Only 30% of VCs read your email. Startups: Don’t waste your time.

By Jonathan Gebauer (@jogebauer)

I get it: VCs do not exist to make startups rich. They are not our friends. They are not the nice people that buy us drinks (at least not before we are successful).

There probably is more truth in the opposite: We startups exist to make them rich.

But hey: The VCs job is to find startups that are worthy of investing in.

And part of my job (as a founder) is finding VCs that will invest in us.

Here is the thing: I do need to reach out, and reaching out to VCs is not easy. I know: I should go to events, work my way up in the scene, get to know people that know people. Work my way up. Get intros. Finally find the ones that will invest.

(Sidenote: Writing this I had to think of the mafia…)

The truth is: This option doesn’t really exist for everyone. For many projects, the right VC simply doesn’t exist in Berlin (that is a small town, the capital of Germany…). Many founders simply don’t have the capital to fly to the Valley and spend weeks there to work their way up. And sometimes, founders actually have to work (surprising, eh?).

But hey, we do our best with what we have. We go to our local events. We work our way up in the local scene. We go to the ones where international VCs actually show up and stand in queues for 2 minutes of their attention.

And we write emails.

I recently did an experiment: I did what I should not do according to ettiquette:

I researched an email list of VCs and employees of VCs. I left out most of the usual [email protected] addresses and instead put a lot of work into researching actual emails of actual people that might be interested (in my opinion) in investing in my startup.

I then sent my pitch to the list via an email tool. I included a slidedeck via a dropbox link. I even told them I was doing that in the email.

That didn’t go so well:

Only 30% of the recipients even opened the email. (Yep, my tool allows me to see that.)

Ok, if those people hadn’t clicked on my dropbox link, I would say that is my fault. (Boring email? Wrong focus? Something like that…)

But hey, you guys are VCs! Your job is to invest in worthy startups – and you don’t open emails by startups?


This is not the occasional missed mail here: 30% open rate means that you are basically fucking up your own business sooner or later. Here is a lesson that you usually give to startups (and I won’t even charge you): Missed business opportunities always backfire!

How many deals have you missed already because you didn’t read your fucking email!

Due to the nature of the test I could even see who opened my email (and who clicked the link). The surprising thing was: The busiest VCs actually opened my email. High tier US VCs (no names). The germans most of the time didn’t.

That came as a big surprise for me, but I guess this makes sense. It’s complements what I have fealt for ages: You talk alot about bringing the valley to Berlin, but what you think is that we startups have to do it for you.

Are you just here for the party, or what? (Here is a secret: I’m not. I’m working 16 hour shifts. Not opening my email is a bloody insult.)

If your perfect deal was just an email away: You would miss it.