How to cold-email me (or anyone else)

Being on Angellist, roughly tripled the amount of “pitch emails” that I usually get. It inspired me this post about how to contact me or anyone you don’t know and can’t get an introduction to.

Here is the “cold-email” (as in cold-call) format that I find most useful when being approached. I use this format myself if I can’t get an introduction. The example in italics is an imaginary email.

  • Who are you and where are you located?
    Hi Thomas,
    I am a engineering student at MIT, I will graduate in 2010 and ….
  • How do you know me or who introduced you?
    … I saw your presentation about “social search developments at Google” when you visited MIT in 2007….
  • Why are you writing to me? What is your idea/ product/ vision/ company?
    This is your elevator pitch – do yourself a favor and spend $9 on the Pitching Hacks book.
    … Inspired by your presentation, I started to work on a product that aggregates a user social graph (FB, LN, Friendfeed), analyzes the content of posts to determine the users subject knowledge and uses that information to rank users for specific subjects. So, imagine you need to plan a wedding: You just login to FB and find your friend most likely to be helpful with weddings. Your friend might not even be aware that he/she is the most knowledgeable person you know about the subject matter in your social graph ….
  • Give me additional info (attachment)
    Or even better, send me a login to your alpha site
    … Attached is a presentation/ document/ thesis/ article that explains the idea/ product in more detail…
  • How can I help you and why do you think I can help you?
    … I am currently looking for $50k to work full time on the alpha product launch. You would be a great person to get on board, both as an investor and advisor given your background in social search at Google and the patent you published in 2004 …
  • What is the next step?
    … If you are interested, I am in SF on …. and would like to show you an early version of the product.
  • (Extra Credit) Get me excited!
    … During the visit I am also meeting with xxx (smart angel investor) and yyy (smart product person at great company e.g. google)

Apart from cold-emailing me, you should consider this:
1. Get introduced to me by someone I know, your chances of getting a response are very high.
2. Get to know me before contacting me: read my blog, my tweets, my FF stream and hackernews, my shared Google Reader. If you dig, you’ll find a few more places where I post and share my thoughts. (On a related note, if you are/want to build a product that can aggregate and distribute all my social streams – email me *right now*).
3. Respond to my posts, comments and other creative outbursts – start an online conversation with me.
4. Catch me in person – (well, unless I pick up my son from school or have a romantic dinner with my wife.) I use 4square, Rummble, Gowalla (rarely), placepop (as of last week), yelp check-ins (sometimes) and mytown – sometimes soon I will decide which one to exclusively. Also, most of my tweets are geo-tagged. If I attend conferences or other events (hint:, I usually tweet it a day or so before. UPDATE (3/15/10: I decided to use Plancast if I am at events where I want to meet people.  Come and talk to me.
5. Consider the venturehacks startup list.  Their email has almost *everything* I need to know. And if you go through the hassle to answer all their questions, I certainly appreciate the effort and realize that you are serious.
You made it this far, so here is the real secret to get my attention:  Use the venturehacks startup list and their form to email me with the format above.  That way I really have everything I need.
  1. great post that fills in some blanks I haven’t seen on other posts. Venturehacks or some other place (mixergy?) needs to put together a startup wiki that aggregates this advice and some other common mistakes. Would make life a lot better for everyone :-).

  2. It is amazing how one article can be so helpful. I have delayed sending things out particularly because I did not want to seem as if I was cold spam emailing people. Even though it is still cold this article provides a good starting point to execute a campaign.

    Matty D

  3. Good advice, but wonder, how many people will start using this as an absolute copy and paste template. You and other angels will now see those “looking for $50k to work full time” e-mails pouring in – hope there will be some original content in the emails as well 🙂

  4. Why should anyone waste time or money building another social stream aggregator when there are already so many of them out there?

    If you just configure friendfeed to access all the places where you post content, then it will aggregate the posts for you and produce a feed of the results. Just spend a few minutes configuring it and then direct people to

    You can just send whatever money you were planning to spend on paying someone to build a “social stream aggregator” for you to me instead. I’ll be sure to put it to good use.

    • @Chris –
      Just because it has been done, it does not mean it has been done well :). FF, Google Buzz and others are good at aggregating, but I don’t know of

      “a product that can aggregate and *distribute* all my social streams”

      I struggle with getting all my random places (blog, twitter, google reader, vimeo, youtube, picasa, amazon wishlist, …) aggregated in a nice format and then distributed to the places where it makes sense without re-posting or overlapping. Furthermore, I need to get all my conversations in one place: For example, this post had responses here (my blog), on posterous, on twitter, on hackernews, on friendfeed and (yet another distraction) on Google Buzz – all these information snippets should be in one place.
      So product that can help me with that would be really cool – do you know of one?

  5. As a former software sales rep and current start-up founder, your recommendations are much appreciated and spot on in my opinion. This format should be used for all sales related emails, whether you’re selling widgets or an idea.

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