The Double Opt-In Introduction

I'm sure everyone out there gets email intros. Someone who knows you sends you and someone you don't know an email suggesting you meet.

I send emails like that a lot. I might send a half a dozen or more every day.

I get even more emails like that. Sometimes dozens a day.

And I'd like to propose some email intro etiquette which I follow almost religiously myself:

When introducing two people who don't know each other, ask each of them to opt-in to the introduction before making it.

Last night I got talking about this with some friends who also get a lot of email intros. All of us get email intros that we don't want to follow up on. Some just ignore them. Others reply with something like "I'm really busy now and will get back to you in a month." And then never do.

I don't really like either of those two solutions and I also don't like responding to an introduction email with something like "I'm sorry but I don't really want to meet you".

So I often take meetings in these situations that I don't really want to take. And that means I'm less available to meet with people I do want to meet.

My friends said that I should simply keep track of who is giving me bad intros and let them know about it. I'm sure that I should be doing that and probably am at some level.

But I think asking for permission to make an email intro before making it is good form. I try to do it as a matter of practice. And I wish more people would.

 

#VC & Technology

Comments (Archived):

  1. johndodds

    Just like people did before email you mean? Technology changes, good manners don’t.

    1. fredwilson

      πŸ™‚

  2. chris dixon

    Thank you! Totally agree. Also, a nitpick, but once someone intros, no need to cc that person on every follow up meeting scheduling a meeting!

    1. Juan Lopez-Valcarcel

      Completely agree with double opt-in and not CCing everyone.Another polite thing that people that request intros seldom do is to send a quick follow-up a few days later letting you know if the intro that you made was helpful or not. Take care of your network and your network will take care of you.

    2. kenberger

      That’s an important point– a good way to do this is the first responder hits “reply all” and drags the originator’s email to the bcc field, and begins the email with “Thanks for the intro, Joe (bcc’ed)”. That way all subsequent emails skip him.The originator almost never needs to be involved in the conversation, but certainly likes to know that the intro went somewhere.You can also follow up later privately w/ the originator to thank him if the connection was a particularly valuable one, or even have a side conversation if you feel the need for further guidance.

    3. David NoΓ«l

      it’s true and it works. Just applied the “permission to connect” rule (I usually do), received permission, forwarded and now I’m out of the meeting scheduling.

  3. Michele

    This may sound old-fashioned, but I always a friend’s permission before making an e-mail intro in the first place.

  4. Michele

    Apologies. What I meant to write was, I always ask a friend for permission before making an e-mail (or phone) introduction.

  5. awaldstein

    I’m with you on this one. It is easier to ask or do something virtually that is harder to do in real life that is why folks hide behind email rather than a call at times. I’m just honest as I would be face to face and either say, sure, I’ll do it or I don’t feel comfortable. Sticking to what I feel comfortable with always works for me with my volume of mail. Thanks for bringing this up.

  6. lance

    So how do you handle the situation when person A asks for an intro to person B but person B says they don’t want to meet person A?

    1. ShanaC

      From practice, this is what dinner parties are for. Surprise people. If you host one, all the guests don’t have to know each other. Prempt them.

    2. RichardF

      Just tell them in advance that person B doesn’t always take up on the intro

      1. awaldstein

        Simplest is just to be straightforward. You can broker things that you think will work, you can’t make them successful. Life and business are the same here.

      2. Derek

        +1 for that. I’m careful to manage expectations of the person I’m making the intro for.

    3. fredwilson

      I tell it like it is

      1. lance

        The opposite of don’t ask, don’t tell. Like you I get far more intros than I make. I am going to try this on my side and see how it works.

      2. George Nimeh

        “I tell it like it is” … Indeed.

      3. kenberger

        This is very important too. Person A misses out on valuable info if he doesn’t have this key info, in the name of being “nice”. It’s nicer to know the facts so you can adjust your pitch, targets, etc…

      4. nabeel

        This made sense at first blush, but you’re response here caught me. Doesn’t that basically mean that you want a middle man to deliver the bad news so you don’t have to? In other words, person A asks the middle man for an intro, immediately that intro person becomes an “introductory assistant” for person B trying to talk about how B will “talk to them in a month” or is “too busy”?

        1. fredwilson

          Yes. If your friend asks you to introduce him/her to me then he’s asking you to do the work of a middle man

  7. ShanaC

    Agree. However, I wish there was a better way of keeping track of all of this- like who is being introduced to whom. Map of emails. I’m not so happy with Gmail’s contacts or linkedin or facebook, because I want to see the webbing and make intros. Just standard good practice, because we all love to meet new people.

    1. RichardF

      Maybe there is a practical use for the Wave after all!

