There’s a lot of advice for startup entrepreneurs who are pitching venture capitalists for funding for the first time. But VCs don’t often talk about how many emails they get, and how impossible it is to manage their inboxes.
UK-based VC Christian Hernandez decided to do some data analysis on his own inbox to determine how good he is at replying to emails, and who he talks to the most.
Hernandez is cofounder and managing partner of London-based White Star Capital, and shared his analysis with Business Insider. He used a tool called Gmail Meter to track his inbox.
This is what he found:
Hernandez gets 5,000 emails a month from more than 1,000 people
This is a lot of email. According to a report by Radicati, the average worker gets 122 emails per day, or around 3,000 emails a month.
He doesn’t reply to most of them
Hernandez only replies to a fraction of those 5,000 emails. According to his analysis, he replies to around 1,500 emails a month.
It isn’t just the fact he doesn’t have time to respond to more. Some of those 5,000 emails are newsletters, or he’s cc’d on emails he doesn’t have to reply to. And where he does reply to emails, it’s mostly to his own team at White Star Capital.
He sends most of his emails on his way home from work
Hernandez commutes between London and Surrey, and sends most of his emails on the train home. He also replies slightly more frequently on a Wednesday than other days.
His top 10 recipients are other VCs, lawyers, and entrepreneurs
This won’t come as much of a surprise, but most of the people Hernandez does email are either new entrepreneurs he’s about to fund, or previously funded entrepreneurs raising a new round or about to exit. Lawyers associated with those entrepreneurs also make it into Hernandez’s top 10 recipients, because they’re the ones putting together the nuts and bolts of a deal.
Hernandez’s colleagues at White Star Capital are his top two or three recipients.
Bonus statistic: Hernandez’s wife is not in his top five recipients. “She does make it to the top 10, but not top five,” Hernandez said, laughing. “I don’t think she wants that many emails from me.”
Here’s what you can do to stand out
Entrepreneurs need a “warm intro,” Hernandez said, if they’re going to cut through the noise. That means getting a mutual acquaintance to make an introduction via email.
“Have somebody I know and you know provide a recommendation, because that gives you higher relevance in my inbox. It’s their social capital endorsing you,” he said. “If you can’t do that, use your first line to tell me that you tried, but that you’re reaching out because you read [my] blog post, and it relates to something you’re building. That will keep my interest.”
Hernandez said some entrepreneurs — especially in Europe — rely on financial advisors for introductions, but that’s a no-no. “There’s a higher probability of [me replying] if it’s coming from you, the entrepreneur.”
Lawyers are the one exception to Hernandez’s no-strangers approach. “All the law firms, like Taylor-Wessing, very selectively send dealflow because they know the kinds of deals we like.”
If you’re going in cold: Don’t lie, and do your research
The UK venture capital scene is actually quite small, Hernandez said, and VCs will do the due diligence on a startup’s claims.
For example, don’t say you’re talking to other VC firms if you’re not. “Honestly, we will call and check with each other,” he said. “If you have a term sheet, that’s interesting, but don’t play it as a competitive situation to get a different term sheet. This is a small ecosystem, and we’re trying to be collaborative.”
It might also be better to narrow your focus, rather than emailing everyone.
“If’ you’re building a software-as-a-service [SaaS] startup, figure out which VC firms might be SaaS, and which partners have done early stage SaaS funding,” said Hernandez. “Don’t reach out to the growth round guy — that data is all available. Research VC firms and the partners with the highest affinity with what you’re doing.”
He’s on the lookout for a better email app
Hernandez has another pretty unusual email habit — he changes email clients wherever possible.
“Anything that comes out, I try,” he said. “Google Inbox doesn’t work, Amy from X.ai doesn’t work. Outlook is my preferred one, but it breaks too much.”
Another useful hack is Evercontact, which automatically adds contacts to your address book by scanning their signature.