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Dec 29th, 2012 Share: Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Share on LinkedIn

How NOT to Ask

This morning I received the following email (as it was sent BCC I can’t tell if it went to me personally or WebFWD, the incubator program I used to run at Mozilla — judging from the questions I believe it went to WebFWD):



I have a great idea that’s working and I have customers and revenue. I need advice for experienced angels/ investors/ mentors in order to scale it

Several questions if I may:

1) When are you accepting applications?
2) What do you offer?
3) What equity stake do you request?
4) What are the best mentors/ angels are you firm?
5) What differentiates you from all the other incubators?
6) When I visit you (I’m coming from london uk), where should I stay accommodation wise, please recommend me some places

Thank you and I look forward to your reply.


This is it. Verbatim. All I removed was the name of the person in the signature.

Let’s dissect this email a bit — as it encapsulates pretty much everything which is wrong about an ask.

It starts with the subject line. All caps means YOU ARE YELLING AT ME! Also — I am not sure if using the word “requires” is wise — your idea might require help but I doubt that I amrequired to do anything.

Moving on to the recipient — as mentioned: The email was sent with the recipient(s) in BCC. Meaning: You sent it to a bunch of people and didn’t even bother sending it individually. That’s classy.

Your salutation (“Hi” — no name, nothing personal) underlines this point. At this point you already hit the point where I usually delete the email and will make a mental note to never ever respond to an email from you.

Going on — so you have an idea which is working and has both customers and revenue. Good on you. First of all — that’s not called an idea. That’s a business. But more importantly: What the hell is your idea? A hair saloon? A DNA printer? A rocket ship? An Angry Bird clone? Jeez — if you don’t tell me what you do I have no clue if I can help you or not.

But it get’s better. Your questions are completely and utterly infuriating. You clearly have done zero homework — otherwise you would have known the answer to pretty much each and every question. Despite the fact that some of the questions are insulting — asking me how I/we differentiate from other incubators is an insult. You either want to work with me/us or not. Either way is fine. Don’t ask me to justify myself.

There you have it. Take this email and do the exact opposite and you have the perfect ask. :)

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