LinkedIn and other bugbears: Alan Jones on what not to do when approaching investors

Alan Jones

Alan Jones. Source: Supplied.

For fledgling startups trying to secure their first chunk of funding, it’s not always easy to know where to turn, and the online rolodex that is LinkedIn can seem like a good place to start.

But, before you start blanket InMailing, there are some things Alan Jones, Aussie angel investor and founder of M8 Ventures, wants you to know.

M8 Ventures, headed up by Jones and co-founder Emily Rich, hasn’t closed its first fund yet, but, in a blog post on Medium last week, Jones said the VC fund will soon be welcoming pitches with open arms.

“But please, not via LinkedIn,” he said.

“I don’t know anyone in venture who welcomes LinkedIn pitches. There might be some, but I don’t know them. (Holla if that’s you),” he wrote.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Jones says he gets four or five LinkedIn messages each week from people who are confident enough to pitch directly. If you add people who reach out to connect on the platform with the sole intention of pitching later, that number goes up to about 10 each week.

“It’s a complete waste of time for all the people involved,” Jones says.

The number one responsibility of a startup founder is to use their time as efficiently as possible, he adds.

“I hate to see anybody waste it.”

That’s not to say Jones will ignore LinkedIn messages altogether. He does reply to pitches, albeit usually with a templated message.

“It only takes 30 seconds to reply, which I would much rather do than just ignore people,” he says.

However, he has much more patience for people reaching out to ask for advice.

“I have been in the position myself of having nowhere to turn,” he says.

While, these days, he rarely has time to accept a coffee meeting, he’s usually able to point people in the right direction.

“The hardest thing is to find a way to help someone who wants to buy me a coffee and pick my brain,” he says.

“All of us are time-poor and action-biased,” he adds, suggesting, “ask me a question”.

If a founder, or prospective founder, has a specific question for example, whether they are ready for an accelerator program, or which software would be right for them  then Jones can often spare 30 seconds to try to help them.

“I don’t think anybody has the right to say ‘I’m unreachable, and you’re not important enough’,” he says.

“Some of my best investments have come from helping people that most other people chose not to help.”

So, how does one get Jones’ attention?

First of all, he suggests keeping an eye on the M8 Ventures Twitter page, waiting for the fund to open for pitches, and then pitching through the appropriate, designated channels.

Second, “anyone who even takes a cursory glance” at his own profile can get an idea of what he’s interested in investing in.

Jones doesn’t invest in anything outside of Australia and New Zealand, for example. He has a particular focus on early-stage product and technology teams, and doesn’t participate in Series A, or later, rounds.

He also doesn’t invest in ICOs, or in any startup that relies on “addictive pathways to acquire and retain users”.

However, “90% of the pitches I receive on LinkedIn are from people who appear to be ignorant of all that”, he says.

“By showing no insight, and by doing no research, it isn’t just setting the clock back to zero, it’s taking you to minus one,” he adds.

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