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Hey, startups: If you want to get our attention, please don’t do this

A case study in how not to pitch the media — and a few helpful pointers, too.

JR, not pleased. (Photo by Tony Abraham)
We get it: pitching the media can be intimidating. But there’s no reason to be super shady about it.

We got an email Friday morning from a supposed Silicon Valley investor, asking us if we had heard of a Philly social app built by two college students called Lalo.
“I tend to express interest in very early stage ventures (pre-seed, high risk), and saw a prime example of this over at Lemur Labs (www.hellolalo.com),” the person, who called himself “Jim McMeil,” wrote. “If you haven’t interacted with them yet, keep your eye out, I know we are.”
He said he was an associate at Redpoint Ventures and a TechCrunch contributor who was in town.
But when we checked Google for the man, no dice. Redpoint spokeswoman Hadley Wilkins confirmed to us that no one by that name worked at the venture capital firm.
When we asked, “McMeil” sent us this LinkedIn account, which says he works at Redpoint and graduated from Stanford. Just to make sure, we checked with Stanford. Spokeswoman Kate Chesley said they couldn’t find him in the school’s records.
We’ll say that it’s slightly clever. The email piqued our interest. But when we found out that it was a hoax, obviously, we were annoyed.
If you want to get our attention (and not piss us off), what you should do is tell us why we should care about your startup. Do you have a lot of users? Do you have an interesting back story? Did you just quit your job to pursue this full-time and do you want to talk about how the whole situation makes you nervous but you’re making it work? We love this stuff. We’re all ears.
Let’s call this a teachable moment.
Think of us as investors in this way — you have to win us over. If you’re completely new to us, we’re going to be looking for some sort of traction or caliber of “real-ness” to to write about you, whether it’s funding, office space or paying customers. If you don’t have that, you can still convince us with a personal story. Or, like you would with an investor, get someone in the tech scene to intro you. Still: cold emails work, for sure. You just need to give us something more than “My product is going to change the world.”
And don’t pretend to be someone else.
Come on.

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