The Investor Email Pitch

A great Email Pitch won't guarantee you a meeting with an investor, but a bad one will definitely prevent one! In this section of our Funding Playbook, we share how to craft the perfect Email Pitch to increase your odds of an investor's response.

July 28th, 2022   |    By: The Startups Team

Continuing in Phase Four of a four-part Funding Series:

Phase One - Structuring a Fundraise

Phase Two - Investor Selection

Phase Three - The Pitch

Phase Four - Investor Outreach

Let’s dive in!

Nearly all potential investors require a solid email pitch before they are willing to take a meeting with a startup. A great Email Pitch won't guarantee you a meeting, but a bad one will definitely prevent one! Therefore, creating the perfect Email Pitch is essential if you want an investor to respond.

The perfect Email Pitch is very tight — just a few very well-crafted sentences to create a great first impression and nothing more. The goal is simply to pique a potential investor's interest to follow up, nothing more.

We see a lot of email pitches from startup founders who keep replicating the same early mistakes with cold emails that just wind up going directly to the investor's spam filter! Fortunately, these are really easy to correct for so long as you really understand your target audience and write accordingly.

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Key Ingredients of a Pitch Email Template

Investors hear hundreds of pitches per month, but in each case, they are looking for a few key ingredients that make them lean in and ask for a follow-up. We don't want to write anything in our email pitch that doesn't directly address the typical pain points an investor cares about.

Here's a quick look at the Key Ingredients to a perfect pitch email and what investors are asking themselves:

  • Subject Line - "Should I open this?"

  • Personal Connection - "Is this person legit?"

  • Elevator Pitch - "What do they do?"

  • Traction - "Does this company have momentum?"

  • Team - "Can they pull it off?"

  • Social Proof - "Can someone credible vouch for them?"

  • The Ask - "How much are they raising?"

Our email pitches need to incorporate these key elements and the "founder vision" with all of our investor emails using as few words as possible!

Subject Line

Just like you, investors get tons of cold emails, and just like you, they ignore most of them. Investors are regular people that are trying to make sense of all the pitching emails, cold emails, and general noise in their inbox like everyone else. So, it helps if you can make their lives a little bit easier by catching their attention in the right way with the right subject line that avoids the dreaded spam filters.

Professional email marketers will tell you that a subject line is almost as important as the email itself. It's the first point of contact. That’s as true with pitch emails as anywhere.  If you can’t craft a powerful subject line that gets past the one second of the attention your investor will give you, you’ve already lost. Don’t think of the subject line as simple a field to fill out in your email; think of it as the single reason an investor will take the time to consider you at all.

How Bad Subject Lines = Obvious Cold Emails

Before we get into what makes a good call to action in a subject line, let's talk about the same emails written in a way we want to avoid altogether. We want our investor emails to immediately resonate, which means we have to know what to avoid (read: cold emails).

  •  "Investment opportunity" - Meaningless. She’s an investor;  of course you’re sending an your seed funding investment opportunity. We don't need to tell our target audience who they are.

  • "Your Company Name” - How does this pique the investor’s interest?  What are the chances they have heard of you or remember your name?  Probably none - straight to spam filters!

  • “Earn a 5,000% Return!” - Any entrepreneur selling a “return” gets deleted immediately. Real investors look for great companies, not big claims on returns.

  • "Dear {First Name}" - OK now you're just using an email template and not even trying to write a compelling pitch!

In each case, the problem is that you’re not making the subject of your pitch email relevant, or at worst, you’re turning the investor off altogether (feels like a cold email). Instead, think of how to make a strong personal connection in the pitch email allowing the investor to connect your concept to a pain point they actually feel.

Good Subject Lines = Good Pitch Emails

Now that we know the pitch examples to avoid let's zero in on really good uses of a subject line.

  • “Friend of Greg Smith, NetFlix.com” - Personal Connection. You’re focused on the personal relationship, which is far more likely to get attention than an anonymous company name from a cold email.

  • “NetFlix.com: Streaming Movies at Home” - Tag Line. Combines who you are with what you do. An investor interested in the streaming movie space is far more likely to open this same email because they know it’s relevant to what they care about.

