazing founder’s company)
Patrick, thank you for send this note along to Cheryl and her awesome team at (VC Firm)
(Amazing Founder’s Company) is building a B2B platform to help optimize category spend for omnichannel advertising that drives 10x ROI in the first 6 months of use. Here is our Demo Day Pitch (or loom video from founder on their deck) .
We now have over a dozen enterprise clients like Procter and Gamble, Kroger and AirBnb as customers driving omnichannel adoption and attribution from our platform. The Fortune 1000 and middle market companies on our platform are seeing a significant increase in conversion and attribution based on our AI model.
We've been growing across our key metrics 30% MoM and are now expanding through a channel partnerships with 84.51 (Kroger’s digital analytics arm) and WPP (one of the largest media buyers in the US).
I've been a follower of the great investments in our space for years like (portfolio company, portfolio company and portfolio company), and I know we can add value not only as a portfolio company to your investment strategy but also to other portfolio companies like x,y,z where we can help them optimize a,b,c.
When the connector receives this email, they simply click forward and add a few lines on top. For example:
Startup Founder graduated won our Render Capital competition in the fall of last year and has since gone on to scale their revenue of over $50k in MRR. She is a deeply passionate and knowledgeable founder. I highly recommend her and the team and hope you can find the time to connect. Please see more about her business and the ask below.
Looking forward to connecting when I am in NYC next,
When Cheryl receives the email, she can easily see that it's an email asking for an introduction to her, the name of the company is in the subject line, and she can read more about the company and the ask below in the founder’s own words. If she accepts, the introducer can be added to the email and the intro is complete. If she declines, the introducer can reply to the original email with a decline.
By following this style of forwardable email, you'll minimize the friction involved for the connector, and make the introduction process efficient and effective for all parties involved.
Once you're connected, make sure to move the introducer to BCC to spare their inbox from unnecessary additional emails, as their job is done. It is always good practice to wrap back around with the introducer and let them know how or where the introduction went. Especially if the introducer is one of your investors this will help them hone in who and how might be best to connect with next!