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How I Raised $350k as a Solo Founder using these 4 Email Templates (toutapp.com)
326 points by revorad on July 21, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 47 comments



I love how this post both educates and serves as a great ad for your product. Kudos.

How far along was your product when you were raising? Were you making any significant revenue at the time?


We were making a little bit of revenue.


I hate getting emails that ask me for two or three time blocks that work for me. Be respectful of people's time and just pick a few times that work for you. If they don't work for them, they'll usually tell you what does pretty quick.


I honestly never know the best combination of polite and authoritativeness to to schedule meetings over email. Are you suggesting that people should a specific time and see if it works for the other person? (i.e. "I'll give you a call at 3PM on Monday if you'd like to talk more") or that he should have just asked the person to pick the best time for them, and then he could adjust his schedule around it. I normally opt for the second when I'm dealing with someone I don't know very well.

The only thing that bothered me about the way he did it was that he capitalized the TWO. This makes it looks like he thinks the VCs are retarded. (Maybe if most VCs think other VCs are retarded, this could have helped his case :)


Hey jackpirate,

I see you are trying to figure out the best way to schedule business meetings. I do this all the time as Chief Handshaker at FreshBooks. Are you free Monday at 2pm CST to discuss this? I can call you at 321-555-1212.

  Cheers,
  Sunir Shah, Chief Handshaker, FreshBooks
  (416) 481-6946 x224
  http://www.freshbooks.com/team/sunir
  http://twitter.com/sunir
I stated the problem and my reason for talking to you. Then chose a time in your timezone (I guessed in this case) and I declared who is calling whom and by what means. I always prefer to call you at your number in case I am running late.

If you accept, I'll send you a meeting invite. I used to not send meeting invites but I found that in 15% of the cases people don't mark meetings in their own calendars.

My signature includes my contact information as well, which is useful later in the deal cycle. Don't make your phone number a mystery.


That's a great basic outline, and I agree with all the little touches you add, such as making it clear who is calling whom, and that your number is clearly visible in any case.

My only problem is who should suggest the first meeting time/place. By suggesting it yourself, you are assuming a position of seniority in the relationship that may not be appropriate, and project the image that their time is not as valuable as yours. I personally only suggest a time if I have reason to believe that the other person will be available then. For example, "Would you like to talk about XXX over coffee after the conference we'll both be at?" Otherwise, I let them know that I will make myself available whenever is convenient for them.


If someone is really more important than you, they will get really frustrated if they have waste time driving the tiddly bits of the relationship.

I cut down useless steps so I didn't waste time. I remained polite; I asked for the time, I didn't make it an order. I drove to an action to move the relationship forward. That's respect.

If they aren't available at the time you ask, they will take command and respond with times they are available. Then you defer.


I agree with all of that, I just think both options equally meet those objective criteria. The only difference is how the recipient perceives the message. I think it's largely a difference in culture between academia (my realm) and business.

A professor, for example, might assume that you have particular reasons for selecting the time slot you have and wonder whether he should clear room in his schedule to meet your expectations. In this case, selecting an exact time before hand provides a minor inconvenience to him.


> I guessed in this case

With the amount of travelling that investors do these days, I'd be surprised if they could be caught at any time inside their home timezone. We also have internal people strung out from Korea to Hawaii, so we all use EST to time our calls with the market. For us, it's proven to be easier than a timezone back-and-forth. My two ♙.


What I usually do is give other person (assuming they are busier than me) 2-3 wide options than a specific time. Example "I am available Monday 9am - 1pm, Tuesday 10:30am - 2pm and Wednesday 2:30pm - 8pm. Let me know what works best for you."


The reason I ask for three blocks of time is because the Investor is WAY BUSIER than I am. SO, in this scenario, I'm giving him the option to basically PICK what time works for him and I will 99% of the time go with the first one.

I also ask for TWO more so that we reduce on email back and forth.

Its all about 1) less emails and 2) accommodating the investor. If he or she is already looking at the calendar for ONE time that works, sureley TWO more is not that bad and it increases the chances of getting a mutual time that works.


I think the "less emails" is not nearly as important as making it as easy as possible for them to respond to you. The more work they have to do, the more likely they are to just ignore the email rather than reply. That's why I would either not say anything or just suggest general times (e.g. "Afternoons on Mondays and Tuesdays are best for me.")


The beauty of asking for multiple specific times is that the asker can then respond affirmatively to one of those specific times (likely to the respondent's first choice), and eliminate any additional email exchanges.


What? The person who works on perhaps seven deals over a five year investment cycle is 'way busier' than the person scratching to bring a new concept implementation to market as quickly as possible?

Did I understand your position correctly?


I think he meant "way busier" in the sense of "fewer times open for a meeting". To someone coding a lot, which time to meet is mostly unimportant, while to someone working out lots of deals there may not be many open slots to put a meeting in.


