After a few days of controversial blog posts I thought I’d try something more light hearted today.
Fred Wilson once wrote about the topic of how to introduce two people who don’t know each other via email. He called it the “double opt-in introduction.” He talks about the stuggles of email introductions when you’re dealing at scale. His solution (if I understand it correctly), which I think is more aspirational than achievable is for the introducer to send out emails in advance asking whether or not they want to be introduced. I like that. But for me personally the extra overhead of this means that I can’t do it 100% of the time.
My 2 cents:
- If I feel that I know the person well for whom the introduction is being asked (e.g. the recipient) and if I feel quite confident that they’d want the introduction then I usually go ahead and make it without asking in advance. I use my best judgment. I often say to people, “let me know if you want these kinds of introductions in the future” in a separate email or verbally. Sometimes I forget to ask.
- If I am not sure whether they would really want the introduction then I’ll send them an email in advance asking if they want an intro (the opt in). This obviously adds overhead for me but there are certain people for whom I don’t know if they really want this kind of intro and these people are also usually very busy.
- I try my best to respond to every intro I get. That doesn’t always mean I always have time for a meeting. But I usually at least try to do a quick phone call. If it’s really not relevant I’ll politely say so.
- If I get inappropriate intros I’ll usually accept that one intro but send an email to the introducer and explain to them why this wasn’t a great fit.
- Like Fred, on average I take more of these than I probably should. It means I have less time for stuff I’d like to do. I figure if somebody who I know has gone out of their way to introduce somebody else to me I try my best to honor the relationship that the introducer obviously has with the person being introduced.
- I hope some day to emulate Brad Feld in this area. One of the first times we spoke he told me that in his first few years in VC he ended up taking a bunch of meetings with companies in which he knew he would never invest. He became the “turn down” guy in his fund. He said he found it terribly non-productive because he preferred to reserve time for companies in which he was likely to invest (or portfolio companies). As he now invests in “themes” it is easier to politely turn down intros that aren’t relevant. I’m not there yet – I’d like to be some day. It’s not for elitist reasons – it’s simply a volume problem.
From his blog posting on “Why Am I passing?”
“Over the years – I’ve come up with a set of filters to quickly turn down deals. This is an important process as I want to limit the time I spent investigating companies that I don’t investment in. Rather – I want to maximize my time working with my existing portfolio companies and quickly / deeply evaluating new companies that have a high chance of us funding them.
My first pass filter has three parts to it. The top level filter is “is this in a theme that I’m currently interested in.” If yes, then I try to determine whether or not I think the people involved can create a huge company. If yes, then I often at least spend some time going deeper.”
- One area where I have made in-roads is in the “I’d like to buy you a coffee for 15 minutes and get some career advice” emails from people I don’t know. I really do like to help people so in the early days I took some of these. I simply can’t fit in the time any more. So I often advise these people to find me at a conference and I promise to spend time with them there. I’ve already allocated that time as “general networking time.” I’ve developed a system for the polite “no” in this context.
- Due to the high volume of intro’s occasionally one falls through the crack. This is mostly when it comes in on a “bad email day” (e.g. when I’m in meetings the entire day and have an event in the evening) followed by another one. I try to minimize these.
But I’d like to add one new item to the conversation I’d like to highlight to everybody a trend that I’ve been noticing over the past year and I’ve really been liking. It’s called, “I’m moving you to BCC.”
- If you are the person receiving an introduction you will hopefully respond
- You want to include the person who made the introduction in your response so that he/she knows you’ve followed up
- The problem is that this person often gets caught up in all of the back-and-forth email exchange – usually nothing more than the logistics of setting up the meeting. Huge email overhead.
- If you receive an intro you should move the person who introduced you to the BCC (blind copy) line in your response. That way they know you responded but any follow up emails where somebody hits “reply to all” will avoid copying them on the follow up – freeing up that person’s email box.
So if you provide me with an introduction, it’s very likely that “I’m moving you to BCC” when I respond. You should try it, too.