Referrals Get My Attention

Lately I’ve been going through my info@ email address which I put on my site. It’s a throwback to when it was proper to put a contact email address on your website to be a good netizen. However, whenever I check it, it’s always filled with cold calls: random emails with business plans (often from Nigeria!) and then there are some that are totally not within my stated interests on my website. Occasionally, I do get the important email from someone who is trying to get hold of me, like an old colleague or some organization that wants to get hold of me. But most of it is unfortunately tends to be cold call emails asking for my investment.
This morning I saw @davidhornik tweeted:
Spending the morning talking with students about the power of networking. Cold calls are for suckers.
That last line says it all: “Cold calls are for suckers.”
It is so true. Those emails I get in my info@ inbox are just that: cold calls which I will never engage with. I know that sounds cold and uncaring but it’s true. Why is that? It’s because I use referrals as an effective filter to be able to tell whether or not somebody has some sort of legitimacy or not. Otherwise, I would get deluged with a ton of meetings that would inevitably be a waste of time for both me and the entrepreneur.
Thus, 99% of my deal flow comes from trusted sources: friends, fellow investors, other entrepreneurs, etc. These are sources with whom I’ve worked and know that they value the judgement call they place on sending a referral over to me. That’s because giving great referrals is a relationship building tactic, and giving bad ones is definitely not.
Then @bfeld published an article on the Business Insider called If A VC Turns You Down, Don’t Ask Them To Refer You To Someone Else which also talks about how not to ask for a referral. His last paragraph hits home:
Venture capitalists take referrals seriously. If someone I trust e-mails me a referral, the first thing I do is ask the VC for more information about the person being referred and whether the VC is interested in investing in the person. If the VC doesn’t know the person, I immediately question the validity of the introduction. If this happens regularly, I heavily discount the value of any introduction from the VC. This is a self-correcting phenomenon. Good VCs are careful with introductions because they want to make sure both parties view the introduction as valuable. Hopefully entrepreneurs understand this dynamic.

Smart relationships know and live Brad’s comment. They know that there is value in giving great referrals and know when not to give a referral.
To get my attention AND if you don’t know me, find someone who does know me; entrepreneur circles in the Bay area are pretty small and I think it would not be hard to network to someone who is connected to me. If you pitch them well, you’ll get a referral to me and, thus, my attention. But don’t send me random emails to my info@ inbox.