One of the joys of what we do at Homebrew is having the opportunity to meets hundreds of entrepreneurs and startups, often times outside of the context of a potential investment. We think it’s our responsibility and privilege to be able to help people and companies in whatever way we can, even when we’re not investing in them. Sometimes that’s just brutally honest feedback. At other times it can be an insight or tip based on our own operational and career experiences. But often we are able to help by making introductions to other people who might be potential hires, employers, investors, partners, customers, etc. Unfortunately, I’m surprised by how often one of the following happens when we offer to make introductions:
No ask. The person or company doesn’t have any idea about what introductions might be helpful. If you’re meeting a VC, someone whose job it is to build and maintain relationships, go into the meeting with the assumption that you’ll have the opportunity to ask for a connection to someone who can impact your business. Have a wishlist of specific people or companies. See who the VC is connected to on LinkedIn, interacts with on Twitter or has worked with in the past. Don’t make the VC do the work of thinking of specific names in the meeting. He or she is even less likely to think of names once you’ve all left the room.
No follow-up. Many meetings end after we’ve identified a few introductions that Hunter or I would be willing to make. It’s shockingly common for us to never receive a follow up email or call asking us to actually make those introductions. The right introduction or two can have a material impact on our business or career, so make sure you take advantage of any opportunities to be connected with the right people. Follow-up within 24 hours and remind the VC which introductions were offered.
No content. In cases where there is follow-up, we typically get only a note reminding us and thanking us for the coming introductions. Ideally, most VCs would like to get something that they can pass along as context for the introduction, whether it be a short blurb that describes the reason for the introduction, or even better, an actual email to the person being introduced that can simply be forwarded. Take control when you have the opportunity to deliver your message to the person you want. Given the VC the tools he or she needs to deliver your message as easily and as quickly as possible.
The point of all of this is to seize the opportunity to leverage a VCs network. VCs are busy and already notorious for poor follow-up after meetings. They’re time-constrained and juggling many different things at once (I promise we’re pretty good at follow-up at Homebrew!). And while VCs shouldn’t get a free pass because they’re busy, you can benefit a great deal if you make it easy for them to help you. Have specific asks. Follow up via email. Do the work for them. You’ll find that almost all VCs are willing to help. And they’re more likely to actually do so if you make it easy for them.