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This article was published on June 24, 2018

How I got $1M investment in a currywurst queue

Cold pitching is underrated.

How I got $1M investment in a currywurst queue
Ali Albazaz
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Ali Albazaz

Ali Albazaz is the founder and CEO of Inkitt, the reader-powered book publisher. By using a sophisticated algorithm and the power of the cro Ali Albazaz is the founder and CEO of Inkitt, the reader-powered book publisher. By using a sophisticated algorithm and the power of the crowd to measure reader engagement, Inkitt is able to identify potential best sellers with a higher level of accuracy than traditional book publishers.

You can’t build an empire alone. You need partners, team members, customers, investors, and other people to help you. But it’s hard to get to some people. Extending your network with the right investors, customers, or future employees can be very tough. Additionally a lot of people think that the only way to connect with high profile people is to get a warm intro.

Nowadays cold calls and cold emails are somehow very undervalued and I wanted to give you my experience on it because it’s become an important tool for me — and I believe there’s an art to it.

For my company, I’ve raised one million dollars from a VC in a curry wurst queue, raised $550,000 with an email to an “[email protected]” address within 10 days and raised a further $250,000 dollars with a cold call. I got to know the best angel investor in Germany by just walking into his office (he invested later on and became an invaluable advisor to me). I hope the information in this article helps you to connect with the people you want to meet more effectively.

So, here’s what I would consider the main touch-points to consider when you’ve exhausted your friendly or introduced contacts, and have started to think about making cold pitching part of your strategy…

Introductions are overrated

There, I said it. This might shock a few people, but in my experience the traditional introduction is overrated. In my opinion, (if not executed by a super high profile introducer) the introduction adds a middle-man that can sometimes confuse the situation and slow down your process. Additionally, the people you’re being connected to might be even so busy that when they actually find the time to meet you they have already forgotten who introduced you.

For me, I think I’ve gotten about 30 percent of the people I wanted to know through warm intros and probably 70 percent through getting active myself.

Whatever path you decide to take — cold or warm — either way you need to come to them with a proposition they either can’t refuse. That’s the most important things, more about that below.

You never know who is listening

This couldn’t be more true. Whether it be someone you’re sat next to on a flight, bumped into in a bar, or waiting for a taxi, as an entrepreneur you always need to be ready to make your pitch.

I once raised $1 million from a venture capitalist in a currywurst queue in Berlin. He was standing in front of me and I said “Hi” and pitched him my company. It really was that simple. That came from me taking the initiative and making it my mission to pitch my startup whenever I could, wherever I was and to whoever I happened to meet.

The art of the cold email

I’m sure you’ll have realized by now that one of the reasons I’m writing this piece is because I myself have had a good amount of success by cold pitching investors. As well as the currywurst queue deal, I raised $550,000 via a cold email to a venture capitalist. It wasn’t direct to a specific partner or team member though — it was to their generic [email protected] address. Ten days after my initial email, I had a term sheet in my hand.

Writing an effective email takes skill. If you can learn how to compose a great cold email, you’ll put yourself in a good position to get that investor you’ve been tracking for months to open what you send. So, what did I do that worked so well?

Like with any random email address that ends up in your inbox, your attention span is limited. I kept my mail short, concise, and to the point, focusing the element: the potential opportunity for them. I avoided adding needless buzzwords or sentences.  

When it comes to attachments, don’t do more than one slide. Adding to their mailbox with 30 slides really isn’t going to get you anywhere. I usually added our growth curve as a single slide together with a email text of maximum 100-150 words.

The art of the cold call

As entrepreneurs, we’re often warned off cold calling investors or journalists. For me though, cold calling has brought much success for my business, helping me raise $250,000 from within two weeks of the initial call.

If you think people’s attention spans are short in an email, you have even less time on a call in my experience. You have 10 seconds tops to make an impression, so you need to make sure your 10 seconds pitch is SO GREAT that it could be the highlight of that person’s day. They must be so hooked that he or she doesn’t care how or who gave you his phone number.

Paint your vision, communicate your passion, and demonstrate traction — if you can do this in 30 seconds and they’re still on the line, you may well be on to a winner.

How do you bring value to them?

I mentioned earlier about creating a offering that gets people excited and interested in taking the conversation further. There’s that of course, but the most important element of a cold contacting approach is: what’s your value proposition? What are you offering to them, how do you create value for them? Your offering has to so good that the type of connection that brought you to this call or email becomes secondary.

If you take away one sentence from this article, it should be this: If your offering is so amazing, they won’t even think about who connected you.

Do your research, talk about the opportunity you’re presenting and why they need to take it with both hands. Tell them about your team, your vision, your amazing metrics.

Whatever you do, make sure the passion you have for your startup shines through. That’s what could turn this cold call or email into something that could change the face of your business.