  • “NetFlix.com growing at 300% per month” - Traction. Be careful here because unless your traction is something the investor will understand or will blow them away, it won’t help you. But 300% per month growth is impressive, so we'd love to test that pitch email subject line.

  • “NetFlix.com, Founded by ex-YouTube CMO” - Team. The investor may have no idea who NetFlix is, but they will certainly want to know what the former Chief Marketing Officer of YouTube is up to (it helps to be the former CMO of YouTube in this case).

You can probably detect a pattern here. As a startup founder, your subject line is your one opportunity to take the most saleable element of your business pitch and distill it into a few words. A good subject line is organic and doesn't come across like some cheap email template that was force-fed through a mail merge!

Open the Email Pitch with a Personal Connection

Every good email pitch introduction starts out with a meaningful personal connection back to the investor. It's the difference between a warm handshake and a cold email. Starting your Email Pitch with a well-thought-out personal connection makes all the difference in the world, which drives the follow-up we want. 

There are very few ideal investors, so writing and sending out cold email blasts to all of their addresses with the same generic introduction is a horrible waste of opportunity, and beyond that, it's just bad etiquette. Investors can detect a cold email a mile away (because they get them nonstop) so don't be that startup founder.

It's often unlikely that you personally know the investor you're writing to, or even have a personal connection to them, so if that isn't the case, here are a few ways you can make your intro in investor emails more personal.

Your email signature is an often overlooked opportunity for personal connection. Including links to your LinkedIn or other social profiles to give them a chance to "know you" can go a long way in driving follow-ups.

  • Use their First Name

    Unless you're talking to an 80-year-old curmudgeon banker, people in today's world like to be referred to by name, and not “Mr.” or “Mrs..” You'll earn more points by being personal than you'll lose points by not writing their formal title. Also, it can help to use their first name in the subject lines of the pitch email.

  • Reference a Friend

    The best possible introduction is through a mutual acquaintance. If you cannot get introduced through a friend, then your next best bet is to at least point out that you know someone in common. Personal relationships are often exposed on every social network from LinkedIn to Twitter. Look for every possible opportunity to connect your social circles so that you can give some credibility to your pitch emails.

  • Cite their Background

    Almost every investor you'll talk to has some sort of background information online, whether it's through LinkedIn.com, their blog, or their corporate Web site. Research who they are as a person and look for a connection that you two might share. Maybe you went to a similar school or they have invested in an industry you are getting into. Doing a little research before making contact goes a long way.

Each example here isn't complicated, yet entrepreneurs often miss these basic bullet points. The reason investors don't respond is that we're not doing our research to build an actual conversation; we're just thinking about our fundraising efforts.

Here's an example of a really bad introduction:

"Dear Mr(s). Investor, I have a business opportunity that you may be interested in..."

You really can't get more impersonal than that. That's the kind of terrible introduction you see from spammers trying to offer you a share of their "$21 million fortune that they need your personal help to recover." It's terrible, non-personal, and just bad writing.

Let's add some Personality to the Email Pitch

"Dave, I noticed that we're both friends with Greg Smith from Fancypants University. I'm in the process of launching a company called NetFlix.com that provides streaming video service and saw that you were an early investor in Blockbuster."

In this case, the investor "Dave" knows you are referring to him personally because you took the time to get his name right and address him as a person. You then connected him to Greg Smith, which means you've got a social connection that he can reference you by. Lastly, you mentioned the Tag Line for what you do by connecting that to something he's done in the past. Congratulations — you've made a personal connection!

Building the right personal connection is really a matter of common sense when you write that email. You're likely bombarded with cold emails from advertisers all the time. You know junk mail when you see it and you know personal mail when you see it. Think about your pitch email like those solicitations — the more personal it is, the more likely it's read.

Elevator Pitch

Your Elevator Pitch is the heart and soul of your pitch email, and you shouldn’t be afraid to get to it as quickly as possible. Without a warm introduction, you may come across as too forward, but a long introduction that doesn’t get to the point will be equally annoying to an investor. Just like your subject lines, we want to keep the pitch email short and focused.

