As I’ve blogged previously, I have almost ~65k contacts spread across contacts+, apple, five google accounts, and some cell phones and tablets. Given I know, at last count: 65k+ people across Venture Capital, startup, blockchain, AI/ML, FinTech, Space, Advertising, journalism (or just media in general), gaming, entertainment, burning man, ladies I’ve, um, dated, people I’ve dined with, or chatted up, I met on layovers or heliskiing; I have become a person that others regularly ask to make introductions.
Usually, it’s “I noticed you know (insert name of VC/founder/ladyfriend/dude) on Twitter/Linkedin/Facebook/Instagram/at a conference/etc. — would you introduce me to him/her/them, share my business plan, ask him for money, give me his private information?” You get the idea.
Since I believe in the spirit of GDPR, if not the letter — and generally am a strong proponent in personal privacy: I use an introduction system loosely based on the one I first learned from Fred Wilson, a Venture Capitalist I’ve idolized for years. Here’s Fred’s original blog on the DOUBLE OPT-IN INTRO or the (DOI-Intro)
The principle is pretty simple. One party (the Reqestor) requests to meet a second party. So you (the intermediary) check with that person (the Tobeintroduced) first and then upon receipt of their tacit consent you make the connection.
There are a ton of websites and blogs on the DOI-Intro topic. I use the (DOI-Intro) because it’s polite; it helps frame the opportunity for success; it allows ME, not YOU, to leverage my social capital if I feel it’s prudent and has a much lower time wastage than others.
“Social capital theory suggests that interpersonal relations create value for individuals as they provide resources that can be used for achieving desired outcomes.“ Yet so few people I meet really understand what it is (see previous), or how you develop it (years of consistent trustworthy practice) or why you would guard it (because it can take years to repair a breach of trust).
The DOI-I also helps prepare an introduction for maximum success. The more you inform me (the Intermediary) about your request, the more I can help it succeed.
David Cohen — co-founder of TechStars, described in an INC article a while back how Not using a DOI-INtro can have significant unexpected negative signals:
For example, if you blind email a VC and mention me when I am not an investor in your business, it will lead that VC to believe I passed and don’t like your business, particularly true if I DIDN’T make the intro myself.
As David says: “ …asking me allows me to reach out to a VC (I never do blind introductions that are not double opt-in) and explain to him that YOU thought of (HIM/HER/THEM) for a specific reason, and are requesting that I introduce you to them. In this case, I’m merely facilitating an introduction that you requested. Socially, it’s pretty much expected of me that I would do this, and doing it as a double-opt-in literally has no “cost” in terms of social currency associated with it. And, as a bonus, in the case where I’m not an investor, this doesn’t hurt you because you’ve asked for the introduction regardless, for a specific reason relating to them and not me.”
Over time, I’ve modified this system, simplifying, leveraging the rise of social media, as well as some helpful email scripting I’ve been playing around with, but the workflow remains the same in principle: circuit
@auren made this lovely napkin diagram shared again by @jeffclavier, which in turn inspired me to write this blog.
Still, people don’t do DOI-Intro’s right or complain that I make them follow a process and/or spam me incessantly about “did you get my note” “did you email him?” or when the request is declined, continue to plague me to “try again,” or maybe he didn’t understand… etc. #sigh.
Many people (i.e., Requestors) still get confused, get this wrong, ask me questions about this, don’t understand why I’m so rigid, etc/
So finally, I decided to write this blog. At the very least, I can share it with Requestors to short circuit the same old conversations. Feel free to share my blog with anyone, with attribution of course, or dm me with notes, comments or complaints. I might even incorporate them into a v1.5 or v2.0. I’ve made a few amendments to the broader Double Opt-in Email system ™(should be, but not by me), and I’ve put some detail to help understand what happens in each step.
Whenever a friend, stranger, acquaintance (most likely), aka the “Requestor,” ask for an intro on whatever platform they ask (SMS, tweet, Linkedin, Whatsapp, Telegram, Signal, etc.), the first thing I request is that they send me an EMAIL. I know I’m old 50+ years old, and email is like asking someone to inscribe something on stone tablets. Please write me an EMAIL (not a text, carrier pigeon, or any of the messaging platforms)
- Double Opt-in introductions are, by their very nature, Asynchronous;
- The platform supports HTML linking, which makes it easy to share supporting information
- Most people desire to get DOI-Intros in email. (however — I may use a different platform at the “Tobeintroduced” request or previously stated desire — but it also is the way I track the intro. More on that later.)
