Monthly Archives: May 2010

Art of the Email Introduction

How to introduce two people so that they both benefit

Email introductions are a poorly-understood art and are often done too hastily without careful thought.  Making introductions the right way can be the best way to help two people and create a lot of value.  But doing it wrong can make one of the parties look bad and can alienate one or both parties from you.

Below are my tips on the best ways to make an email introduction between two people.

Before we go through the mechanics, let’s first define your objectives as the introducer. Your goal should be to benefit both people you are introducing. Both parties should be happy you made the introduction, glad they met the other person, and thankful to you. You should not bother making an introduction if it will only benefit one of the parties. 

Now for the tips on the proper way to make introductions:

1. Take the time
Good introductions require careful thought and preparation. Take the time to really think why both parties will benefit from each other and spell it out in an email.  Hasty introductions can have minimal or even negative impact.  I’m sure we’ve all been victims of hastily written email intros.  I recently got one that said "Auren/John – you two just HAVE to meet each other. You two take it from here." – I’d like to know who John is and why we should meet.

2. Ask for permission
A good way to start the introduction process is to first email the people and ask them for permission.  Make the case of why they should meet the other party and ask them if it would be ok for you to introduce the two.  Usually it will work well, but occasionally someone will say that they are too busy.  If that’s the case, you just saved both friends a lot of trouble.

3. Make sure there is a quick follow up
You never want to make an introduction where both parties don’t immediately respond to each other.  To prevent this from happening, make sure that the weight of your email encourages both people to quickly arrange a time to talk. 

Images 4. Take the time of each person into account

Be clear in your email introduction what the next action for the two parties should be. Suggest whether they should meet for lunch, coffee, over the phone, or just exchange emails.  Often people should just have a quick phone call and you don’t want to waste the time of one or both people by suggesting a lunch.   

Rarely introduce your friend to someone just because your friend wants to meet her.  There needs to be an exchange of value between the two people and both parties need to come away with more value than their time is worth. To find a worthwhile introduction,  you may need to proactively suggest people who your friends might want to meet. 

5. Clearly give the location of each person
Location is one detail that is forgotten all too often but can save a lot of back and forth communication. If one person is in LA and the other is in NY, let them know.  If they are going to be the same city in two weeks, they can now meet in person. If they are going to arrange a call, they will now know what time zone they are in. 

Images 6. Be sure to give their first and last name and a quick bio of the person

I often get intros from people to – so I know the first name of the person is “Jim” but don’t know their last name and it makes it difficult to save the person’s contact information.  And a quick bio will go a long way in giving context.

7. Mention if two people have met before
If you know the two parties have met before, even if only briefly, be sure to mention it in the introduction. Often people forget brief meetings so you can save them from embarrassment.

8. Include all necessary parties
If the people use their assistants, then copy the assistants of both parties if appropriate.

9. Only forward emails that make the originator look good

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been introduced to someone by an introducer who forwards me a semi-confidential email chain that I probably shouldn’t see. Forward only positive emails and, if you have to, edit the email before forwarding to make both sides look good.  

10. Make intentions of your introduction clear

If you are introducing single people of different genders, make sure that the purpose of your introduction is clear and that there is no misunderstanding.  Being clear about whether the introduction is a business or a personal one will preclude embarrassing situations where people have misaligned intentions. 

As an introducer, your goal should be for both parties to be glad that you made the intro.  If only party one gets value from the meeting, you have failed. But when you succeed, you have the potential to massively increase the happiness of both people.

"Success is a lousy teacher. It seduces smart people into thinking they can't lose." – Bill Gates

The next hire (the one that is most important)

Who a startup hires after its initial founders says a lot about the company and its future. While the initial founders of a company are generally very impressive, the next few hires are the critical people that make good ideas become great ideas. 

Why Next Hires Are Important

•    They lend credibility to the vision
Rockstar subsequent hires help validate an idea. Just like there is no movement without a first follower, there is no great company if rockstars can’t be convinced to join the cause.

•    They make it easier to raise funding
Because next hires add credibility to a company’s mission, they make it easier to attract and raise funding. In turn, this puts the company one step closer to realizing their vision. When I personally decide whether or not to invest in a company, my investment criteria is simple: if this were my company, would I hire the same people? If yes, I invest. If no, I flee.

•    They set the direction of the company’s trajectory
Are the initial hires well-known big shots? That usually means the company is setting itself up for a sale and looking to make a big PR splash and flip.  Paradoxically, if they are recruiting the best talent right out of university, that might mean they are looking to build a more lasting company to attempt to take over the world.

•    They set the tone of upcoming hires and attract more talent

The saying that people are the most important assets of any company is especially true for startups –beyond the talent, there isn’t much else. That’s why next high profile next hires are so critical. They not only raise the bar of future hires, they also attract more rockstars. And together, these people determine the fledgling company’s ability to innovate, navigate roadblocks, seize opportunities, and grow.