Getting the attention of investors isn't easy.
Venture capitalists turn down thousands of offers from prospective entrepreneurs each year and receive multiple funding requests every day.
While having industry connections undoubtedly helps, cold emails, if done right, can be a very effective method of spearheading a company's fundraising efforts.
But how do you get the attention of a busy VC whose inbox is glutted with requests?
Niv Dror, founder of San Francisco-based firm, Shrug Capital, has been on both sides of the equation. Dror singlehandedly raised his own fund with contributions from high profile VCs like Founder Fund's Cyan Banister as well as Marc Andreessen and Chris Dixon of Andreessen Horowitz.
In an effort to raise his own fund, Dror spent a lot of time thinking about what makes the perfect pitch.
Now that he's receiving scores of cold emails from entrepreneurs by the day, Dror is offering his insights to founders seeking funding.
Here are his tips on effectively pitching an investor:
1. Keep your subject line simple.
"If you have some really clever-sounding subject line, it comes off as gimmicky," said Dror. "It needs to be authentic."
Your best option in getting an investor to open your email is to keep your subject line as straightforward and simple as possible.
2. Make it personal.
You should be focusing on cultivating a personal connection from the very first sentence, suggests Dror.
"Make it very clear that it's personal. Offer up a sentence about yourself. The person on the other end of the email is wondering, 'Who are you? Why are you emailing me?' Give your name, say what you do, and then get straight to the point."
3. Don't apologize, ever.
Dror says he often receives emails from people who apologize for taking up his time.
While the person sending the email might think the apology makes them seem more considerate, Dror says it's more likely to rub him the wrong way.
"When you email an investor, don't be like 'Hey, sorry for emailing you. By the way, do you want to invest $100,000 of your own money in this thing I'm making?'"
The issue with this, says Dror, is that it makes it seem as though the sender of the email doesn't value their own time.
"When people say things like, 'Hey, sorry for emailing, I know you're very busy,' it shows that they don't respect their own time. You're essentially telling the other person: 'I don't value my own time. I value your time more. Your time is more important than mine.'"
4. Don't ask for anything.
"The worst thing you can do is ask for something in a cold email," said Dror. "Don't ask people for anything, especially busy people who have a lot on their minds."
It might sound counterintuitive to fire off a request for funding and not ask for money, but Dror says that this all boils down to a matter of framing your request properly.
Write your pitch not as a request for money, but as an opportunity for the investor.
"Say 'Hey, I have this. You want in?'" said Dror. "You're not asking for money, you're giving them an opportunity to invest. It's always an opportunity for the other person."
5. Don't connect over trivial coincidences.
Dror says attempting to connect over generalities can come off as shallow.
For instance, remarking on a shared incubator or university connection might read as a superficial ploy for attention.
"It comes off as dumb," said Dror.
7. Demonstrate credibility.
"You need to clearly demonstrate why and how you're credible for what you're asking," said Dror. "If you say, I graduated from Stanford, that doesn't really help."
Instead, back up every claim you make with clear and concrete examples.
The best way to make your point? Prop up your pitch with hard numbers, user feedback, analytics, and data.
8. Anticipate their questions.
A well-placed pitch thinks ahead and foresees any questions a prospective investor might have.
"With every line, you need to anticipate what the other person is thinking," said Dror. "You have to think about what they will ask or what they will want to know."
9. Don't tell them what to think.
An effective pitch will show, not tell.
"You can't tell people what to think," said Dror. "Don't say things like, 'This is gonna be huge!' Everyone does this. They say what they want someone to think. Sure, it might be true, but you need to give them proof."
9. When in doubt, send a compliment.
Sometimes laying the groundwork for an investment takes time.
Dror says that establishing contact with an investor through a brief, complimentary email can sometimes be an effective method.
"For example, you could say, 'Hey, I really liked that article your wrote, it was really helpful,'" said Dror. "They'll likely respond with a thank you. Now, you're in a conversation."