      1. ShanaC

        Wave is not a simple tool. And it not even a month old. And it has guidebooks. It’s not like twitter where it is so simple it needs guidebooks. Wave is complicated. I feel lost in it. And I’m midterming and I feel under pressure from both the midterms and this place to catch up. It isn’t set up in a way that is easy to use. Nor is it set up that it is intutive to collaborate in both public or private ways. Though the idea of moving in and out of space to collaborate is brilliant. It just needs a major UX overhaul. Scarily so. If it isn’t immediately apparent how to move in and out of private spaces, how to meet the right people, and how to create collaborative spaces, then you have a problem: a big problem. It’s big enough that I would need to space out for a few weeks? to solve it. I mean where are all these people supposed to go- should you change the group size/design when it hits a certain size? What about this idea of walking away/coming back- how do you make that easy to understand. Public/private? How do you make a sort of flow of semi-public, which seems to be the real issue- so that the right people are talking and that other people aren’t acting not per say spammy, but just not taking down the conversation so that it can act as a collaborative tool.Wow. they’re really trying. It really could be something incredible, but the UI sucks. I never thought I would say that about Google and a collaborative tool. Wow. It’s like a specialty area for Google beyond their search box. Just a shocker of how off base the design can get. And I am pro-collaborative design, and pro-collaborative design tools, so this for me has huge potential. So weird, odd, and disappointing. It may gain traction in the market, but only because it’s Google. If it weren’t for that, I don’t know why someone would use it. A better version of the same technology will come out and bite them in the ass, I’m sure of it.(I just got called a analytically based Fluxus Netzien as an artist today in informal critiques, it’s a need to know thing. For more on Fluxus: http://en.wikipedia.org/wik…, and I pulled only three hours of sleep trying to do my first javascript thing which doesn’t work the way I want it, and is not crit worthy on a theory level too. Excuse me google, I’m a bit moody.)

  8. RichardF

    Fred, if you are taking meetings with people that you really don’t want to meet then you must be the nicest VC I’d like to know !

  9. LIAD

    double opt-in results in tonnes of headache for the introducer to oversee = 3 emails minimum, more if one party declines and then the introducer has to inform the declined party about the decline etc etcCould be built as a simple web service – like the speed-dating sites where both parties have to agree to the date before contact info is exchanged. Even in those situations one party knows if the other declines the request – which still leaves a bad taste and may make the introducer feel like a a bit of a plonker for making an introduction which didn’t even get off the ground

    1. fredwilson

      Trust me, I know all about the headaches because this is how I do it

  10. Marcin

    @LIAD – making introductions is about giving value, not a display of activity – so if you made intro that didn’t work out think why, and be smarter next time, don’t sulk. I thought about the same speed-dating analogy btw πŸ™‚

  11. Dan Lewis

    From the opposite vantage point, I often am asking contacts for introduction, and I *absolutely hate it* when my contact does not bother with a double opt-in. It’s both socially awkward and typically, a waste of my time to follow up on the intro.

  12. Rob K

    I have always thought that LinkedIn could do a much better job on this front.Fred- I sent you an email about 2 weeks ago asking permission to intro you to a great VP Marketing. I did not hear back from you.

    1. fredwilson

      What email address did you send it to?

        1. fredwilson

          Hmm. I’ll have to go look for it

  13. Elie Seidman

    Related to this is when I receive blind emails from business development people “looking to joint venture or do business together”. My advice for those kinds of emails is to, as much as possible, make it clear how you would envision working together. Email has reduced the cost of getting in touch with people but has not reduced the cost for the recipient to figure out if there is really something there. If you are the one sending the email, it’s best to provide some specifics. These days I’m receiving a lot of those emails and it’s dramatically easier to respond to the ones that are actually actionable. Interestingly, the bigger the Company sending the email, the more specific the request. Small startups send the vaguest requests.

    1. Drew Meyers

      “Interestingly, the bigger the Company sending the email, the more specific the request. Small startups send the vaguest requests.”Hadn’t really thought about this before — but now that I think about it for a second, you’re spot on.

  14. Dave Hendricks

    Email intros are like references…get permission first, make the intro and then you are not on any subsequent conversations between the newly connected. Simple.The person who received the intro then closes the loop by thanking you for it.If the ‘intended target’ has any feedback about the introductee, they can close the loop with the introductor after the two unfamiliar parties have spoken. If it’s worthy of the time spent.This seems simple. I hope no one creates a startup out of this.

  15. Mark Essel

    Hmm, I just shot gunned (cc’d) any message to whoever I thought may benefit from the info/intro- all parties included.Interesting to see how different social usage trends have developed. I default to email for when I really want someone to experience something I’m psyched about, or it’s a casual asynchronous chat with friends.Are invites moving to other media? LinkedIn has a somewhat formalized recommendation system.

    1. fredwilson

      I don’t like and don’t use linkedin’s intro system.I love linkedin for one thing: its a database of structured resumes with a social graph attached. That in and of itself is an internet treasure.Much of the other functionality doesn’t do much for me

      1. Elie Seidman

        completely agree – and the UI is really poorly done. It’s superficially good because it’s simple and clean but when I actually try to use it, I find it really challenging. Nothing is where it should be.

        1. Nigel Walsh

          they have just updated their UI, not tried it yet – there is a feature here on mashable: http://mashable.com/2009/11

          1. Elie Seidman

            interesting. Looking forward to seeing if it works. The good news πŸ˜‰ for them is that they set the bar low in their existing UI.

