When Fundraising Leads to Email Overload

Tanner Lacey
December 28, 2022

When you decide to build a successful startup, you sign up for a lot of work: late nights, long weeks, less-than-ideal working conditions, wearing multiple hats, and going gray a lot earlier than you initially planned. Through it all, you learn to celebrate the wins.

One of the most exciting things to celebrate is a successful fundraise. Unfortunately, along with the publicity of a startup fundraising, comes a wave of irrelevant emails looking to capitalize on your success. Fundraising, at any stage, is a key trigger for inbox overload from unknown senders and unsolicited emails of every stripe: sales pitches, random recruiter emails, and outsourced services.

Photo from Times Square of Lyft celebrating its listing on the Nasdaq index.
Congratulations on your fundraise! Prepare for email overload. (source: Lyft)

You’re not alone

Recently, I heard from Kris Rudeegraap, CEO of Sendoso, that he and his executive team get hundreds of emails every time they raise money.

One of my fellow co-founders at Spiff told me that after a recent raise, his email inbox felt like a “real-time Twitter feed:” messages were pouring in from people trying to book meetings with him.

You raise money and everyone wants a piece of your time. They all begin jockeying for your attention; it’s a problem.

The adventure of building a company

Here are five things I’ve found to be universally true at early-stage companies:

  1. You get to know your co-founders, fellow employees, investors, and advisors better than you know most of your family.
  2. You build bridges and gain respect for peers, competitors, and other companies who raise money and strive to do the same.
  3. If your eyes are open, you are (or probably should be) working. The circadian rhythm of a normal work day goes out the window as you strive to be available for your team at any time.
  4. Although cost-effective, Costco Pizza will become tiring for your team after a few months.
  5. After so much work, fundraising is a milestone proving you are on the right track and someone else wants to bet on you, your team, and your product. When we raised a $5M Seed Round at Spiff, I felt deep relief – it’s worth celebrating.

A meme celebrates Costco pizza and how it was key fuel for the Spiff team in the early days.
Costco pizza is the best, but not when you eat it for several months straight (source: Quickmeme.com).

Cue the email overload

The day after the raise, though, I learned one more lesson:

6. Each successful fundraise comes with an unwritten term written by the rest of the world that reads: “When funds have been raised, it is now time for us to sell you our solution.”

In the first week after our raise, I spent hours cleaning out my inbox. Everyone and their friend was reaching out to “congratulate” me by selling a lead gen tool, development services, or office furniture.

I’ve seen this process repeat itself four times as we have now raised over $70M from some of the world’s top funds. Each time, I am bombarded with hundreds of emails “congratulating” me on our accomplishment and wanting to help me “put those funds to good use.”

When you raise money, it’s a massive, public indicator for any outbound sales rep that you are growing and have funds to spend.

A silver lining

However overwhelming and time-consuming the email onslaught might be, there is likely somevalue sprinkled in that flurry of emails.  

Look carefully and you may see tools helpful to you and your team, honest and sincere congratulations from friends and colleagues, and people wanting to connect who really can add value to your network.

It’s just hard to focus on because of the massive volume. Valuable messages are often missed, overlooked, or deleted because you just need to see your inbox clean again.

How to tame email chaos after you fundraise

Raising money in no way means you have more time, so how do you focus your efforts when the emails are pouring in? 

Having gone through this experience repeatedly, I’ve discovered a few simple steps that make the process more bearable:

  1. Prepare your inbox and adjust your notifications: I was a Boy Scout growing up, so I’m a sucker for anytime I can use the phrase “Be Prepared.”

    Your email will be littered with emails within an hour of announcing your raise. So take time to clean out your email and prepare for a crazy couple of days.

    This step will provide you the mental capacity to deal with the situation you’re about to be in.
  2. Set up smart folders: I learned that I often underutilize the tools I have at hand. For email, I went way too long without using smart folders and labels.

    These tricks allow you to get creative with what goes straight to a folder vs. what stays in your main inbox. Smart folders and labels are available with most email platforms, including Gmail and Outlook.
  3. Use a tool like Gated to filter your inbox and gauge intent: I came across Gated in the summer of 2021 and during that time, we raised our Series B. 

    We had raised a Series A just eight months prior, so I logged into my inbox the next day, expecting the usual tidal wave of unsolicited emails. To my surprise, there were only about 15 emails that made it through to my inbox – less than a quarter of what was sent!

    Out of the 15 messages that made it to my main inbox, almost half were of value and resulted in something worthwhile. Additionally, Gated helped me raise money for my favorite charity, Operation Underground Railroad, by allowing senders to donate money to guarantee a spot in my inbox.

    It’s not required, but I have a personal rule that if someone takes the time to donate, thenI'll take a moment to at least send a reply.  Having a filter like Gated made a night-and-day difference for me. I couldn’t recommend it enough for anyone dealing with inbox fatigue.

Fundraising should be a celebration. But to enjoy the moment, you have to prepare for what's coming immediately afterward. Recognize that fundraising will trigger an overwhelming amount of email.

You need to be prepared to both eliminate the noise and surface the messages that have value. You never know if a message from the next big investor or advisor might be in your inbox...so to be prepared like the Boy Scouts, add the Gated email management tool to your inbox now!

Learn more about Tanner, his work, and how Gated has been "almost literally life-changing" for him as an early Gated user.

About Spiff
Spiff is a new class of software that creates trust across the organization by delivering real-time automation of commission calculations and motivates teams to drive top-line growth. With a combination of an intuitive UI, real-time visibility, and seamless integrations into current systems, Spiff is the first choice among high-growth businesses. Spiff's sales compensation software enables finance and sales operations teams to self-manage complex incentive compensation plans and provides transparency for sales teams.

Originally published: August 25, 2021