- It’s easy to trace using Hubspot or other CRM tools, so I know I did it or if the email was read, and I can remind the target or follow up if there is no response.
When the Requestor drafts this DOI- Intro Email, I ask them to include the following:
- a short 2–3 sentence description of themselves (LinkedIn or linktree bio also acceptable — even preferred!)
- How we are acquainted (Requestor and myself)
- Linkedin (see above) link saying this twice as it’s mandatory unless it’s a date, then Facebook or Instagram is ok).
- What the Ask is — MOST IMPORTANT
- i.e., just want to expand my LinkedIn network = no intro.
- I see many Robotics deals in my pipeline It is not my sector, and I currently have no one to send them to = intro is assured, assuming they agree.
- Supporting documents if appropriate (if you want a pitch meeting, a deck, if it is a sales call, a one-sheet or website, and for a date — a recent photo, etc., etc.)
- A one-sentence reason you think this will valuable to both of you
Note: this means you have to do some research on the target (i.e.: “I noticed you invest in AI/ML companies including x,”) or “I saw you at a party and our mutual friend said you are single and might be open to dinner”, or “my startup can save your company X% of its X costs” — You get the idea. Sell it. Simply in one, not a run-on sentence. ;-)
If you don’t do the research, then you are a spammer. I don’t forward spam. If I don’t think it’s compelling, I’ll decline politely. Don’t be mad at me. Accept that my relationships are valuable, and I guard them carefully as I would guard my relationship with you. It’s respectful. If you meet the person later and it works out great. But it doesn’t mean I was wrong to decline. It’s my choice. (But feel free to tease me. I like that. Also, feedback is always useful to tune the models)
It has been so long since we met at the Crypto conference in Puerto Rico. I’ve since moved on to a new sector — I bought Freebird Vineyards, and my new wine business Freewine.com is doing fantastic (230% CAG, 50% margins), and I would love to meet your friend Jeff both as an investor but also give him a case of wine as I know he’s a fan! Here’s my LinkedIn, a PDF brochure & a press article about us for more info. Also, while I know you don’t drink — I’m happy to send your girlfriend a bottle since I see it’s your anniversary! Just send me your address.
Let me know if you or he have any further questions.
Once I review and agree — I then forward the DOI-Intro to the “Tobeintroduced” on their preferred platform, which may or may not be Email, but most likely, it is. They will read it — at their leisure (often this can take a week or even two, sometimes it’s faster) but I leave them alone I’ve tracked the email I know when I sent it, and I’m aware of how long it has been since they replied/haven’t replied. If it is urgent, tell me, that’s important info to have (particularly the deadline. I.e., our round is closing next week,) but it lowers the probability of acceptance.
So now here’s the not-so-super-secret part.
First, I review the request myself. I craft a message with these parts. Sometimes it’s short or doesn’t include all the things you sent me. Occasionally, I just forward it, but I use my knowledge of the “Tobeintroduced” to tailor it to them. Sometimes I read it and don’t think it makes any sense. It is possible I’ll just stop at that point and decline. I may go back to the “Requestor and ask for more info” Remember, as the intermediary — It is my relationship, and my social capital and therefore my option to leverage my personal capital and time to make the intro. Be respectful.
But once I’m satisfied — I’ll send the message. (I’ve created this “Greeked” set of examples — however, this almost exact exchange happened last week. (Names have been changed as I’m too lazy to chase them for permission) Here is a sample note on WhatsApp, Jeff’s preferred platform:
[Me:] Hi Jeff — my friend Chris who I know from Crypto — used his winnings to build a new vineyard & wine business (Freewine.com) with solid metrics (230% CAG, 50% margins, and three awards this year.) He’d like to meet and send you some wine — ok to introduce?
[Jeff:] OK, looks great; that’s a pretty prestigious award, but I’m not investing right now.
[Me:] Whatsapp, ok? Or do you have an email you prefer?
[Jeff:] Whatsapp ok!
