Prateek Sanjay helps tech and software startups to source angel investors through cold emailing, through his company Foundraisr. He talks with the Industry Leaders about breaking the ice, and how to strengthen your connections through cold outreach.
Could you tell us about who you are and how you got where you are today?
I’m Prateek, and I’m a person who knows how to break the ice with a complete stranger.
This skillset of mine has allowed me to live in New York, Madrid, Barcelona, and now in Oslo. Breaking the ice with complete strangers requires knowing, or rather guessing, what their interests are and trying to steer the conversation in alignment with what your interests are. With that, I was able to land an internship with UBS in New York all the way from India. With this skill, I was able to network with investment bankers all over Madrid, who then gave me a warm introduction to the CFO of a 4 billion euro company. They said ‘talk to this guy, maybe you’ll want to hire him.’
After that job became redundant, I instantly found another one just by cold approaching everybody I knew in Barcelona. Later on, a friend suggested that I should work as a salesperson at an app development agency, and some of our clients wanted to know how to source investors to keep their projects going. I showed them how to write an email.
I have the ability to integrate into multiple countries and multiple cultures because I know how to say hello to a complete stranger, and now I sell this skillset.
How did you learn how to break the ice? Have you got a history of entrepreneurship in the family, or did you read books?
In India, I would just stay in and play video games all day long, I was not a social person. It’s just that when I left my country for the first time, I was pushed into the swimming pool and forced to swim.
What do you first discover as a foreigner living in a country where you have no friends or family? You realise you have to find a way to make an authentic conversation with a complete stranger, or you’re going to be very lonely.
I was never the guy who could read the room properly. My first job was in M&A, an industry where you need to be very careful of what is said around whom, and who is an insider or an outsider to each particular project. I was scolded about not having read the room multiple times by so many people that I was forced to learn. Nothing is innate. I was very unfiltered, and after paying serious consequences for it in the workplace, I had to become conscious of it in and outside the workplace.
You’re now focusing very much on cold emails, helping other people to connect with potential prospects or investors. Why did you choose to concentrate on that vertical?
Primarily, it was because that was what people told me they wanted help with. Normally people start an agency or a business, then they figure out which niche to go down through trial and error. I avoided this trial and error because this business idea didn’t come from me, but from the customer. I had customers before I even started.
How did it occur to start writing cold emails? The world of startups is dominated in the top tiers by people with warm connections. Bill Gates benefitted from family and friends working in IBM so he could talk to higher-ups within the company. The same applies to Jeff Bezos, who had previous private equity and hedge fund experience to source all the investors for Amazon. What about the vast 99.99% of us who do not have warm connections?
Can you give us some advice on what the structure of the perfect cold email should be?
The perfect cold email contains 4 elements. You start with a super short subject line that explains why you reached out. Long subject lines mean that recipients don’t see the email preview, and they don’t open the email.
After a salutation, you explain why you reached out.
Then, you let them know who you are. It is important to be memorable after people have closed the email. If you can plant that seed, they will be opening and closing that email multiple times for 2-4 weeks before they can’t take it anymore and they finally respond.
Finally, end the email with a question that sparks curiosity, rather than a pitch. It’s important to understand that if you start pitching in the first email, you have lost. The purpose of the email is to get a meeting, not to close a sale or a funding round.
This technique is called poking the bear. It works amazingly in real life, In-mails (LinkedIn), and in calls.
How did you build your LinkedIn following (currently >19k)?
When I first used to write posts, they were just trinkets. Nobody saw them. Then I started commenting under Michael Jackson, Nathan Beckord and Dan Martell. If you comment under popular people’s posts, suddenly your inbox blows up. I then stopped outbound prospecting and tried to put all my efforts into that, but I was still having the reflex reaction of posting the thoughts in my head onto LinkedIn. My posts started working, and people started approaching me. That was my first hockey stick moment, when I first hit the five figure monthly income earners club. I realised an inbound prospect requires no time to convert, and I have not looked back since.
Here is the honest fact; founders have no time and no money. So, I realised the secret is to tell people anything they can use that is free, and instantly actionable.
I cracked this code for the first time when I began posting lists of investor angels. People told me that they made money from this because I saved them hours of research time.
If someone pulls the rug from LinkedIn tomorrow, your business falls over. Where would you look next?
It’s easy: Twitter by a mile. Why? Because Twitter does not look like a place for posting your brand. Twitter looks like a place for conversation because each tweet is short, hence it is a call to conversation. You can build a Twitter following very quickly. I was just fooling around on Twitter posting my shower thoughts on everyday life. Next thing you know, I have 2000 followers.
Finally, what’s next for you and your business?
Outreach doesn’t work well in Summer. So I will take July off and focus on learning Norwegian and picking up another hobby. I want to focus on myself. I am thinking of spending the summer thinking of ways to pivot my business.
I’m already thinking about the long-term sustainability of my business before it becomes a problem. But, I feel like I’m doing very well for myself.