Why do investors use boilerplate emails instead of telling you the plain truth?

Most every day I get 2-3 requests to review companies for investment in the seed stage as an individual investor. Since I keep a fairly open network on both LinkedIn and Twitter, I get many folks sending me an email to review their plans. While I do read all of their emails, and send them a response, only 1 in 10 get me to open their plans.

It tends to be fairly easy to decided not to pursue based on their description of the problem or their background. Although I have put my criteria for investment on my blog, rarely do people read it.

I dont think entrepreneurs have internalized the changed landscape for funding of all types.

I do send a quick email to everyone of the people who I dont intend to invest in with a short 1-2 sentence reason. Either its because I dont like the market, the idea or dont believe it will work.

I used to be brutually honest initially (a few years ago) and have mellowed down over the last year. These days if I say I dont have time, it really is the truth. Its not because I dont like the plan or the entrepreneur or the idea. Its just because I dont have the time to evaluate the company.

The main reason I mellowed down was the feedback I heard from many entrepreneurs who had not developed a thick skin that my response was really disheartening and counter productive.

I read today, Paul Graham’s piece on VC boilerplate that Harj Taggar wrote and was amused initially, but the reality is most entrepreneurs prefer to read emails from investors that have some boiler plate stuff rather than the honest truth. I mention most, not all.

Its hard to find know which entrepreneurs prefer the straight up honest truth versus the ones that prefer to get a pat on the back with some encouragement to keep going.

Practically speaking the email from Harj, has 25 sentences too many. If all the email said was “it’s currently a little early for us to step in here.”, that would suffice. If there was more detail, i.e. the number of users, or too few customers, etc. it might help, but really it rarely does.

Why?

Primarily because you get into a shouting match about why the entrepreneur thinks you should be investing at this stage and why you are not an “angel investor” if you wait longer or that you (as an investor) are very risk averse. See comments on my post earlier on what you should have ready before you approach me to get a sense for that.

I invest in very few deals every year (most likely 2) and so do most VC’s. Like most of us we are all pressed for time. Short email responses with quick no should help, but realistically most entrepreneurs dont like that.

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6 thoughts on “Why do investors use boilerplate emails instead of telling you the plain truth?”

  1. Why not use the sandwich technique?
    some appreciation –> hard questions –> pat on the back

    Andersen Horowitz replied to me with something like that 🙂
    Those hard questions helped me figure our some important things.
    It was a clear value add while still not discouraging.

  2. Mukund – Its good that you open all the mails and reply. Many a Time, I wonder as to why VC’s and Angels who openly solicit business plans on their websites ( By having a ‘ Submit your Business Plan’) do not even have the courtesy of acknowledging and reading the business plans submitted. Yes I know they get a large number of business plans, however if they are not equipped and staffed to read the business plan they should not be soliciting them on the website in the first place.

    Raj

    1. I can understand how investors get “swamped” with email. They typically have 3-4 board meetings, multiple follow ups and many new entrepreneurs looking to waste time. Its not unusual to get 500+ emails a day for most good investors. A few will be missed. I try to respond to all emails, but I am sure I have missed a few as well.

      1. I am not mentioning about responses to Emails. I understand that one cannot respond to all emails. I am referring to ‘Business Plans’ submitted through their ‘ Submit your Business Plans’. Link on their websites. My point was if they do not have time to go through the Business Plans they solicit, they should not be soliciting the same.

  3. There is another good reason to send out boilerplate, but very polite replies. What if the company you thought was going nowhere, gets big? VCs need a face saving way to get back in at later rounds. No point in saying No vehemently when a boilerplate alternative, polite excuse would have been sufficient and in your own interests!

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