On cold emails

June 23, 2020

I love cold emails. I’ve found that a good cold email converts way better than you typically hear. Sure, use a warm intro whenever possible, but don’t think that it’s required to reach out to someone you don’t know, but want to meet.

In fact, the absolute best in the world rely on cold emails to get what they want. They don’t wait around looking for a way in, they just make it happen.

To illustrate the point, here are three stories of cold emails. Two of which were cold emails to me and one of which was a cold email from me. All of which garnered response from the recipient. (To be clear, only one ended up with a deal... but the cold email wasn’t the reason the other two ultimately failed... blame me for that...)

Bill Gurley, Benchmark


In 2013, less than a year after we made our pivot to providing an enterprise SaaS product to app marketers, Bill Gurley reached out... cold. Simple, straightforward, and to the point.

Why did it work? For two reasons: (a) everyone knows of Benchmark (and Bill); and (b) he offered to sell my product for me. In other words, he had the brand to illicit a response, and provided me value up front.

Me to Chris DeVore, Founder’s Co-op


Chris has become a mentor to me over the last dozen years, and I often to go him for advice. He wrote the first check into our business in 2009 (not Openomy), and helped guide us at every step. But the relationship started via this cold email.

I can’t say I’m particularly proud of this email looking back on it, but, hey, it worked to start a relationship. If I were to change it today, I’d make it shorter, less wishy-washy, and talk a bit more about why FC intrigued me.

Marc Andreessen, angel investor

Sadly, I don’t have a copy of this one as it happened on an old email server I no longer have access to. But Marc Andreessen reached out cold about Openomy (the project listed above in the email to Chris) sometime around 2005-2006. He was working on Ning at the time, and seemed as though he was interested in becoming a more active angel investor. A16Z was certainly not a thing yet.

Since I don’t have the exact text, it’s hard for me to say precisely what prompted the response, but I remember it being short and to the point: I’m Marc Andreessen, I like what you’re doing, are you looking for investors?

It’s pretty obvious, again, why that one would work well. After all, he invented the browser.

So, don’t be afraid of cold emails. If you have a great connection, definitely use it. But if you don’t, just work on crafting your cold email skills and take a shot. Especially in venture, the investors who say they don’t invest in deals that come to them via cold email are not the best investors. Just look at Bill Gurley and Marc Andreessen as your examples.