Founders of countless Internet startups are looking for investors, partners, and customers. In many ways, they are very much like job hunters. With that in mind…
If you were looking for a job and had the email address of a hiring manager at Google, would you send the following note? (All these examples are almost fictitious.)
Hi. I need a programming job. See my resume attached and call me.
Should you send the following note to Facebook?
I am very talented and can make you lots of money. If you are interested, we should talk now about giving me a job. Send me your Skype name. I can talk to you at 2:00 p.m.
How about these?
I don't know what your company does, but I need to work for you. Look over my stuff at my Website, and then let me know when I can start.
Review this information about my online gaming startup. If you can't understand it, I will understand. But thanks for your time.
Finally, how about sending this one to MySpace?
I have attached copies of everything I have ever done. Read through it all, and let me know what kind of job you will give me.
Believe it or not, I get at least one email every day from an Internet startup that pretty much duplicates the above statements. Come on, guys!
Now that Twitter is around, I also get 140-character queries like "check this out n let be prtners." (That was a real one!) I know people are getting used to communicating in sometimes illegible sound bites, but is this online branding startup serious?
I will immediately file virtually all of these communications away. OK, I lied. I file all of them away.
Last week, a social media startup sent me an email that had 130 megabytes of attachments (pdfs, docs, etc.). The CEO of the startup asked me to review them and give my thoughts and recommendations. Filed away!
At least that one was short. The messages I hate the most are the rambling texts with a hundred links and no real information -- unless I am willing to click and read everything on the Web. And if I do feel adventurous (and willing to face the threat of Trojans invading my machines), I will often find that the URLs are wrong or down or outdated by years. I got two Trojans last week by following links provided to me by startups. Sending me a virus always inspires me to do business with someone.
If you want someone to give you money or advice or work with you to drive the success of your startup, then your emails and/or messages need to make you look professional, respectful, and educated. Otherwise, the CTO of a billion-dollar company isn't going to respond to you at all. The angel investor is going to blacklist your email address. About the only people who will respond quickly are founders of other Internet startups who want to partner with you and use your startup to fix the problems in their startups.
You usually have one chance to communicate the amazing opportunity your Internet startup can deliver. Don't blow it by being lazy. Be professional, articulate, and brief yet thorough. Explain who you are, what your startup does, what market it is in, why your product or service is unique, and why you are contacting the particular individual. Ask if that individual would like to learn more.
Don't ask for money, referrals, or reviews, and don't ask the individual to join your board. Save that for future communications when you have a professional relationship. Thank them for their time and consideration.
Best of luck.
— David Croslin is CEO of the consulting firm Innovate the Future. He has reviewed thousands of companies as a consultant and as a member of the mergers and acquisitions teams at HP and Verizon.