The Pink Elephant Pitch (aka How to Turn Off a VC)
I make it a practice to always think the best of everyone. I didn’t use to. When younger, I was a world-class Calvinist cynic. You were damned until overwhelming evidence proved otherwise. As I have put that lamentable attitude behind me, life and human relationships have gotten much sweeter.
I almost didn’t write this post because it involved critiquing a stranger. But sometimes criticism is warranted and can be helpful to others, so here goes.
Like any VC, I get a ton of pitches. In email, on Twitter, through Linked In. A few produce action, most don’t. But even the ones that don’t are generally heartfelt and professional. And then there is the pitch I got on Linked In a few days ago:
Watch out, a pink elephant!
Wow, that was close!
Please be more careful next time… Chances are I might not be around to save you again.
I didn’t expect you to be so reckless when i read about you online…
What brings you here anyway, Mike…?
You’re looking for unicorns around here?
You’re lucky today!
I know where you’ll find one.
Want my help?
Okay, okay, keep calm. I’ll tell you…”
I don’t know the person who put this together and I am not about to name him or her.
But I have to say that in a decades-long career this may rank as the single worst VC outreach I have ever seen.
First, it trivializes everything about the entrepreneurial experience. For me and our team, starting companies isn’t a joke; it is a calling. We and the entrepreneurs we serve are looking for ways to use science, tech, and ingenuity to make people’s lives better. It isn’t a game.
Secondly, it insults me as the recipient. Who could actually think a juvenile outreach like this could appeal to any adult, let alone someone who, like me, is distinctly not a kid?
Finally, this communication reveals aspects of the personality of the sender I doubt this person was aware of or would have willingly revealed to any stranger if they had realized it. It reeks of ego and insecurity. It made me cringe.
When you reach out to anyone from whom you want to get something, whether a VC, a customer, or someone in your personal life, please keep a few simple rules in mind:
Respect the recipient. Don’t focus on what you want, focus on what your recipient may want or need. Do your homework on the person, and then demonstrate that you have. Be civil, humble, and respectful. Every first note is a first date. Treat it that way, if you want a second date.
Respect yourself. Winners don’t boast, they achieve. Strong leaders don’t yell, they teach. Great entrepreneurs don’t preen, they quietly sweat the details. People who excel ask questions, rather than shout from the hilltops. People you want to know show more interest in you than themselves.
Respect the process. Our team invests in startups for a living and because we see it as the best possible application of our time and talents. You should too. Be serious or be gone.
I understand that this individual pulled this stunt in a misguided attempt to get attention. Ok, they got it, but for all the wrong reasons, producing not at all the response hoped for.
Watch out! A failed attempt at outreach! Please take your pink elephant and move aside, so I can focus on things and people who matter.
By Managing Partner Mike Edelhart