[Me:] (Message to Chris: )Hey Chris, Jeff is fine with the introduction — but FYI, he’s not investing right now. Still interested? If affirmative, Then I set up a group Whatsapp:
Hi guys — as discussed, Jeff meet Chris, an aspiring Wine entrepreneur, an ex Crypto Expert, and a lovely guy. I’ve checked with each of you, and you’ve agreed to be introduced. Note I’ve told Chris you aren’t investing in spirits right now, but he still was interested in meeting, and Chris — Jeff has now seen the materials you sent me last week! Meet & Greet!
Jeff & Chris: Thanks, let’s take this offline. Thanks, Titus!
Sometimes they don’t reply after some number of days. My CRM reminds me, and I check-in. Sometimes I might escalate to a messaging platform. For example, “Hey, I sent an email about introducing you to Chris, were you not interested? Or did you not see it”. On almost 99.99% of occasions, that gets a reply. Since I don’t make these requests unnecessarily and I vette the people/requests quite a bit — my response rate is generally higher than average.
Sometimes the response is negative.
“Hey, not looking for dates right now. I’m not over my ex” Or “We just finished a procurement for that sector and aren’t going to revisit for 2–3 years.”
After confirming it’s ok to share this answer and feedback with the Requestor, I do so. Otherwise, I say it was a pass.
Sometimes it’s a screaming positive:
“Yes, oh my God, he’s cute! Intro us now!” Or “Wow, that looks cool — let’s do a call”.
Those are easy
BTW a quick note. I, like many of you, am very, very busy. So once a successful intro is made, I don’t need to be on your cc list as you arrange your call, nor do I need to come. Just “Drop me to bcc to save my inbox, make a notation to upgrade my Xmas gift, and get on with it!.” If my attendance is necessary or desirable — I’ll note that when I make the intro. This often occurs with portfolio companies where I want to meet the investor or see how the pitch goes. ONLY INVITE ME IF I ASK!
Finally, there is the other cohort — responses can range from “I’m swamped, and this is an edge case” or “I’m not that interested in that sector/area/idea at this time” or sometimes “Unwritten” I didn’t actually read your message and don’t get why this is relevant to me.
In sales, we call these “Soft No’s. It’s not absolutely NO — but it’s not Yes. This situation is where my knowledge and experience come to play. The more I know about the Requestor and can evaluate the value of what is being offered or asked — the more I can act as your agent to encourage the soft no to become ‘let’s do a call and see how it goes.” Maybe. This will never happen if I don’t know you, or I don’t understand the ask or how it benefits you or the Tobeintroduced. So inform me, and if I’m sold, I may be able to help. Without the info above — I can’t make this determination.
Many relationships are “Just like dating” (which is why I’ve included many references to it). A no doesn’t mean you are undesirable; it means it’s not a good fit for them right now. Accept it and move on. There are lots of other people to contact. It has always seemed strange to me that, for the most part, the manners we show in dating fail to translate into our activities in business. I think we could learn a lot and improve our success by re-learning the art of seduction.
Another interesting point I should make here. In quite a few situations, I’ve had someone ask for an intro to the wrong person for the right reason. A VC who’s later stage than the company is currently a target for recruitment who’s just gotten a big promotion. When I’m informed, I can often suggest an alternative. “Hey, Sarah just got promoted, but my friend Chris is looking and is quite good a product management,” inform me — and I can expand your network, DOI-intro Options, and chances of a successful outcome. Don’t get too attached to the ask — be focused on your goal: fundraising, sale, children & a picket fence.
Really people? we have to say this?
And the last thing to mention:
As you can see from this blog — introducing people is a lot of work, it’s not just forwarding an email; thought and care go in, and frankly, the value of an introduction is directly related to the amount of care someone takes in crafting it. Be respectful — if it’s valuable considering compensating someone — or at the very least acknowledging their contribution. If it works out, It’s always lovely to hear about that. It happens so rarely — but when I do — It’s always quite lovely. I’ve had people, years later, say, “Titus, you introduced me to X all those years ago with your stupid DOI annoying intro process, and we’re still in business together!” (yes, this has actually happened), or wow Titus, you introduced us, and now we’re married and on our second child (yes that happened too)
As in all things — a small token of appreciation will always be accepted, with gratitude. BTW special thanks to Fred Wilson, who first introduced this concept to millions of others on his blog. Auren for his tweet that inspired me to write this (I’ve talked about it endlessly) and all of you who wrote me nice notes, sent me espresso, or in a few cases gave me some valuable advisor shares!