Even a bad pitch can be salvaged if it’s coming from the right source. In just a few sentences, your Elevator Pitch should convey three distinct points – the Problem you solve, the Solution you provide, and the Market Size of your potential customers.

In our example we reference NetFlix.com in a very simple way to identify the Problem, Solution, and Market Size in just two sentences:

“NetFlix helps over 90 million Americans avoid driving to the video store by delivering their movies directly to their doorstep without ever paying late fees.”

In the context of our pitch email, we want to draw attention to this passage quickly and make sure it’s refined down to the bare essentials (short and sweet). We could even drop the "ever paying late fees" from the Elevator Pitch and probably still get the point across.

A quick side note here: although “what you do” is obviously important, you may be surprised at how many investors will actually skip over this part of the email and go right to the other points such as “Traction,” “Social Proof,” or “Team.” We’ll explain these in a moment but keep in mind that while you’ll want to nail the Elevator Pitch, the rest of the elements of these emails are just as important in hooking an investor’s interest. Even a bad pitch can be salvaged if it’s coming from the right source.

Traction

Above all else, investors care about "traction." Traction is an indication that the business is quickly gaining momentum. Every investor is interested in a business that's taking off.

If we were to say "Our business has grown to over $50 million in sales in just the first two years" you would likely be interested in knowing more without even knowing what we do. The traction alone — growing to $50m in sales in just 2 years — sells the opportunity.

You don't need to have a huge spike in sales to get traction (although it sure helps). Traction can come in many forms from the rate of customer acquisition to sales growth to a major product milestone.

Let's add to our email introduction by providing some traction:

"In the past three months we've added 10,000 new users to our site and are doubling that rate every month."

When an investor reads that line, she is going to instantly zoom in on the words "three months," "10,000 new users," and "doubling every month." Those key stats imply a rate of growth that looks like a hockey stick on a chart that points up and to the right. Your Traction should always focus on an area of the business that is growing incredibly fast or is wildly positive.

Notice that we didn't cite revenue numbers because we probably don't have any yet. We're showing that the demand is definitely there, which may imply that revenue is forthcoming. Your Traction is all about momentum, wherever you have it most. If revenue is your traction, by all means – use that!

Team

You'll want to focus on what aspects of your Team's background are most salient to the success of this particular company. It's great that your Chief Technology Officer earned his Doctorate from MIT, but if you're building a fruit basket company, that may not be the most relevant piece of information.

The best references from your Team indicate that they have either done this before successfully or have some specific domain expertise that is highly relevant to the product or market you're servicing. In this case, the fewer, more targeted references the better. It's always best to combine the particular title or experience they have had with a well-known brand or entity they earned that experience from:

"Our team includes the former Chief Marketing Officer from YouTube and the Head of Digital Distribution at ABC Networks."

In reading this one sentence an investor is thinking "OK, if these founders are building a streaming media business it's helpful to know they have the relevant marketing expertise to acquire customers in this space.”

Showing your Team's highly specific expertise is a great way to both promote yourself and allay fears that you have no idea what you're talking about! (Yes, those fears exist).

Social Proof

Your Social Proof is the endorsement from others that you're legitimate. Like any type of endorsement, the value of your social proof is proportionate to the credibility of those endorsing you. Think about how much of a difference the right Social Proof can make. Here's your pitch with no Social Proof attached to it:

You: "I've invented a computer that can be controlled by your thoughts."

Investor: "You're insane."

Now let's deliver the same pitch with just one endorsement:

You: "I've invented a computer that can be controlled by your thoughts. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos  just invested $100 million of his own money to start production."

Investor: "Please let me invest."

In both cases, your pitch is exactly the same, but when backed by Social Proof you go from getting escorted out the door by security to getting the red carpet rolled out to you. There are many ways to build Social Proof around your company, and as you can see, the importance of that proof is critical to getting real attention from investors.  

The main sources of social proof tend to be:

  • Advisors

    Adding credible Advisors allows you to draft off of their experience and market worth. It signals to investors that someone with genuine credibility (that's not you) is willing to put their name behind your company.

  • Customers

    Demonstrating that real customers are using your product indicates that there is real market demand. Signature customers, such as Fortune 500 companies, celebrities, or well-known users often help establish the value of your product as a reflection of their status.

