When it comes to getting a venture capitalist to actually read your business plan, there’s no better way than through a personal introduction. But if you can’t get a friend or business associate to arrange a meet-and-greet with a VC (or simply don’t know anyone in the loop), then what? It’s unfortunately a question that continues plaguing scores of everyday entrepreneurs who aren’t well-connected. A few weeks ago though, a panel of top venture capitalists—from firms like Sequoia Capital, Kleiner Perkins, and Clearstone Ventures—shed some light on the subject. Each of them answered the question, “How can someone get you to look at a business plan if they don’t know anyone in your network (e.g. outside Silicon Valley elite, didn’t go to Stanford)?” and their tips were actually useful! We’ve rounded up their comments (which we swiped from Tim Ferriss’ blog) and have listed them below. We can’t promise that these tips will actually keep your business plan out of an investor’s trash box—but they’ll certainly give you a better shot:
1) Say hi at conferences and various organizations’ events. Says VC Prashant Shah of Hummer Winblad, “At Hummer Winblad we do actually look at all the plans submitted to us. We are fine with people contacting us directly. We are also active in our own outreach. You can frequently find us speaking at events by TiE, Astia, SDForum and other groups. We enjoy meeting entrepreneurs at these organizations.”
2) Keep your pitch email grabby and short. “Make unbelievable claims that will grab my attention. Keep the email as short and to the point as possible so that it is easy to understand what the pitch is,” says Ajit Nazre of Kleiner Perkins.
3) Use social networking sites to make a connection. “With the advent of tools like LinkedIn and other networking sites, you don’t have to be a member of the Silicon Valley elite or a Stanford alumnus to connect with a venture capitalist. Throwing a business plan over the transom and into the general email box puts you in a very noisy place. On the other hand, spending some time to navigate any relationships you might have to get some sort of warm introduction is worthwhile and shows the kind of scrappiness that venture capitalists admire. If that approach is not fruitful, find out what organizations the VC is involved with (for example, TiE or VCNetwork, or an industry group around Cleantech), and attend an event at which he or she is speaking,” says VC Anil Patel of Clearstone Venture Partners.
4) Gain traction for your business first. Says Ravi Mohan, co-founder of Shasta Ventures: “Have some company building success, to get attention for your company. Get some PR to make it on VentureWire, Tech Crunch, etc. and then email and call the venture firm.”
Check out the full post on the panel here, which also contains tips on pitching VCs, business models, and more.