I get about 10 emails or LinkedIn messages a day from entrepreneurs and potential entrepreneurs who are seeking help. About 2 of them will be referrals, but most are prospecting cold, either having read somewhere that I am an investor or looking at my profile on LinkedIn and hoping to connect.
I tend to read most (not all) messages) and am still not sure on which ones I do read and which ones I am unable to. I know that the ones I get referred to from known or trusted connections will get a response from me, but a good % of those that are cold also get a response.
Over time I started to notice when I do respond – the easy no is the fastest response, the easy action gets a response as well. The ones that require me to do a lot of thinking, work to connect, look up another piece of information or a lot of cut and paste get ignored.
I have an entrepreneur who is very tactical and is a friend who only reached out to me when he need to connect with one of my contacts. Initially I would do it since I’d want to help, but over time it has waned – it has become a chore to connect him to my connections – not because I dont want to, but because it involves my going to two different email boxes (Outlook for work, vs. Gmail for personal) which involves more than 30 seconds and I lose interest.
Over time I have figured out the things that will get you a response (quick yes or no) and those that will get you a favorable response (mostly this means the potential target is willing to give you time – for a meeting, for a call, for advice, etc.).
When the bar for the response is high, and especially when I dont know the person, expect a quick “no” response. For e.g. even if you are referred to me and your first request is for either an investment or an mentor opportunity, 99% of the time I would say no. That seems strange given that I might miss a “great” opportunity, but I am okay with that. Lack of time forces me to miss great opportunities, and I have found that my own sourced opportunities to invest generate a bigger return (so far) than the ones referred to me.
There is no shortage of warm introductions that most of us get from others, so the bar is now getting even higher on what requires a response.
A quick yes response is usually to a specific question that I may have written about before, which requires me to refer the person to a blog post.
A no response is when the person is not clear about what they want. Unfortunately I get 40% of emails of this type.
Do you want to have me invest? Do you want me to refer you to someone else? Do you want an introduction to an investor? Would you like to apply to the accelerator in India and need my referral? Or do you want me to mentor you? Or would you like feedback on you product?
When it is not clear after reading 3 sentences what your ask of me is, I will likely not respond at all.
“I’d like 30 min of your time to tell you about my new idea” is hard to justify time for. When I know 2 sentences will explain your product or idea, why would I be willing to spare 30 min? If you cannot explain it in a short sentence or two, then there’s more refinement needed on your part, which means there’s more work to be done.
I like napkin stage companies, but clarity of problem is what I expect at napkin stage.