I personally think it is worth a shot for an entrepreneur to try reaching a potential venture capital (VC) or angel investor via LinkedIn. Particularly if you can find a mutual contact to provide an introduction. The main benefits of this approach, over just cold calling or dropping a note on the investing firms website, are the following:
- The investor can quickly browse through your profile to get a good sense of your professional background and relevance to the startup you are working on
- Check for mutual connections to do a quick reference check
But, here are a few suggestions while trying this approach:
- Do some research on the VC firm you are trying to reach and figure out the most appropriate person to reach out to, based on their profile. Most investor profiles list areas of investment interest (e.g. internet, mobile, education, etc.) and so this should not be tough to do
- Reach out only to one or at most two people at that firm who are appropriate for your particular startup. It does not help if your ping everyone in the VC firm. Yes, this does happen often and if anything it’s counterproductive. What happens is one of the investing team members who receives this, will forward it to the other team member who is more suitable to look at your company (based on interest areas) and if they realize you pinged all the members indiscriminately, it shows that you have not done any research on which of the investors would be better suited for your startup
- If you have a mutual connection with the investor, see if you can get an introduction by the mutual connection (especially if this person knows the investor well and is willing to refer you)
- Avoid requesting to “add as connections” directly. Try sending a message via InMail or through mutual connections. Many investors are particular who they add as connections and so, if you directly try adding them, they might “ignore” your request
- See if the VC is part of any group that indicates a mutual interest area and use that group to reach out to him/her
- Keep the LinkedIn message short giving a 3-4 sentence summary on your teams background and what you are trying to do. Ask the VC if you could get 15 mins over the phone to give more background and see if mutual interest. Avoid very long messages.
While on the topic of reaching out via a social network, I would highly recommend reading the following article by Ried Hoofman on “The real way to build a social network“, if you haven’t already read it.