How to Make an Introduction

Eric Wiesen Feb 05, 2012 Back to blog

It wouldn’t have occurred to me to write about how to make introductions, but I’m surprised at how many people get it wrong.  The most common error is making a connection between two people when at least one of them doesn’t actually want to be connected.

VC’s tend to receive a lot of introductions and we are often asked to make introductions on behalf of portfolio CEO’s, people looking for jobs or just folks trying to expand their networks. We spend much of our time seeing new companies and meeting people, so our willingness and ability to make these connections is an important part of the value we are able to deliver. And on the flip side, being someone to whom inbound introductions flow is part of our competitive positioning relative to others in our business.

When I’m asked to make an introduction to someone I usually ask one threshold question – am I sure this introduction is welcome and will it deliver value to the person I’m being asked to hit up. In the majority of cases I actually don’t know in advance.

This is why the key best practice in making introductions is to ask the person on the other end whether the introduction is welcome and of interest or not.

If your friend is starting a company and asks for an intro to RRE, the best practice is to ping me or one of my colleagues and ask if it’s ok to make the introduction. This isn’t because we’re so important – it’s because if you’re someone we respect and you introduce us to a company and cc the founder, we’re going to take the meeting largely to avoid being rude to you and to your friend even if we aren’t that interested. If the company is outside of our interest areas, tangentially competitive with an existing investment or obviously not a fit for other reasons, you’ll have wasted not just our time but your friend the entrepreneur’s time as well.

VC’s should follow this rule too. I know that one of the frustrations that sometimes accompanies having VC board members is the random (and often frequent) introductions that come in over the transom. The VC is trying to be helpful by connecting a company to a high level person in a big company, a strong-looking candidate seeking a new gig or a high-placed investment banker. But VC’s should heed this warning – if you aren’t sure your portfolio CEO wants to talk to someone, ask them first, otherwise you’re wasting their time. In an era of text messages, twitter DM’s or good old-fashioned IM, pinging them to check first is a much lighter touch than an email intro that obligates them to reply.

There are exceptions to this rule of course. If I know a company is actively recruiting people for a role, it’s not necessary to take this intermediate step. And there are people who I trust enough that if something clears their filter I’ll take the introduction no questions asked. But that understanding is pretty explicit.

Bottom line – for both founders and investors our most precious resource is our time. If you want to do someone a favor by connecting them with someone who has asked for an introduction, do both parties the courtesy of taking the time to ensure that it’s a welcome introduction.