Why an introduction from a mutual friend is better than a cold call

This one’s going to be short and sweet. Today I spent some time reflecting on what differentiates the founders who I want to fund from the rest of the pack. In addition to the usual suspects like having a passion for what they’re doing, adopting a broad vision yet being able to convey it in simple terms, and having a deep understanding of the technical details of their business, there was one factor which I wasn’t expecting. I was more willing to fund those entrepreneurs who came to me through the introduction of a mutual friend than those who placed a cold call.

In today’s world of the internet and LinkedIn where it’s fairly easy to find a mutual contact, my gut instinct tells me that coming through the introduction of a mutual friend shouldn’t send a strong signal about the quality of the entrepreneur. Since I couldn’t pin down a rational reason for why I preferred founders who were introduced by a friend, I decided to perform a simple exercise to see if the preference for a common contact was unique to me or shared by others.

I pulled out a piece of paper and began writing down the 10 greatest successes of my career. These included accomplishments like starting a business, making a successful investment, and landing a job. I then evaluated how I had started on the path to success in each case. In particular, I was looking to discover whether the first step of the journey had been through the introduction of a friend or if I had initiated the contact through a cold call. To my surprise, my friends were responsible for originating 9 of the 10 successes. So not only do I react more favorably to an introduction, but it seems like the majority of everyone else does as well.

Digging a bit deeper for why we may prefer introductions rather than cold calls, I’ve concluded that it must be an evolutionary inheritance. As mentioned earlier, it’s not challenging to find a mutual contact to make an introduction in the world of the internet and LinkedIn. So, with the exception of a glowing introduction from a very trusted friend, an average introduction in today’s world shouldn’t carry too much weight. However, it remains very difficult for today’s rational brain to overcome thousands of years of evolution. There’s a reason why all the languages I speak have a variation of the expression “don’t talk to strangers”. We are evolutionarily wired to place greater trust in those we know directly, and knowing them through a mutual friend is the next best thing.

So whether you’re an entrepreneur looking to increase your chances of getting funded, or someone simply looking to experience greater success in their career, my advice is simple. After you’ve identified someone you want to meet, have a mutual friend make the introduction.