  • Media

    Having been covered in the media is often a vote of confidence that someone thinks your product is worth talking about. Once again, the more important and relevant the news outlet, the more valuable the endorsement. A well-promoted piece on a single high-profile media site could be worth more than dozens of other articles on blogs about small businesses that nobody cares about.

  • Investors

    Even if the existing investors have only put in a very small amount of money, the fact that someone is willing to write a check for your idea implies there might be some level of investment value in your company.

Looking at our pitch for NetFlix, we would likely try to establish some Social Proof by highlighting the Advisors we have added to our team:

"Our Advisors have each personally invested in the company and include Dave Brown, (VP Channel Sales, HBO), Rob Black (Former President, Paramount Pictures) and Jeff Orange (SVP, Google)"

Similar to the Team section, your Social Proof should be a direct reflection of how the relevance and credibility of that proof directly reflects on the quality of the idea. Unless they are industry celebrities, their names are almost irrelevant here. What investors will key in on is their titles and the companies they worked for.

The Ask

Assuming you've hit on all the high points of your Email Pitch, you should conclude with "The Ask." The Ask should include three main points:

Raise Amount

How much are you raising? Be very clear. If you're raising a total of $500,000 then say so.  Investors tend to have minimum and maximum thresholds for their investments so it makes sense to let them know whether you're in their sweet spot.

Funding Stage

Similar to the raise amount, investors want to know at what fundraising stage you're at (Seed, Series A, Series B, etc). If you're unsure of what this means, find out and be clear about how you communicate it.

Timeline

Like any good correspondence, you want to finish with a specific request for someone's time. Obviously, you're reaching out because you would like to discuss the opportunity, so focus on what an available time to meet might be. If you're going to be in town next Thursday you can mention that, but recognize you're more likely to meet on the investor's timeline, not yours. Even so, you should at least create a reference date, to begin with.

Here's a simple ask that lets the investor know what the overall goals of the fundraise are and when they can potentially talk to you next:

"We're raising $500,000 in a Seed Round which we'd like to discuss with you next week if you're available."

You can modify this based on your situation with the investor, but if you're not very familiar with this person, give them an adequate window with which to set up a meeting.

Final Product

Here's the final product. Notice how it's short and to the point. The investor is going to read this pitch on his phone while driving to meet her spouse for dinner. Think about whether or not this will cause him to risk an accident by reading further (just kidding... sort of).

Personal Connection

Dave, I noticed that we're both friends with Greg Smith from Fancypants University. I’m in the process of launching a company called NetFlix.com that provides on-demand video streaming and saw that you were an early investor in Blockbuster

Elevator Pitch

NetFlix helps over 90 million Americans avoid driving to the video store by delivering their movies directly to their doorstep without ever paying late fees.

Traction

In the past three months, we've added 10,000 new users to our site and are doubling that rate every month.

Team

Our team includes the former Chief Marketing Officer from YouTube and the Head of Digital Distribution at ABC Networks.

Social Proof

Our Advisors have each personally invested in the company and include Dave Brown, (VP Channel Sales, HBO), Rob Black (Former President, Paramount Pictures) and Jeff Orange (SVP, Google)

Ask

We're raising $500,000 in a Seed Round which we'd like to discuss with you next week if you're available.

 In less than 150 words we've established a personal connection, explained how we're solving a big problem, begun moving the market, attracted highly relevant talent and advisors, and what we're looking to accomplish. Easy… right?

Summary: Investor emails that work.

Your Email Pitch will be a critical tool that you use to communicate your product or service with investors. The key with the Email Pitch is to follow the system and make it count.

Make sure you reference a mutual connection, include your elevator pitch, mention traction, showcase your team, offer social proof, and ask for a meeting. These are all the key ingredients to pitch email templates that will perform.

A well-written and eloquent email pitch can help you get in the door to meet with an investor and give a full presentation. Take the time to personalize each email and make it count – you may only get one shot – so make it your best!

Continue to Part 4 - How to Contact Investors


About the Author

The Startups Team

Startups is the world's largest startup platform, helping over 1 million startup companies find customers, funding, mentors, and world-class education.

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