You are a founder raising capital. You have found a VC you really want to work with. You send an email and attach your deck. Then… silence.
Founders often get frustrated when they don’t get a response from VCs. But investors are people too – struggling with overflowing inboxes. Emails can slip through the cracks.
So when should founders follow up on emails to VCs — and how much persistence is too much?
Two types of follow-up emails
There are two types of follow-up emails a founder can write to a VC: post-meeting follow-up emails and post-cold email follow-up. The principles for synchronizing these emails are more or less the same; the difference is in the content.
We recommend going with an initial follow-up in three days (72 hours). If you don’t hear back, follow up within 48 hours and then about seven days later. Only count working days. And always have a call to action!
The timing and content of each email
Day 0: The initial letter. Introduction + metrics + pitch deck + CTA (call request), it is best sent on Monday between 9am and 11am.
We came up with this timeline thinking about how analysts or venture capitalists work. They are the first port of call for select companies, so although they are juniors, they are essential to your fundraising process.
“How can you get the attention of these busy people? The answer is by sending your letter at the appropriate time”
Their day consists of not only reviewing and analyzing startups, but also making calls and meetings, analyzing the market, reading industry news, preparing documents for the investment committee, due diligence, help with portfolio companies, etc. How can you get the attention of these busy people?
The answer is by sending your letter at an appropriate time – a Monday morning is when you’re most likely to have the recipient review your email. Assuming you have a pitch deck inside, the associate can flag your email with the “I’ll do it later” flag while responding to other emails. But the first contact has already been made, that’s good!
Day 3 (72 hours later): The first follow-up is a quick reminder of who you are and what you do. Try adding new information.
Give a VC the next 72 hours to return to your deck. If they don’t respond, ping them. Our firm has free calls and meetings on Thursday to help us focus on other activities that require focus. Other VCs do not meet on Fridays. This is why the 72 hour rule works best if the initial letter was sent on Monday.
Add additional information, such as more measurements, an offer to introduce customers or do a demo, or a free trial. Let the VC know your follow-up schedule so they know you’ll be in touch again.
Play with the subject, reformulate it, make it shorter or more catchy for example. This can help avoid spam filters and also make a VC more willing to open the letter (i.e. subject was “B2B SaaS startup raise Series A”, founder might try “$50k MRR SaaS startup is looking for $3m to scale in the UK).
Day 6 (remember the weekend rule): The second follow-up, to be sent on Tuesday.
According to this schedule, the second follow-up should be carried out on Tuesday of the following week. Repeat why you think you are the perfect investment opportunity for this venture capitalist and ask the investor to call you.
You might mention that you’re sure the investor had a busy week or missed your last email, but that’s okay. Reiterate why you are a match for this venture capital firm and ask if they are still interested.
Day 13: The last follow. This should be sent on Thursday, 13 working days after the first email.
If you still don’t get a response, we suggest a final attempt 13 business days later. In our case, this figure comes from the fact that the members of our investment team spend an average of 14 working days preparing an investment file, from due diligence to the term sheet. So we can assume that if they didn’t respond, it wasn’t you who didn’t catch their attention, our colleague was just so deeply involved in getting a deal done.
And another important note that you should always remember: your perfect emails might accidentally end up in a spam folder. So use LinkedIn – most VCs won’t care if you ping them there too.
Prohibitions of follow-ups
So far, we’ve discussed how to establish good communications with VCs. But there is definitely a wrong way to do things. Here are some mistakes not to make:
- Don’t ask an investor to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) until you get some feedback. It will be more reasonable to sign it when you go to the pre-deal due diligence stage or in case the VCs ask for really sensitive data/technology.
- Don’t try to lure a VC by saying you already have a term sheet – an investment offer from another VC – if you’re looking for better terms. Most likely, this plan will backfire; no one likes to make a decision in haste or under pressure.
“Don’t try to entice a VC by saying you already have a term sheet”
- Do not phrase your request in an aggressive or threatening manner. “My company is great, so you prefer to be proactive and I will consider your suggestions” is not an acceptable format.
- Try to reduce the number of links in your email – letters with many links often end up in a spam folder.
Most investors read all of their emails (at least we do), but given the number of those emails, venture capitalists might be missing out on the perfect startup, so don’t be afraid to remind them of you and the great investment opportunity that your business most likely is!
Alina Gegamova is Head of Communications at LETA Capital.