How to Leverage Investor Lists

Jason Yeh
December 20, 2022

How to Leverage Investor Lists

Most founders get overly excited to discover a new list of investors online. But the value of a list is only as valuable as the process it’s injected into. Those lists on their own are useless.

For a list to deliver enough value to match the excitement it drives, a founder needs to know how to pair it with research and targeted action to make it more than just a cold contact list.

First - why so much excitement?

Out of all the tools, essays, and fundraising resources I release, nothing performs better than a list of investors. Case in point, last week - this tweet sharing a freshly researched list of 400+ investors active in November went viral reaching over 500k impressions in just a couple days.

The excitement around lists speaks to the anxiety founders have around fundraising and specifically their connectivity (or lack thereof) into the networks that matter. They know fundraising will entail finding investors to pitch. Even for founders with some network, this can be overwhelming. 

My estimate is discovering a list online can feel like a potential silver bullet. They want to believe a list will solve their problems and save the day. 500k impressions on my tweet above shows just how strong that hope is. 

But in reality, the value of a list is only as valuable as the process it’s injected into. It is worthless on its own.

On its own…

On its own, a list of investors is a lifeless database of people. There’s no relationship embedded into the excel sheet. So without any action, it’s just a cold list. And if you're able to obtain any lists of investors, the biggest mistake you could make is considering them to be just that - a cold outreach list. 

While cold outreach has a place in every fundraise I set up, it should be minimal. To run a great fundraise, you’ll want to be shooting for 100+ targets with cold contacts representing 10% of your outreach at most.

So, instead of treating these lists like cold outreach databases, consider them in the following context…

First, it opens your eyes

The initial value of any investor list is helping founders open their eyes and expand their target set. I’ll often hear founders complain about unsuccessful fundraises after pitching just 10 VCs. They stop at 10 because many times they didn’t think there were many more they could go after. Most founders don't realize that there are over 7000 venture capital firms in the world + even more syndicates, super angels, and other investing groups. 

If you are targeting fewer than 100 firms at the top of your funnel, don’t cry about your failed fundraise. Blame your failed effort. This is a numbers game and finding a new list should help you add additional numbers to your process.

Next, it slots into a research plan

Once you identify new investors you could pitch, the next step is not to contact them cold (yes, I know I’m beating a dead horse), it’s to develop a deeper research plan to connect with them in a more meaningful way.

When I outline a plan for using a new investor list, I include the following three steps:

1. First and most obvious: identify your path to them 

Access the LinkedIn profiles of investors in the list to see if you are directly connected to them or share any mutual connections.

This step may be obvious, but one often overlooked aspect is to not only identify your own direct connections and mutuals, but also your teammates, your co-founders, your investors, and your closest supporters. You should be finding all paths into investors on your target list.

This step alone will require considerable time and effort. 

You may want to look at other partners within a firm, not just the one that was on the list in order to identify what possible touch points you might have into a firm overall. You should also pick out people they’re connected to who you might be able to get connected to first. It might take one more jump and one more introduction before you can be directly introduced, but given enough runway - this is worth pursuing.

2. Next, follow on social

These lists will help you create a social media follow list, which can alert you to the content and types of founders that investors are interested in. 

As these investors show up in your feed, it will also make it easier for you to get on their radars and become more of a known quantity by simply engaging with their content. 

This may seem silly, but I promise you that thoughtfully engaging with their content (even simple likes) will put you on radars. Investors, no matter how many followers they have, are curious like the rest of us. They will intermittently click through to the profiles of users who are interacting with their posts. 

Trust that this will plant a seed of familiarity that will influence their reaction when someone asks if they can introduce them to you in the future.

3. Finally, find their portcos 

As you think about best ways to map into these investors, don't forget that portfolio company founders are some of the best ways to get introduced to an investor. Investors inherently respect their founders and know they are closer to the founder community than they are. Thus, dealflow from their portcos are often prioritized. 

So, by getting a list of investors, you can target a list of portfolio companies that will help you eventually connect with investors.

Tips on connecting with a portfolio company:

- Find mutual connections with the portcos (duh)

- Find companies you have the most obvious ways to help

- Find founders you have some overlap with (common backgrounds, schools, geographies)

Note: For any recommendation around networking strategy, remember the first step should not be to directly ask for an introduction.

Your connector needs to have a good reason to introduce you and that reason needs to be developed. First establish an initial relationship where you can build trust that allows them to endorse you when making an eventual connection.

Stay off the naughty list..

Now that I've outlined these ways to take advantage of lists, I hope you are able to turn the lists you find on the internet (like mine) into piles of gold, not bags of coal. 

Enjoy your holidays and stay off the naughty list!

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