          2. Nigel Walsh

            I actually quite like it – it works for me – but then we are all designed differently – thankfully.

  16. Richard Burton

    I think someone should build a simple web-app to facilitate this process. You could enter the intro details of both people and set who wants to talk to whom. I don’t mind putting together a simple UI. Anyone want to help me build it?

    1. benstein

      Check Referralkey.com. It’s a referral service, you can enter both parties details and asked to be contacted before anyone initiates a meeting.

    2. Drew Meyers

      I agree such a web app could be useful, but think it would lose much of the personal nature of an introduction that makes them so valuable. If you make it too easy to do, then it’ll just turn to spam pretty quickly.

  17. Mike Altschul

    Wow, I’ve done plenty of e-introductions and, frankly, the idea of *not* doing the “double opt-in” has never crossed mind. Typically there’s the one who’s interested in meeting the other. I’ll spend 5 mins to understand and make the case as to why they should meet; if I can’t make a compelling case, the intro’s not worth making. And I expect others to extend the same efforts. Common courtesy goes a long way…

  18. davidblerner

    Bravo Fred. I think this is a common courtesy folks should observe. Otherwise it can often be a significant imposition.

  19. dshupp

    Another reason to get the opt-in: I find it’s a great way to organically reconnect with someone that might have fallen off my radar for some reason.

  20. JF

    Somehow, bad intros should cost the matchmaker. Maybe in terms of whuffie units – if that currency becomes a valid tender.

  21. Adam Medros

    I find that the issue isn’t the double opt-in; there are times where I get both people’s permission and other times where i just let the email fly (and I’ll fourth the please don’t keep cc’ing me). I find the issue is the person requesting the introduction isn’t respectful of the time request being made. Just because someone I know/trust has made an introduction doesn’t automatically mean I want to meet for coffee, or lunch, or whatever. How about asking for 5 minutes on the phone and then if its mutually interesting we go from there.

  22. Gotham Gal

    Not asking both parties before making the introduction is bad etiquette, pure and simple. Going on meetings where you were not asked prior to the introduction again and again is poor management of time. Continuing to do the same thing and expecting different results is not something you live by in your businesses, why would you live by that when it comes to meeting people?

  23. benstein

    Try using a referral service like Referralkey. It organizes all of your “intros” which are essentially referrals. Instead of your friend giving away your contact info, your friend gives you the contact info of THEIR friend, so it puts the ball in your court. You no longer have to be annoyed because you don’t want to ignore them or you don’t want to meet them.Ben SteinProduct ManagerReferral Key

    1. J.D. Falk

      Seems like that’d be an odd context switch:”Hey, can you introduce me to Bob?””Sure, but first log into this web site you’ve never heard of before, and type in lots of information that I already know about you.”

      1. fredwilson

        That won’t work. Copying an email address (like the disqus email address we use here) could work

  24. kenberger

    “My friends said that I should simply keep track of who is giving me bad intros and let them know about it.”Being a Connector is such a key role, and Fred’s blogged about it before: http://www.avc.com/a_vc/200…The most important point in making connections is not simply that you know so many people, but that you have enough “clue” and are smart enough to make the most relevant connections, every time. I tend to judge connectors not by how many referrals they make, but by which ones they hold *back*. Proving you’re smart and highly sensitive about referrals shows that you can vet a situation on multiple levels, and add real value.If someone is chugging out referrals that aren’t well thought out, the best way to help them (and everyone they know) is to encourage them to revisit their methods. Many think they are just being helpful when they really aren’t, especially to themselves.

  25. Ryan Swagar

    Fred,I think you are missing another big problem though.Once you make an email introduction, the appropiate parties do not need to keep copying you on every email moving forward (lining up the meeting time, thoughts after the meeting etc).This is one of my pet peeves. I make an introduction and then get another 4-6 emails while parties line up a meeting time.Surely I am not the only one that has an issue with this?

    1. Rob K

      Ryan, I agree. I find email etiquette lacking in many ways, that is certainly one of them.

    2. fredwilson

      I don’t mind that. Gmail collapses all of that into one convo and its a minor time sink compared to taking a meeting I don’t want or coming up with a polite reason why I can’t meet

  26. andyswan

    For the record, I will sit and have a bourbon with any of you fancy nancys….in NYC Nov [email protected], permission not required.

