thoughts 💭

The Warm Intro: Closing Networks and Limiting Opportunities

2016-06-28

Too many founders, VCs and corporates have become obsessed with the warm intro. Founders are hiding their direct emails from pitch decks and websites, charging to meet for coffees and closing networks rather than broadening them. The implication: “Nobody outside my current direct network can help”.

It is with trepidation that a founder must approach the ivory towers of VC land. VCs with closed submission processes are arrogant, not efficient. In general, the warm intros I receive are most likely coming via the 10% most random segment of my LinkedIn network — people I’ve never met in person and certainly those I wouldn’t trust as a source of dealflow.

The reality is that there is a small (I mean less than 10) handful of people that receiving a warm intro from would put you at any particular advantage. The actual problem is that if the opportunity doesn’t work for EVP, then replying to decline the advance makes me look arrogant and the intermediary embarrassingly incapable.

Additionally, for investors to close their deal pipeline to only those that a) have direct connections or b) are resourceful enough to build some artificial relationship with a distant member of their network, they are creating a whole series of cognitive selection biases. Two of the more distinct ones include:

  • Similarity Bias — The bent towards those with similar life experience, most relevant in this context in relation to work and educational backgrounds.

  • Anchoring — Past experiences inform the way in which investors interpret particular pieces of information, most specifically how they may skew the importance of particular factors in relation to others. I.e. If an investor backed a startup that failed due to technical incompetence in the founding team, they may inappropriately consider or place greater emphasis on this as a deal criterion for the future.

The message is: email investors directly. They will always reply. VCs boast about the number of deals they see and turn away. The same way startups present user numbers as the first vanity metric in every slide deck, VC’s wear their low-conversion screening process as a badge of honour. Equally, they likely possess an ego-driven obsession with building reputation and network in the startup community. You’re more likely to get a generic, template reply via a warm intro than from a direct message.

So, don’t ask my mates for a connection. If you need $500k to $3m and are based in Sydney; email me