Making introductions is one of the most rewarding things we do as backers and builders of startups, and as affiliates of Bloomberg — where we love bringing promising startups to the attention of a company we admire.
If you ask me for an introduction, I’ll introduce you to literally anyone I know if I believe it’s likely to be in their interest. (And I’m a fan of the opt-in intro*, where I ask the receiver if they’re willing before I introduce you.)
If you ask me to introduce you to someone, I’ll sometimes say:
“Please write me an email I can forward to them.”
You’d be shocked how often I get back something unusable (or, put differently, something unlikely to achieve your goal of connecting with the receiver of the intro).
To save us both time, here’s what I mean when I ask for a forward intro email.
First, why do I ask for this, specifically? (Compared to, say, “please send me a blurb about your company,” or “draft me an email I can send” or some other way to get things going?) It lets you do the things you’re best at — describing who you are, what your organization does, why you want to talk to the receiver, speaking in your own voice, etc. And I do only the things I’m best at — knowing the receiver, and sharing my opinion of you. It also optimizes for me spending as little time as possible, so I can make your introduction as quickly as possible.
When you send me this kind of forward intro email, I’ll literally hit “forward” and write something like “Hey James, I just met this founder and thought she was onto something — take a look at the below, do you want to talk?”
When the receiver replies, usually with a “sounds great,” I’ll just add you to the chain and it’s done (vs. having to then write yet another email introducing you both).
A good forward intro email…
- Says why you want to be introduced
- Includes its own context — enough about you or your startup so that the receiver understands what’s being asked. If it’s missing context (like what your startup does), then I’m spending time adding that (and possibly mangling it). Always helpful if it includes what’s special about your startup, increases the likelihood the person will want to meet you. Attach a file if you think it makes sense (a deck, or a longer summary, or a screenshot, whatever).
- Uses only as many words as you need — the receiver is going to glance at the email, and decide whether to talk to you. A recap of other things we talked about when we met distracts.
- Sounds like you — I really have zero preference about whether you’re formal or loose, so emoticon away.**
- Starts a fresh chain, with a fitting subject line, for each introduction — if you write a forward intro email as a reply to a long string between us (including, for example, us talking about whether it makes sense for you to speak to the receiver) that costs me time. I’m editing all that out, re-titling the email, etc. — delaying your intro. Subject lines like “Forward intro email for Karin” also cost me time to fix.
Here’s an example for one I just got that works well (I only have one suggestion, see after you read the email)…
————— Forwarded message —————
From: Alyssa Ravasio
Date: Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 9:35 AM
Subject: Intro to Hunter Walk
To: Roy Bahat
I think Hunter Walk / Homebrew would be an amazing investor for Hipcamp. I love their emphasis on the bottom up economy. This resonates deeply with our mission and personal goals as well, since parks are engines of local economies.
Here’s a bit more about our company:
Hipcamp helps people discover and book campsites and cabins, a $3B market that has remained stagnant and fragmented since the 90’s. They are bringing the world’s public campgrounds online, unlocking access to private lands for camping, and ultimately, getting more people outside.
Dave Morin’s Slow Ventures is leading our seed round, we’re oversubscribed but can make room by reducing the allocation on Angel List. I’d love to connect with Hunter soon to explore if this is a good fit.
(What’s the one suggestion? Fix the subject line. When that lands in Hunter’s inbox, it turns into something meaningless to him. “Hipcamp intro to Hunter” might be better. Otherwise, it’s letter perfect and, Alyssa, good luck with your raise.)
Please avoid confusing a forward intro email with similar-sounding things I believe are worse:
- “Please draft an email I can send.” This is inevitably time-consuming and difficult for you to do well, because you have to guess at my voice, and at the nature of my relationship with the receiver. I’ll inevitably have to spend time editing it, which delays your intro.
- “Please send me a blurb I can use.” This is a mini-version of the same issue, if it’s being sent in my voice I inevitably tweak it. And, if your blurb is complete enough, it might as well just be a forward intro email.
- Reminder emails. I do sometimes ask for this, a quick one-liner to remind me I promised to make an introduction. I ask for this when I know you and the other person so well that I need no additional ammo and it’s just as fast for me to write the full thing myself.
- Lists of introductions I need to make. Sometimes, I’ll talk to someone and agree to introduce them to more than one receiver. If I get an email from you that says “Hey great talking, thanks for being willing to introduce me to X, Y, Z” that creates a lot of work for me. Same with “Can you introduce me to some customers?” New chain for each introduction, edit out each person’s name from the other ones (especially if I am introducing you to two people who are competitors!), etc.
So now, when I ask for a forward intro email, you know what I mean. A lot of hoopla for a simple intro? I want us all to shave complexity off the process of knowing each other. And when you make introductions 5-10 times a day, you could be making thousands of intros per year. It adds up, and it’s important to get right. People are the currency of the realm.
* Fred Wilson popularized the double opt-in intro where both sides agree to take the introduction. In principle, I agree with him 100%. In practice, it’s rare that I proactively decide to introduce two people without already being in conversation with one of them — so one side has almost always already opted in.
** I am, repeatedly, surprised by the different work cultures on the East and West Coasts, and in technology vs. other industries; it even extends to introductions. California intros, and intros in technology everywhere, tend to be shorter, less formal. New York intros, or intros in other industries (or non-profits) tend to be more professional.
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