Raising Startup Capital: How to Reach Out to Investors

In addition to the hands-on 3 Day Startup programs we run at universities, we offer a variety of ways to learn more about relevant topics surrounding entrepreneurship when our programs are not in session.

Last month, we partnered with Evan Loomis, Director of Corinthian Health Services, to produce a livestream about raising startup capital. You can view a recording of the session on our website.

Evan was also kind enough to put together a recap of best practices to reach out to investors.

Finding the Best Introduction

First, make sure you have a LinkedIn account. That’s the best way to identify people in your network that know investors.

Being a Good Introducee

For an introducer, an introduction is a dangerous thing. If the introducee misses the meeting, doesn’t do his or her homework, acts rudely, or makes vague or unreasonable requests, it can damage the introducer’s relationships and reputation. Access to someone else’s rolodex is a precious thing. Here are some ways to make sure you don’t take the introduction for granted:

  • Keep all emails as short as possible. Usually, six sentences is the max.
  • Suggest specific times to meet, but be flexible. Put all times in the time zone of the person you’ll be meeting.
  • Be specific about what you are asking for. Never use phrases like, “Can I pick your brain?”
  • Once you meet the investor, remind them who your mutual friend is. Do it quickly and in a way that is complementary. “Our friend Dave speaks very highly of you. He was kind to connect us. It sounds like you guys went to college together.”

Leapfrogging

Everyone knows someone.

Pick five people you know that might be able to help you with your goal and ask if you can bring them coffee for a short conversation. At the end of your meeting, ask, “What two people come to mind that might be helpful here?” Asking for three people is greedy. One is lame. Just ask for two. Give them a minute to think about it and wait for them to name two people. Mention that you’d love an introduction and that you will follow up.

Within a few hours, you should email them a general thank you email and then separate emails for each introduction you need. So, if they offer to introduce you to two people, you’ll send them a total of three emails.

Email 1: General Thank You

Dear [Evan],

Thank you so much for your time and wisdom today. I know you are slammed with [insert something here showing that you are aware and applaud them for their success in what they are doing,] so I’m especially grateful. I’ve been thinking about [insert the one big idea / feedback they gave] since we met; it is a really great way to frame how we are thinking about our business.

Thank you also for the offers to connect me with Jason and Angela. I’ll follow up with separate emails that you can reference to make introductions really easy for you.

Sincerely,
Chris

***Why This is Important: Following up and saying thank you are critical to building a long-term friendship with people you connect with. Make it easy on yourself by preparing your emails ahead of time, so you won’t forget once you’ve shifted your focus to the next contact.

Email 2 and 3:

Dear [Evan],

Thank you so much for meeting with me to discuss our new venture: [insert your company name and tagline here].

Thanks for offering to introduce me to [investors name]. As you mentioned, it sounds like he’d have a lot of insight about [insert the reason they recommended the introduction]. I’d love to connect with him.

Sincerely,

Chris

PS: As background for [investors name], I’ve included a blurb below on [company name] and my background.

About [Company Name]: [150 word description of your company]
About me: [50 words about you]
Optional: [Short pitch deck or executive summary]

***Why This is Important: On your roadshow, you want to make it as easy as possible for people to help you. By creating a separate email to forward along, you get to tell the introducee how to talk about you and all the introducee has to do is hit forward.

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The Different Shades of Jerk (Customer Barriers)

Joel Hestness is the Cofounder of 3 Day Startup and an Computer Science Ph.D. student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

When I first read Steve Blank’s article, Sometimes It Pays to be a Jerk, about a test he ran to filter students from his startup course, I said to myself, “Huh, that’s an elegant result.” But after some thinking, I realized that 3DS has been implementing participant filters in our programs all along, and we’ve experienced these findings as well.  For a standard 3DS program, we layer in numerous mini-tests that filter out weak or unmotivated participants: interviewing applicants, asking them direct questions about their interests and availability, running pre-program bootcamps, and expecting participants to do some work before their program. These barriers help us cut out the participants that may not be invested enough in the process, which allows us to focus on those who are dedicated to being there.

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3 Day Startup Hosts a Pitch Workshop for University of Tokyo Students

3 Day Startup works with students from all over the globe to help them kickstart their startup ideas into viable companies. During SXSW, 3DS hosted a pitch workshop for students from the University of Tokyo. The purpose of the workshop was to help students further refine their elevator pitches for a global audience. Most of the participating teams already had working products or early traction from investors or customers.

Participating students were part of Todai to Texas, a program aimed at bringing the brightest student startups from the University of Tokyo to exhibit at SXSW.

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Should You Drop Out of School to Start a Company?

During SXSW Interactive 2014, 3 Day Startup hosted a panel to discuss a much debated topic among student entrepreneurs: “Should you drop out of school to start a company?” Some of the points discussed included, entrepreneurial timing, the university as a startup platform, and the culture of risk taking.

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The diverse panel of individuals included, Mike Gibson, VP for Grants at the Thiel Foundation, Connie Bourassa-Shaw, Director of the University of Washington’s Arthur W. Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, and Andy O’Hara, Founder and CEO of Chiron Health. Cam Houser, CEO of 3 Day Startup, moderated the discussion.

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Venture for America Tulane Ambassador Experiences 3 Day Startup

Contributor: Ethan Levy, sophomore at Tulane University and Ambassador for Venture for America participated in a 3 Day Startup program hosted at the University of New Orleans. 

VFA recently interviewed Ethan on their blog. Ethan dives into his experience with VFA, 3DS, and how our organizations are helping him launch his venture, ComeFail.

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How Alumni Can Support University Entrepreneurship Education

Entrepreneurship is currently a hot topic and many universities are looking to attract the best aspiring entrepreneurs by expanding course offerings and programs outside of the norm. Entrepreneur.com does a good job of summing up some of these trends in a relevant article.

Many university entrepreneurship programs are funded by endowments or donations from successful alumni. So as a successful alumnus, what can you do to support entrepreneurship education at your alma mater and ensure that your funds will be utilized effectively?

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What Exactly Does an University EIR Do?

Last semester, we asked students, alumni, and faculty to recognize entrepreneurship professors at their universities. We received an overwhelming number of nominations that we vetted and compiled into a list of Top 25 Entrepreneurship Professors of 2013. In an effort to recognize other individuals instrumental in entrepreneurship education at the university level, we opened a ballot to recognize Entrepreneurs in Residence. Surprisingly, we did not receive as many nominations as we hoped for.

To understand why this was the case, we asked various students if they were familiar with the role of entrepreneur in residence at their respective universities. Some students had a firm grasp of what their EIR did and had direct relationships with them through related classes and programs. Many students were somewhat familiar with the concept of an EIR and others had no clue.

This begs the question: What exactly does an entrepreneur in residence at a university do?

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