The little things do matter.
Every email, every phone call and every meeting can make the difference when interacting with your connections and seeking investors.
Head of Startup Studio David Tisch shared his advice on the little things that make a big difference in interactions between investors and entrepreneurs with Cornell Tech students in the Studio.
“Your job as an entrepreneur is to build a line.”
Referencing Mark Suster’s blog post from 2010 about what he looks for in investments, Tisch explained that each interaction is a dot. With each interaction, or dot, you should be building a positive sloping line. “Your goal is to build momentum so that [an investor] will say, ‘I have to get on that line,'” Tisch said. “That’s how you should be looking at building relationships.”
When you ask a contact for an introduction, do your research and make sure you are asking the right person. This is what all those hours of networking were for. Don’t screw it up.
Tisch shared what he called the transitive property of hate. If A hates B and B introduces C to A, then A will hate C. In the mind of the investor, it is impossible to separate their opinion of you from the person that introduced you. In other words, don’t choose the wrong person.
While you’re researching, remember to research the potential investor. “Not doing your homework will cost you an opportunity in the middle of the conversation to say something that will enhance your relationship,” Tisch advised students.
Email can be a powerful and tricky tool.
Tisch told students to keep emails short, just 3-5 sentences. The formula for a short and effective email is simple: set up, ask, conclude. Give the person on the other end of the email everything they need to reply in 20 seconds.
Take the time to craft a useful subject line. Everything should be searchable to make it easier for the recipient to find the email later and always include your company name in the subject (it also helps to include it in files).
Tisch emphasized the importance of sticking to the medium that works. “If email is working, do not ask for a meeting. Do not ask for a call,” he said. “If you are having a back and forth email with somebody, keep doing that.”
If they’re emailing you, they are interested. “Make them ask you [for a phone conversation],” Tisch said. “When an investor asks you that, you have more leverage that you did before.”
But at some point, you’ll likely have to speak to someone on the phone. When you do, have a conversation. Don’t just present.
Tisch recommended you ask a question in the first minute. “You will stop somebody from being distracted if you start talking and then go ‘do you agree with that?’ or ‘do you think that makes sense?’ If you ask something slightly more specific, you will catch them off guard because odds are they weren’t listening,” he said. “The second you ask a question, they will listen for the rest of the phone call because they don’t want to be caught off guard again.”
When you get that coveted meeting, make the most of it.
Assume the people you are meeting have read what you sent. “Get through your agenda,” Tisch said. “Don’t go back and repeat information.”
When you are showing off your product, Tisch advised students to “talk about the benefits while demonstrating the features.”
Similar to a phone call, make it a conversation, not just a presentation. “A lot of people like hearing themselves talk,” Tisch said. “Ask them questions. Make them talk. They will think it was a good meeting.”
Regardless of the medium, be respectful of the other person’s time. “Understand how much times you have and show you respect it,” Tisch encouraged. “It leaves them feeling good.”
Read more of David Tisch’s insight into creating a successful startup.