    1. JLM

      I am with you on this one. Completely.Be nice to everybody you possibly can on the way UP because you never know who may break the fall on the way DOWN!First, Fred, let’s face it — you are a rock star. And people want to sniff the air around rock stars. But it is your genuine “niceness” which is part of the persona which is TheFred. That persona is a business asset. Tinker with the magic elixir at your own peril.It takes years to build a reputation and 5 seconds to destroy a reputation.I get such intros all the time (in the spirit of full confession, I suspect it really may be my 10 TX v OU tickets but who knows) and I immediately strike back. I e-mail the guy directly and say to him — tell me your story. In a very selfish way, I make him do the work to convince me we have something to talk about.The two best answers in the world of business are a quick “yes” or a quick “no”. I put them off by simply saying — “Wow, what an interesting story and/or proposition but it’s just not for me right now. Sorry.” But I always stick their name and contact info in the old db. I put them on the Christmas card list.I always stop off at about 7:00 AM for a coffee at my favorite coffee house. Anybody and I mean anybody who wants to get up and have a cup at that hour is welcome and it gives me an easy avenue for escape. I can finish my coffee and say my goodbyes. I have invested next to nothing. I have also sometimes stayed until lunch time.Lastly, when I was in a business which had a hugely greater base of investors, lenders, clients and agents — I used to have a quarterly “get together” with a bit of the bubbly and some very nice treats. I invited everybody and told everybody to bring their friends. It was one of the most powerful deal generation mechanisms imaginable. I literally had deals fall into my lap. Plus I could escape a bore by pleading I had to attend to my guests. I made my staff work the room like pickpockets to garner every possible spot of energy in the room. I used to give a prize to whomever gathered the most new business cards. I would make 5 minutes of comments and some public introductions or thank someone for something they had done on a deal.For about 15 consecutive years, I had a big Christmas party with a dance band (the Ducks or Rotel and the Hot Tomatoes) which offered karoake (before anybody knew what karoake was). I used to make our lawyers, accountants, appraisers, vendors get up and sing at least a 5-beer rendition of something. It was hilarious.During the evening Elvis would come and get down on his knees and sing to pre-selected wives, girlfriends, etc. It was great fun but it was really a great business gathering. To this day people I do not know tell me stories about their adventures at these parties.Instead of recoiling from all the attention, I suggest you harness it like a tsunamai and milk it for every ounce of juice possible. Maybe delegate a few of the meetings to a sharp and personable young person on your staff. It is the burden of being a rock star but it can be a great source of energy and deal flow.TheFred = rock star and rock stardom has its burdens

      1. RichardF

        and I’m with you JLM….

        1. JLM

          Bless you, my friend, may the FORCE — the undeniable power of good manners — be with you.

      2. fredwilson

        I’ve got a lot to learn from you JLM. Good thing we are going to meet next week

        1. JLM

          Why not, I’ve already learned a lot from you!

      3. Elie Seidman

        great stuff. Your comment about the fast yes or no reminds me of an observation I’ve had about VCs. Good ones – whether they like you or not – answer your emails and give you a quick yes/no/maybe later. The ones who don’t even bother to email after a meeting even to just say “I’m passing for now” are making a mistake. A maybe or even a “no, it’s not for me” is far easier to take than just being ignored. I try to answer every inbound email biz dev request I get even if I don’t think it will go anywhere.

    2. fredwilson

      Let’s do it andy

      1. andyswan

        Name the evening….I’ll bring the REAL good stuff! Β Email me

        1. Dave Pinsen

          You’re not going to give Fred a little homework assignment first?

          1. andyswan

            That is awesome Dave.

  27. jsrand

    Unless you have a blanket open invite (i.e., Fred, I trust you – you don’t need to screen me on any intro you want to make), I can’t imagine doing it any other way.

  28. Steven Kane

    gosh, i guess i am really old fashioned — i never make email intros without first getting permission from both partiesthen the email intro is simple — i just write, i discussed this with both of you so over to youmy hit rate is 100% — never made an email intro where the parties didn’t reply and start a dialogue same day, usually within minuteshonestly, i get email intros all the time but i dont think i’ve ever received one unsolicitedfred, guess maybe this is a cost to your celebrity

    1. fredwilson

      Wow. I want your inbox steve!

      1. Steven Kane

        Somehow, I don’t think so. πŸ˜‰

  29. Keenan

    The plus to this is the meeting/intro between the two parties will actually be of value to the person your introducing. There is nothing that irritates me more than being introduced to someone who has no desire to meet me. It is evident in their interaction and lack of commitment to be helpful. I don’t have time to waste with someone who doesn’t want to meet.When I’m asked to meet with someone, the first question I ask myself is “how can i help them, or provide value, the second is can they help or provide value to me. if the answer is yes to either, I’ll take the intro. The double opt in allows me to assess this and make a decision that best respects both of our time.When doing the intro, I always ask and share with my friend/contact why I think they should meet with them, why I think it would be of value and what I think they would get out of it.Gratuitous intro’s piss me off. Intro’s are supposed to provide value. If they don’t they waste everyone’s time

  30. Rand Fishkin

    Ouch – message received. Sorry for the non-opted-in intro last week.

    1. fredwilson

      This post was not aimed at anyone rand. And now you know how I feel and I suspect you did not last week

      1. Rand Fishkin

        My mistake – I really should have written:”I’m guilty of this practice myself, and don’t personally mind non-opt-in intros, but good to know your preferences going forward and apologies for my lapse on this last week.”Comments are great for spontaneity sometimes and worse others πŸ™‚

  31. Kevin

    I heard a CEO say something like “the answers i want to hear, in order, are yes, no, then maybe.” Maybe is far worse than no. Fred’s proposal is spot on because it removes the maybes (and nobody gets put on the spot, which everyone hates). And by the way, introductions are foundational to business, not footnotes, so this is also incredibly important.