I'm afraid that was my first impression as well: this is a person who likes to give instructions to other people and thinks they should all consider it a privilege to work with his start-up.

Clarity and conciseness are good, but the tone here came across as complacent/arrogant to me. Maybe it's a cultural thing; I'm a Brit, and often find US business people way too in-your-face to create a good impression and fit in well over here.

Probably no harm done in this case, because any successful investor surely cares more about the facts than the tone anyway.


I had that same first impression, and I'm Canadian (her majesty has us all feeling a disdain for arrogance haha)--I think it is a cultural thing and what I take from this is to know who you're writing/talking to.

Personally I'd tweak these templates in a different way, but that's the thing, their (great) templates and provide a good place to start. I always find that personal touches go a long long way in business.


I read that as: Please give me two time slots you are available for a meeting, and I'll pick the best one that matches my schedule.

I did not read it as: I want to pitch this over two time slots to you.


This is absolutely brilliant. Incredibly well executed. I have never seen a post at once hybridize promotion and great content so well.


Would you like to write a few templates for the library? Maybe around SEO or similar topics?


I recommend using a free service called SpyPig to include an invisible image in the email that will notify you when the email is opened (if images are enabled). I usually wait about 10 minutes after the notification and call the client or lead and ask them if they had a minute to check my email. They usually say something like "Yeah you have perfect timing, I just took a look at it..." It's a pretty slick little trick http://www.spypig.com/ Good luck!


How does that get around a number of email clients flagging the warning that 'this email contains links to external images' or things of that nature? (Gmail does it, Thunderbird does it, I'm sure most modern email clients have that).

To me that would come across as, at best, annoying and at worst, suspicious.


Instead of an invisible tracking image make it part of your signature, like a company logo or something similar.


You'd need to give it a distinct filename or something, but it's otherwise fairly reasonable. But I still wouldn't see it because I've got all external images turned off. And then you'd either need a redundant text sig or risk clients not having your phone number, etc.

I email clients a passworded URL they can download documents from instead of attaching the documents. Partly so I can send someone files of any size and without attachment screening, and partly for delivery tracking.


Tout will do that for you, automatically.


Oh, you're good.


Whoa, I think calling people after only 10 mins after I've sent the mail is pretty obtrusive. Surely I would give them enough time to read the mail, think about it and give me a reply whenever they're able to (within a reasonable amount of time, say 2 hours).


He calls 10 minutes after they have read the email as per SpyPig. That we he does indeed have perfect timing.


I would make a special case for if they read it immediately; they will still perceive you as calling immediately after sending it since you aren't revealing that you used the image to find out that they read it.


I often look at mails, move them to 'ToDo' and then only read them later. ToDo means it has no priority and I may get to it tomorrow. An immediate call would force me to context switch and I don't think I would like it.


I'd suggest removing the all-caps in those emails. It seems like it's just the author's style, but it can be a bit jarring when read without that context.


Thats good feedback, you should add that to the comments in the page so that others can benefit from it! We want these templates to be organic.


I think it's a great time to be a founder but at the same time I'm also worried about the exuberance that the current market place is showing when a sole founder can raise $350k by sending out a ~10 line email.


I apologize if I gave the wrong idea, but these 4 email templates will not get you funded. It took a tremendous amount of hustle and hard work and about three months of fundraising -- you have to put in the sweat.

These templates just helped me manage the process better.


It also seems like you had a working demo at that point. How far along was the prototype? Was it a mostly working v1? Or a few iterations worth of work.

Thanks for the article! Quite informative.


Understood. Thanks for the clarification.


Thinking out loud here (and I know I will regret this) but is there really that big a market out there for email merging for a $350k funding?

EDIT: Nvm, just saw the features to track - viewed, clicked and bounced. That does give it an edge. Maybe the frontpage features should link through to the tours page (just my two cents)


So you raised finance for a business based on an app which can be used (amongst other things) to raise finance for an app?

:-)


He designed the app around this blog post.


Reality check: the portion of the process these emails cover are not going to make or break a deal.

What would be more useful is detail on "During the fundraising process, I met a ton of investors both through soft introductions, straight out stalking and also through AngelList."

Once you have someones attention, the rest is down to whether they like you and the idea, no amount of email templates will solve that.

So come on TK, give us some detail on how you got in front of those investors in the first place ;)


Side note, I find your right panel bouncing up and down extremely annoying. If you don't want it to be hidden when scroll, why don't you set it as fixed?


To be fair, the email templates were ancillary to your execution, drive, and skills. Of course, they weren't ancillary to your product, in a very meta way :).


So, before raising capital you were an ordinary founder, but now you are a "fouder". Nice job!

</kidding>

see: "I'M A HACKER, HUSTLER AND DESIGNER. FOUDER AT TOUTAPP.


I can forgive him.. I too get 'page blindness' and miss obvious typos.


awesome!


Is the target audience for your product entrepreneurs, or salespeople in the enterprise?


Pretty much.




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