How to ask your board for introductions

Venture capitalists and your other board members want to help you, and in fact are paid to help you.  As T.A. McCann suggests, you want your VCs ideally to not just make an introduction, but as appropriate, help you close the deal.  However, without some guidance from you, your board/VCs cannot provide you with maximum benefit.

We just received an email last week from a portfolio company that is expanding to NY, asking us for some “introductions” to potential clients.  The email was much too general for any of us to respond appropriately.  I’ve written below an expanded version of the email I sent to the portfolio company exec, outlining the information we need to help support that company.

There are two information chunks necessary to send to your VC in this situation:

1) Send information to the board member about what you are looking for, including:

– preferred title of people to whom you sell
– preferred company size
– preferred company industry
– Any other target parameters that you think will heighten your sales success
– Any other industry players whom you want to meet, e.g., journalists who cover your sector.

2) Send a short email that can be easily forwarded. Don’t just ask to be connected. The connector should essentially be a click away from introducing you to the target. A paragraph about the company and your contact information is suitable.

– Talk about social proof: provide a link to a list of blogs/media praising you, or all of the users tweeting about you. See Tony Wright on ‘how to ask for an introduction’.

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– As Chris Fralic points out, what’s in it for the target? Why should they care about this introduction?

Some VCs prefer a double opt-in introduction.  Personally, I rarely do this, because it takes too much of my time and requires too much of my bandwidth. My friends trust my judgment about the people to whom I introduce them, or else they wouldn’t be my friends.  I use a double opt in primarily with very senior/prominent people, and/or people who are very protective about their email addresses.

Mark Suster points out that VCs “invest in lines, not dots,” meaning that VCs build relationships over time.  As your board makes more introductions for you, and you successfully convert those introductions into increased valuation, the board is motivated to be even more helpful.

Photo from nasarobonaut.  Thank you to Raphaela Sapire for her help researching this post.

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