  32. daryn

    I always email the recipient, often with more color regarding the situation, and see if an intro is appropriate. Yes, it’s a little more work, but I prefer that to being on the worthless introducers list.Also, from a time management perspective, we have a event – same place, same time, every week – that we created with the specific intent of handling all these random meeting requests. In this case it’s a happy hour, but it’s basically an office hours. If someone wants to meet but I’m not sure if it’s worth the lunch/coffee/hour during the day, I just ask them to come to that. It’s worked out great – but far far less people are trying to get a hold of me than you, Fred πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      I love the happy hour thing. I might need to do that myself

    2. nabeel

      Yup. I use the Cambridge OpenCoffee in the same way and it’s turned out great. I’ve even had a few situations where a meeting wasn’t exactly the right fit, but the person asking me for the meeting was able to meet some good other people at OpenCoffee.

  33. bojanbabic

    @fredwilson: Sound like an idea for gmail social plugin where you could rate recommender and see latest social activity of recommended person ( twits, common followings, RTs, disqus comments …) . Decision making will be much easier. If there is any relevant some info – you will meet person. Otherwise, you should not waste your time. You can increase/decrease recommender rating based on your experience from meeting, so you will know whom to listen next time. I should pitch this somewhere: We have problem, solution… I only need figure out market cap and growth opportunities πŸ™‚

    1. fredwilson

      I love it!

  34. William Mougayar

    Another good practice is that- the person who is brokering the introduction has to explain briefly “WHY” they think person x ought to meet or be in touch with person y. If I’m the one brokering the intro and I know both people, and want to maintain good relations with both, I owe it to myself to do that. Otherwise, I’m eroding my social capital with one of them, or both, if I misrepresent the potential fit. I chose to do less of these intros, because I push back on the person asking for the intro by asking them to explain the Why. Let them do the homework on preparedness, and the end-result is a better hand-off. The other thing I hate is the bate-and-switch,- when someone introduce you to someone seemingly for one reason, but the other person has an ulterior motive that ends-up being a waste of time. You can fool me once on that one, not twice.

  35. Jared Goralnick

    I’ve always thought of myself as overly cautious when it comes to introduction etiquette, but this has me scratching my head–just a little.I don’t know you personally, Fred, but if I were making an intro to you and did know you well–given that you get a ton of intros–it’d likely follow these rules:1. If it were someone looking to pitch to you or that might be a partnership or pretty much anything where they wanted to meet you because you could offer them something, I’d absolutely ask your permission2. If it were someone who I felt was 100% mutually beneficial, someone who was unquestionably as valuable to you as you to them then I would just make the intro. To make it blatantly obvious what I mean, if a senator or the leader of a charity that you write about were in town and I was talking to them and recommended they talk to you and they were up for it…I’d just shoot an email to you bothSo, in other words, I do the double opt-in whenever I see a potential that one party would decline (I would hate to make an awkward situation for someone). And I do the direct intro when I think it’s either 100% mutually beneficial, or the person asking for the intro is in a better position to help the person I’m introducing them to (i.e., the asymmetry is in favor of the party I’m making the intro to).I’m curious what you feel about this case?(And I doubly agree with ShanaC about dinner parties–generally speaking, small group events (not necessarily networking events) are a great place to make an introduction…and if it’s not wanted one can just move on to talking with someone else)

    1. fredwilson

      I think it is hard to know if another person really wants the intro. I never assume that they do

  36. Glenn Gutierrez

    Reminds of Seth Godin’s piece on permission based marketing. There’s definitely this awkwardness when receiving email intro’s. Good idea on the side of getting more direct permission, it really helps with the stickiness of the message between the two parties and helps to solidify reliability and respect for the parties involved. Cool stuff as always.

  37. AndreaF

    Agree there is an issue here and the double opt-in is a solution. But there must be a better way.Also because the same people who don’t follow up the introductions may not reply to the opt-in requests putting you (the person in the middle) in a slightly awkward situation.And definitely not cc-ing.

  38. sfrancis

    I thought this was already standard practice- its a bit more work for the person doing the intro, but I like that as a filter for whether the person they are introducing is worth their extra effort… and when I’m doing an introduction, its only if I feel its worth it to do just that.Love to see the concept catch on though…BTW, LinkedIn offers some decent options for doing this in a lower-volume way (less likely to get lost in my inbox) where you can refer a profile to someone with a note suggesting that you introduce them.scott

  39. jonidaniels

    I make sure the ‘introducor’ gets permission and a ‘come ahead’ from the Introducee before I ever try to connect. It’s not awlays to say, when asked if I used thier name – that ‘yes, I did use your name. And they STILL didn’t want to get back to me.” Ouch

