Written by 4:00 am EU Investment

When to poke the VC bear — writing the perfect follow-up email

You’re a founder raising capital. You’ve found a VC you really want to work with. You send an email and attach your deck. Then… silence.

Founders are often frustrated when they don’t get a reply from VCs. But investors are people too — struggling with overflowing inboxes. Emails can slip through the cracks. 

So when should founders follow up on emails to VCs — and how much persistence is too much? 

Two types of follow-up emails

There are two types of follow-up emails that a founder might write to a VC: follow-up emails after a meeting and following up after a cold email. The principles to timing these emails are more or less the same; the difference is in the content.

We would recommend going with a first follow-up in three days (72 hours). If you don’t hear back, follow up within 48 hours, then about seven days later. Count only working days. And always have a call to action!

The schedule and content of each email

Day 0: The initial letter. Introduction + metrics + pitch deck + CTA (asking for a call), it’s best to send it on Monday between 9 and 11 am.

We came up with this schedule by thinking about how VC analysts or associates work. They are the first port of call for screening companies, so though they may be junior, they are key to your fundraising process. 

“How can you get the attention of these busy people? The answer is by sending your letter at an appropriate time”

Their day consists not only of reviewing and analysing startups, but also calls and meetings, market analysis, reading industry news, preparing materials for the investment committee, due diligence, helping portfolio companies, on and on. How can you get the attention of these busy people? 

The answer is by sending your letter at an appropriate time — a Monday morning is when you have the best chance that the recipient reviews your email. Assuming you have a pitch deck inside, the associate may mark your email with the “I’ll do it later” flag while they proceed to answer other emails. But the first contact has already been made, that’s good!

Day 3 (72 hours later): The first follow-up is a quick reminder of who you are and what you do. Try to add some new information. 

Give a VC the next 72 hours to return to your deck. If they don’t reply, ping them. Our firm has Thursday free of calls and meetings to help us focus on other activities that demand concentration. Other VCs do no-meeting Fridays. That’s why the 72-hour rule works best if the initial letter has been sent on Monday.

Add some additional information, such as more metrics, an offer to introduce clients or do a demo, or a free trial. Let the VC know your timeline for following up so they know you’ll be in touch again. 

Play with the subject — reformulate it, make it shorter or more catchy for instance. This may help to avoid spam filters and also make a VC more willing to open the letter (i.e. the subject was “B2B SaaS startup raising Series A”, the founder could try “$50k MRR SaaS startup seeks for $3m to scale in the UK).

Day 6 (don’t forget the weekend rule): The second follow-up, to be sent on Tuesday. 

Following this schedule, the second follow-up should be done on Tuesday of the next week. Repeat why you think you are the perfect investment opportunity for this VC firm, and ask the investor for a call.

You might mention that you’re sure the investor had a busy week or missed your last email, but that’s okay. Reiterate why you are a match for this VC firm and ask them if they’re still interested. 

Day 13: The last follow-up. This should be sent on Thursday, 13 working days after the first email.

If you still do not get a reply, we suggest a final attempt 13 working days later. In our case, that number comes from the fact that our investment team members on average spend 14 working days preparing an investment case from the due diligence to the term sheet. So we can assume that if they didn’t reply it wasn’t you who didn’t grab their attention, our colleague was simply so deeply involved in closing a deal. 

And one more important note you should always remember: your perfect emails could accidentally land in a spam folder. So use LinkedIn — most VCs won’t mind if you ping them there too. 

The don’ts of follow-ups

So far we’ve discussed how to get communications right with VCs. But there is definitely a wrong way to do things. Here are a few mistakes not to make: 

  1. Don’t ask an investor to sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) before getting any reaction. It will be more reasonable to sign it when you proceed to the pre-deal due diligence stage or in case the VCs are asking for really sensitive data/technology. 
  2. Don’t try to attract a VC by saying that you have already got a term sheet — an offer of investment from another VC — if you’re looking for better terms. Most probably this plan will backfire; nobody loves to make a decision in a rush or under pressure. 

“Don’t try to attract a VC by saying that you have already got a term sheet”

  1. Don’t frame your request in an aggressive or threatening way. “My company is great, so you’d rather be proactive and I will consider your suggestions” is not an acceptable format.
  2. Try to reduce the number of links in your email — letters with many links often fall into a spam folder.

To sum up

Most investors do read all their emails (at least we do), but taking into account the number of such emails, venture capitalists might miss the perfect startup, so don’t be afraid to remind them about yourself and the great investment opportunity which your company most probably is!

Alina Gegamova is head of communications at LETA Capital. 

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