Personally I lean towards no. Yes, you are emailing a stranger, but in a relevant way and presumably only one time.
It's blatant spam. But blatant spam and lawbreaking resulting in money hats is apparently okay around here. (It's not shady or illegal -- it's hustling and hacking the system.)
Just to play devil's advocate, many companies would never have broken through the clutter if they didn't break a few rules to be seen at first. This includes great companies many of use use every day (like AirBnB). Reddit was forced to create fake accounts and pose fake conversations to get started. Google certainly was breaking some rules when they began scraping/indexing the entire web (i realize this is an oversimplification).
The ones that are truly garbage disappear when they start breaking rules. They piss people off. The ones who do it right, and offer something valuable, rise up.
Again that is just playing devil's advocate. I don't think it's black and white, and I think it's a really interesting conversation
The problem is when they are kinda dumb (most of the time?) and the targed spam or leadgen job postings actually work.
"Job in your area paying $175k/year for your exact experience!" -- but when you inquire, it never exists. Conveniently they happen to have similar jobs with compensation structures consisting of wobbly jello.
Read the classics: http://sethgodin.typepad.com/seths_blog/2008/01/permission-m...
Because those sorts of words are exactly what _every_ spammer uses to justify their behaviour. (including, hilariously, such beautiful grammar constructs as "… trying to help wanting people connect with a …")
It's spam, no question about it. If I get it from you I'll probably just ignore it, but if I'm in a bad mood or looking for timewasting activities, I'll report it to gmail/rbl/mailchimp/campaignmonitor/your isp - mostly for the lulz, but partly because I feel I owe some of my time to occasionally trying to slow the inevitable slide down the tragedy of the commons that the internet has been on since the eternal September…
The distinction is important, because in non-electronic mediums, the conversion threshold for unsolicited marketing is high enough that the market more or less self-regulates. Email, or electronic mediums broadly, became a new territory because the CPM of unsolicited messages effectively went to zero, meaning all but the lowest conversion rates would generate positive ROI.
As such, sending strangers unsolicited messages about new services over email, twitter, etc is legit, as long as you are doing so manually and are not deceiving them. I have no idea what the AirBNB folks did, but I suspect that it was manual.
For a graphical illustration of the history of the word spam, check out this google ngram search: http://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=spam%2Cjunk+mai.... I started it at 1930 b/c I thought it was kind of fun to see the spike around the time that Hormel introduced the other sort of Spam.