  40. rudi

    My project Whimwords (www.whimwords.com) is a messaging system built on the double opt-in concept. A “whimword” is a temporary alias (a word or phrase that says something about you) that you reserve online or via texting. In the context of a real-world mixer or networking event, you wear your whimword on a nametag or mention it to others in conversation — it serves as an icebreaker. If someone sees your whimword they can send a message to it; however messages are only delivered in the case of mutual interest. I have to “whim” you and you have to “whim” me before either of us hears from the other. It works like speed dating, except it’s decentralized — there’s no moderator. The system is currently targeted towards real-world events (with a focus on dating) but could be adapted to handle both live business mixers and Fred’s scenario of online/email introductions. I would welcome comments and/or suggestions from any readers of this forum. (rudi at whimwords)

  41. goldwerger

    Amen

  42. StNik

    well put FRED… and to think people think new yorkers are rude…

    1. fredwilson

      Some of us are. Trust me on that

  43. J.D. Falk

    The phrase “double opt-in” was invented by email marketers who didn’t want opt-in at all, and were trying to make it sound like an inappropriate inconvenience. What you’re describing here is more of a human process.

  44. Tom Hughes

    “Make an introduction” would be a killer app for LinkedIn. Select any two people in your network and initiate the process, with the option of the same cover note going to both, or individual cover notes; they get the note(s), with embedded Yes/No options; if they both click yes, they’re done, LinkedIn sends an “intro” email to both. The user saves time and can be confident the proprieties were observed; LinkedIn benefits because all three need to be members for this work.

    1. ShanaC

      I love the fact that facebook has it- but it seems nearly useless there. Really. Would be much better on LinkedIN, not that I “get” linked in (frankly I think linked in is really offbeat for being so structured when it comes to social networking. Most people are latticing there way through work, so the three spoke, and hyper title world seems intriguing.) (Test post of Shana’s photo too) (Test works, and now I have a meta-photo)

  45. joey horvitz

    Totally agree. I always make sure to first send out an email asking if a certain person wants the introduction before I make it. Having been involved in a previous career of producing films I cannot tell you how many uncomfortable and unnecessary meetings and phone calls I took out of feelings of guilt from these type of introductory emails from friends and colleagues…

  46. Jason Wood

    I love this policy Fred, although I think there are times when it’s unnecessary in that it assumes both parties are equally likely to be averse to a meeting. In cases where it’s clear in my mind that one person’s time is far more valuable, I’ll just opt in to their side of the conversation.

    1. fredwilson

      Yes. That’s a good point. Particulalry if one side asked for the intro

  47. Ritu Raj

    Well actually we are working on an application which alters the way electronic communication (email) works. It enforces a pragmatic language framework on communication — instead of sending an “email”, you send either a Request/Offer, Information or Speculation — with Request/Offer comes naturally Accept/Decline/ Counter Offer and comes with by When. You always commit to commit also. This establishes in a broader sense accountability to what you send, and the same to the receiver. And auto keeps it in existence till the communication loop is complete.We think thats the way to get out of the email mess. And to introduce, or I should say re-inforce, the term “coordination” instead of putting everything in the “collaboration” bucket.Please email me and will send you the user name/ pswd to our prototype application.

  48. JLM

    OK, I am bored today and leaving in a second to go run my Lab but I wanted to inject one minimally related thought to the conversation — the indelible power of a personalized, hand written note.The hand written note is an archaic habit which has been completely subsumed by the frenetic pace of the modern electronic communication age but it carries a certain cache which is only enhanced and magnified by its sheer oddity. It speaks volumes — YOU are important enough to make ME WANT to write to only YOU — while standing out from the crowd.This is not an original thought. I am a complete plagiarist on this subject having seen this done when a General’s aide de camp and when working for the Chairman of a Fortune 10 company. I know it works.I suggest every business person have a personal notecard (7 x 5 folded, 14 pt coated, gloss, C1S — GotPrint.net) with a scene that is unique to their existence and business (e.g. the Flatiron Building or Washington’s statue in Union Square) on the front and their contact info on the back.Use a bit of whimsy — maybe a great trout?Every time you have a memorable meeting, drop folks a quick two sentence hand written note.I have one with my airplane and my ’66 Chevy Impala fire engine red convertible on the front.Make the card so eye catching, it is impossible to throw away. Then use it.You are trying to create a memorable trophy moment. I know this works.OK, sorry, a bit off topic. But hey you make me feel comfortable. LOL

    1. fredwilson

      You know what JLM? In our convo last night that led to this post, we went from the topic of bad intro behavior to the power of the handwritten noteYou sure you weren’t there?

      1. JLM

        Well, not in person but I was there telepathically. You know what they say…..great minds, etc. LOL

    2. maverickny

      Love this idea, JLM… thanks for sharing!

  49. Girish Warrier

    I agree – it is just like asking someone you know if you could share his/her phone number with someone they do not know. And although brief, it was really cool meeting you in person today!

    1. fredwilson

      The feeling is mutual Girish. Sorry I was in a rush I don’t like missing parts of board meetings

      1. Girish Warrier

        Thanks. This blog is a great place to continue to interact with you and other folks.

