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There is A BEST intro in your network to potential investors – focus on degrees of trust, not just separation.

Last week, I worked with one of the Range portfolio CEOs to get ready for their Series-A fundraise. As part of the prep, we built a list of Series-A investors to speak with based on firms and partners that had invested in similar types/stages of companies. After we had the initial list built, the founder said, “So Chris, you and Adam can introduce me to all the other VCs that I don’t already have a relationship with, right?” While Adam and I could have made warm intros to most of the other investors on the list, I pushed back on the founder and said, “Am I really your best intro to every single person on this list?”

The founder’s response was along the lines of, “Well you know them and you can save me time, so why not make the intro?” To tell the truth, that would have been my response prior to raising our Series-A at Apartment List, but over multiple rounds of funding here is what I learned – VCs (just like everyone else) judge the source of any introduction request to help determine:

  • How should I prioritize my response (and a potential meeting)?
  • Based on what I know so far, what mindset do I have about this opportunity/intro (positive, neutral, skeptical)?

The person who makes the connection influences a VC’s responses to the questions above. While intros from other VCs are often received positively, they are not nearly the best intro you can get.

For example, Take a look at your list of target investors. Whenever possible, ask a founder from their portfolio to facilitate the introduction. This is the very best kind of intro you can get for two key reasons:

  1. Someone the VC trusts and respects enough to give money to, referred you.
  2. You’ve demonstrated strong networking skills in getting to know that founder well enough they are willing to make the intro.

Generalizing the above example, focus on degrees of trust, not just degrees of separation. I find the below helpful in thinking about degrees of trust for intros to VCs.

  • Have they invested in the person making the intro?
  • Have they served on a board with the person making the intro?
  • Have they worked with the person making the intro in current or * prior jobs?
  • Have they co-invested with the person making the intro?
  • Have they shared a burning man camp or season tickets to the Warriors (bonus points if both)?

My advice to founders when thinking through intros is to do the hard work to identify not just who can connect you, but who can connect you in the most meaningful way.

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