How a 21-Year-Old Nobody Got Fortune 500 Execs to Answer His Cold Emails

How do you get CEOs and Presidents of billion dollar corporations to respond to your emails when you are a struggling 21-year-old entrepreneur? It really boils down to asking for one specific thing.

Quora user and now-CEO of Avanoo, Daniel L. Jacobs, responded to the question “How can I schedule a phone call with a billionaire?” As a 21-year-old entrepreneur with no contacts or money who’s new to Silicon Valley, he managed to get responses from the President of Morgan Stanley, the President of NBC, the CMO of Coca Cola and many more. Here’s how he did it:

“As a twenty-one year old social entrepreneur who’d just moved to San Francisco with zero money or connections, I realized that if I ever wanted to achieve my dreams I needed advice from people who have been there and done that.

So I did the most naive thing anyone could think of: I wrote to captains of industry – Presidents and C level executives of Fortune 500 companies. I let them know that I admired specific work decisions they’d made and character traits they’d displayed publicly, and it would be amazing if I could learn from them.

I should have known better, right? These were the busiest people on the planet, and who was I to think that they’d respond to a twenty-one year old kid with absolutely zero recognizable talents (beyond, perhaps, the ability to write an email?) and offer their mentorship?

Then the unthinkable happened. I received an email back… and another one… and another. Over the next few years, I found myself learning from and mentored by people like the President of Morgan Stanley, the President of NBC, the CMO of Coca Cola, the CMO of Intuit, and more (I’ll spare names to save the unsolicited emails)…

I never understood why….

Then one day, we’d all gotten together for a board meeting for one of my companies and someone joked that he’d gotten to know me through a cold email I’d sent him. The room went silent. Then, one by one, everyone around the table acknowledged that he, too, met me through a simple, cold email.


The President of NBC spoke up. “Do you know why I decided to meet with you Daniel….”

I didn’t know.

“Because in 20 years in this business, every single person who reached out to me cold wanted something. They wanted money, a job, something. You were the first person who asked – only – for advice.”

I looked around the room. Everyone was nodding.

I learned something important about life that day…”

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