  50. Dustin Rosen

    Totally, agree with you here, its the worst. But I have one point/question to add.The acceptance of the introduction often depends on the ability of the introductor to “sell” the need for an introduction and a meeting between the two parties. How do you account for introductions that “should happen” or would definitely be mutually beneficial, but the introductor did not properly “sell” one of the parties?

    1. fredwilson

      they are bad connectors. Find someone better

  51. james_hong

    Seeing as I’ve emailed you twice over the last week with no response, I guess I will take this as your answer! In any case, people don’t have a problem with being told that you don’t have the time to meet. They understand that you are busy. Just as with rejection in dating, a simple and polite “no thanks” is a much better response than being ignored.

    1. fredwilson

      I haven’t ignored you. I know you’ve got an email in my inbox. But do 350 other people right now. I’m working on it

  52. Robert Levin

    I have made hundreds if not a 1000+ introductions over the past 6 years ago (since I started the magazine) and whenever I have the slightest doubt, I ask both sides for permission to make the introduction. Among the many other reasons, it puts the two people being introduced on even footing. That said, I will also make sure that both people are positioned in the right way so they both feel that the potential benefits of an introduction are mutual.With respect to handwritten notes, they are making a huge comback as email boxes get slammed. Last week we brought in Jack Daly to speak with entrepreneurs and there sales forcesd Jack pulled out his “money bag” which is just like the bags retail stores used to deposit cash at banks. In the bag was a varitety of customized cards that Jack used on different occassions. Jack makes in a point to send the cards out within hours of each meeting.

    1. fredwilson

      Nice!

    2. Nigel Walsh

      I like this point. Isn’t this about trust?.I know for example that any from “Friend x” or “colleague, customer, partner y” is always good and will always follow up the intro – but its all based on trust & their reputation. Equally people I work with in the same way – Anything I send onwards to connect certain folks know I wont waste their time – I have respect for them.In the case where its speculative – then the double opt in is essential to gain consensus.

  53. howardlindzon

    Dear Fred..meet my good friend Andy Swan.He’s tall, loves George Bush and you guys will hit it off.Hope u connecth

    1. fredwilson

      Fortunately george bush can do no more damage. Andy, however, still can and will. Starting with the bourbon he’ll get me to drink with him in a few weeks in NYC πŸ™‚

  54. dwbl

    man. i’ve never read anyone else addressing this before.i spend a lot of time meeting and connecting people in my head, and it often leads to the virtual introduction that you speak of. I tend to be the one out of my network to be doing this (in a more active way than linking someone in a blog entry, which is passive).and occasionally I do think about the etiquette, about the opt-in. sometimes my friends may not WANT to know about something that I thought they would want to know about.Opt-in, like dollars spent, is someone’s way of expressing their openness to your transmissions. it is a necessary gate between the spheres of each person. cell walls.I don’t always EMPLOY it, but this reminder will reinform my approach.

    1. dwbl

      it’s just very funny to finally hear someone else does it, and in VC world, which is encouraging.THOUGH, the fact that you do not pay attention to the many introductions you get, is very interesting. even those who are all about extending relationships, can be very narrow-minded (aka super-FOCUSED) as to who is relevant at that moment.It makes sense.Our lives are as micro-turbulent as the tectonics of the stock market, and there is almost always a prevailing direction that we wish to move in. Eventually, with environmental influences such as density of commonalities, our focus wants to converge/taper/refine/concentrate, so it looks like a tornado, rotated 90 degrees. Converging down to 0, down to ZERO noise, to the origin.But in reality, our focus is like a sound wave, and our focus to different things changes constantly over time while trying to achieve 0 noise.As this is with meeting people, we really do end up justifying the idea of Dunbar’s Number.”I’m sure you’re cool, but I’m not that into knowing you right now.”

      1. dwbl

        i like handwritten anything. the sense of exclusivity of time.all the different kinds of meanings of ink on paper have grown because of the constantly evolving technology based on it.it’s like realizing something new about an old idea, at every time that you go back to re-examine it.anyway, i’m new here (as a feed subscriber)

        1. fredwilson

          My only problem with handwritten is my handwriting is the worst I’ve ever seen. It is not legible to mostI failed penmanship every year in schoolTypewriters were a gift from god

          1. Nigel Walsh

            good problem – I can hardly read my own writing – how on earth would anyone else!!! What specifically are we achieving with the hand written note – are we trying to say we invested more time in it…this is almost ‘ever so english’ What do other cultures do outside the US/UK?

          2. fredwilson

            It is more personal and increasingly rare. It works

  55. maverickny

    This post is particularly apt for me because yesterday someone emailed me introducing me to a friend of his and actually asked if I would like to be introduced to her. One presumes he did the same to the other party.On receiving a yes from both, a nice note was sent to both of us with an introduction today and we have just spoken; turns out to be a very useful business prospect and we’ll meet next week to discuss some mutual ideas.Really liked the way he did it, with good manners, decorum and respect for our time. My respect for the introducer went up ten-fold… all I need now is to order some of those cards JLM suggested and send a hand written thank you note henceforth to Colorado!

