January 31, 2023

Why can’t founders just say how much they're raising in pitch emails?

Founders are great at doing the impossible — so why can’t they just ask for money in pitch emails?

Elena Mazhuha

4 min read

Elena Mazhuha, Investment Director at Flyer One Ventures

I receive dozens of cold pitch emails from startups every day. And what still puzzles me is that a huge share of these emails do not explicitly state what they want.

Startup founders have learned to build minimum viable products (MVPs) with no coding experience, hire the best talent at one-half market salary and launch successful marketing campaigns without money — yet half of the email pitches I receive don’t say clearly: “We are raising $X to do X, Y and Z.” 

Instead, they say:

  • “We are looking for a reliable partner, which can help us with X and Y”
  • Or, “We believe there’s strong synergy between us and would love to see how we can cooperate in the future”
  • Or, “We would love to explore cooperation opportunities with you”
  • Or, “We are not raising right now but would love to chat about how we can be helpful to each other in the future”

Being able to ask for what you need is an essential skill for founders trying to raise money in 2023. With interest rates rising and clouds on the macroeconomic horizon, VCs are more cautious and frugal, and it’s harder than ever to fundraise. Proof: the number of deals in Europe dropped by 35% in 2022, and the trend is going to continue.


Why do founders dance around the topic of funding in pitches?

Let me make it clear. We work in venture capital. In other words, we raise money to give it to other people, whom we believe to be way smarter and more talented than we are. Yes, we can be helpful and cooperative, but a huge part of this help happens AFTER we invest.

Our core job is to give money and wait to earn it back with a return, which is a reward for the risk and time we spend waiting for exits and asking “What’s up?” every month for seven years in a row. If VCs stop giving money to aspiring startup founders, our whole job stops making sense!

Another possibility is that these founders believe that asking for money directly will put them at the mercy of a VC

So why do some founders dance around the topic of funding in their pitches?

One possible explanation is that they are afraid of rejection. Asking for money can be a vulnerable act, and it’s possible that some founders prefer to soften the blow by using less direct language and asking for something else instead of money. In this case, the rejection doesn’t feel like rejection because technically no one asked for money! 

But here’s the thing: venture capitalists are used to saying “no” more often than “yes”. Sadly, it’s part of the job. And if a founder can’t ask for money directly, it raises red flags about their ability to handle the inevitable rejection that comes with being a startup founder.

Another possibility is that these founders believe that asking for money directly will put them at the mercy of a VC. They might think that by not stating their funding needs, they will look more desirable to investors and create FOMO.

In reality, this approach comes across as evasive and unprofessional. It makes it harder for VCs to understand the startup’s needs and assess whether they are a good fit for the fund’s investment thesis.

Let’s not waste each others’ time

The most frustrating thing about this approach is that it wastes everyone’s time. VCs and founders are busy people, and they don’t have time to play guessing games. If a founder wants funding, they should just say so. 

Dancing around the topic of funding and using vague language is a waste of time for both parties

Don’t get me wrong, a good email pitch should include other important data about the startup: its name, what it does, the team's experience and how much traction it has — all backed by numbers and facts, and not by adjectives. But VCs need these facts for one reason — to understand if they want to invest in you, how much money you need and for what purposes.

Dancing around the topic of funding and using vague language is a waste of time for both parties and doesn’t leave a good impression in the end. Be clear, concise and to the point, it’s the best way to move forward and raise your next round.

Elena Mazhuha

Elena is investment director at Flyer One Ventures.