  56. jer979

    I just did a few non opt-in intros today (and actually make a point to do them a lot…intros that is). Usually, I find that I’ll talk to anyone for 10-15 minutes (when it suits me) b/c I like building out the network. Still, you make a great point and it’s much more in line with Seth Godin (now mine) around “permission marketing.” Effective immediately, I’m modifying the approach. It’ll take a bit more time, but I suppose it will demonstrate greater respect to the network. Nice job on being the change agent on this one!

  57. Doug Kersten

    Totally agree with you. It is called being polite.Very interesting stat by the way:”Fred Wilson’s blog subscriber growth represented 25% of the blog subscriber growth of the entire VC industry.”http://larrycheng.com/2009/…

    1. fredwilson

      Not sure what subscriber count really means though. Subscribers don’t always translate into readers

      1. Doug Kersten

        True. But it does indicate interest. Which means you are doing something right. Kind of like an ad that people click on but when they do it is still up to you to deliver the sale.

  58. Phil Spector

    So where is the advice here? are you just identifying thatthere is an issue, which is the firt step. Or are you suggesting we think about this beforehand. Please provide some usefule steps. For instance.1. Intro to unsuspecting party: Frank, Hi there hope all is well, I know a boy named Su who really is good at what you do.2. Patience: Wait for response from Frank.3. Discussion on why: Engage in conversation regarding Su and Frank and why they should meet.4. No surprises: Let them know you will be sending an email and what to expect, I have spoken to Frank and he agrees to meet with you bc your qualified candidate.

  59. JimHirshfield

    I hesitate to universally agree. In real life, it would be awkward, at a party or professional event, to approach 2 people independently and ask them if they mind meeting the other person. In-person is definitely different than via email, but most of the principles carry over. Obviously, it’s just rude to not introduce two people you know when the 3 of you are all standing in a circle f2f. (And yet, I have found myself in this position many times). Would I introduce you to a guy across the room that I knew? depends. I wouldn’t drag him across the room just to meet you purely on the basis that I knew both of you. I’d have to use my best judgement as to why such an intro makes sense. And the same holds true via email.The real lesson here, as I see it, is that people just need to use good judgement. Don’t introduce people just because person A asked to be introduced to person B. If you’re doing the introducing you have an obligation implicitly written into your relationship with people not to Introspam them (if I may coin a word).

    1. fredwilson

      Good word

  60. peterarmstrong

    Hey Fred,Scott Patten and I just coded up an app called optintro (http://optintro.com) which we think you might find useful given this post. Scott just sent you an opt-in introduction to me usingoptintro; please let us know what you think.

    1. fredwilson

      Saw it. I don’t want to use the web to do this. I want it all to work in email with some kind of web link (like this comment I am responding to via email)

      1. peterarmstrong

        Hey Fred,Thanks for the suggestion; we just implemented that feature. You send an email to a custom email address, and everything else happens automatically.The email you would send looks like:[email protected]:Hey Peter, you should meet Scott. He’s a Rails guy.Cheers, [email protected]:Hey Scott, you should meet Peter. He’s doing stuff with Flex and Rails.Cheers, Jason.intro:Peter, meet Scott. Scott, meet Peter. Play nice.Cheers, Jason.More details about how it works, email format, custom email address, etc are at http://optintro.com/signup.Cheers,Peter

        1. fredwilson

          I’ll check it out

  61. OurielOhayon

    i am /was exposed a lot to those situations: i learned to make a distinction where i know in advance when double optin is necessary and when it is not. The guy who makes the intro – if he s a good match maker should know enough both parties to assume they will both want to meet (eg: a startup looking to hire someone / and a killer candidate for the job).If you re not sure enough, you should ask for permission. This is a matter of judgement.The reason people don t ask for permission, is that it is painful to ask for it. requires multiple emails and explanations before the intro email happens. So many drop it.I have learned that i could skeep a meeting i don t want to take by simply engaging by email and asking a brief pitch of the reason to the other party. many times this is enough to suggest a meeting is not that necessary

  62. Rob K

    Miles- I think the only thing LinkedIn lets me do is forward a profile to another user. I should be able to complete the opt-in dialog Fred is describing. I forward the profile to A, A says he would like to meet B, and I push the “connect” button. Today I need to go to email, paste their addresses, and then connect via email. Seems cumbersome to me.

  63. JLM

    So, really how hungry are you? Hungry enough to bite the ass off a bear? Cause that is what is required to be successful today.Remember, there is only one of you out there. You are unique. Value yourself. Nobody is going to fill your chili bowl but you.Learn to make a cold call and learn it well.Do you have an “elevator pitch”?

  64. fredwilson

    I’d say your approach is right and I’d leave the person alone if you don’t get a reply on three tries

  65. JLM

    Ryan, everything is going to be just fine — you seem hungry enough to me — though you have picked the toughest town in the universe at the worst possible moment in history.If I lived in NYC, I would have a coffee w/ you tom’w morning but alas I am in Austin, TX. Which is the friendliest damn little burg in the state least impacted by the nastiness going on in the marketplace.