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Loonshot (1/5)

Hello friends, When I started my podcast, I made a list of the 5 most interesting people I could inte
Loonshot (1/5)
By Mustafa Sultan • Issue #22 • View online
Hello friends,
When I started my podcast, I made a list of the 5 most interesting people I could interview. With only friends and family listening, I had no business speaking to these people — they were total loonshots
This week I spoke to loonshot #1: Dr Eric Topol. Here’s everything I learnt about contacting people above your station.

Mid jam with Eric Topol
Mid jam with Eric Topol
Here’s the email I sent to Eric Topol and my opinion on why it worked.
Disclaimer: I have no idea if anything I did actually works. Maybe Eric Topol woke up on the right side of the bed this particular morning. Take away whatever you think sounds sensible — ignore the rest.
Hi Dr Topol,
Do you believe in loonshots?
I recently interviewed one of my heroes — Dr Pearse Keane on my medical student-run podcast: Big Picture Medicine. He said that you were his hero, so now I’m emailing the hero of my hero.
I’ve been a great fan of your work for a long time: the Topol Review, The Patient Will See You Now, Doctor Penguin, Medicine and the Machine and more.
When I started this podcast, I made a list of the five most interesting guests I could interview. The problem? All five are loonshots — people ridiculously out of reach.
So I’m writing to you to ask if you’d speak to medical students in the UK? 30 minutes whenever you have the time.
I know that you’re currently involved in a lot of important work, and completely understand if it’s a no.
Thank you and all the best,
Mustafa
Analysis
The Hook 🎣 
Do you believe in loonshots?
Why should someone carry on reading? Cause some intrigue.
Establish Credibility 👨‍⚕️
I recently interviewed one of my heroes — Dr Pearse Keane on my medical student-run podcast: Big Picture Medicine. He said that you were his hero, so now I’m emailing the hero of my hero.
Name drop, name drop, name drop.
Story 📚
When I started this podcast, I made a list of the five most interesting guests I could interview. The problem? All five are loonshots — people ridiculously out of reach.
I have no idea if this works — but I know people like stories. The most basic form of a story is a problem -> solution. In this story, Eric Topol would be the hero by agreeing to the interview.
Be Specific 🎯
So I’m writing to you to ask if you’d speak to medical students in the UK? 30 minutes whenever you have the time.
I try and be very specific with my request so they know what they’re signing up for. This applies when I’m emailing to pick someone’s brain as well:
❌ “Can I ask you some questions over coffee?”
✅ “Could we have a short phone call when suits you? I’d love to ask for your advice about X, Y and Z.”
Give Them an Out 🙏
I know that you’re currently involved in a lot of important work, and completely understand if it’s a no.
Not sure if this helps, but seems polite.
General Strategies
The First Email is Just Foreplay 😩
I never expect (and rarely get) a reply from my first email. The Eric Topol email was ignored until I followed up.
In other words: follow up, then follow up and then follow up again. Show that you’re serious.
If I could only send 50 emails for my podcast, I wouldn’t email 50 different people. I would email 10 people and follow up 4 times.
Be Concise 📏
This email is a bad example — but it’s (usually) worth not telling your whole life story. As long as you’re clear with 1) what you want 2) and why they should give it to you — everything else can be cleared up in follow up.
Quantity is King 👑
Even with all of these (amazing!!) tips — I get something like a 10% response rate. Maybe 20% if I spend a lot of time on the email. It goes up to about 30% if I follow up. It can go as high as 50% if I keep on following up.
It Doesn’t Always Work 😭
I’ve been emailing Babylon CEO: Ali Parsa (also on my loonshot list) since 2018. Initially to shadow him — and now for an interview. Me and Ali’s secretary (Michelle) have a love/hate relationship: I love emailing her — she just… hates hearing from me.
A small flavour of our emails
A small flavour of our emails
Once I tried to bypass Michelle and messaged Ali directly on LinkedIn…
But Michelle caught me 😩
Make Your Goals Public 📸
I think broadcasting what you want feels really weird but is ridiculously beneficial. This is something Dr Umang Patel told me on a recent podcast:
Make an easily consumable story… even if you don’t know what that story is (e.g. I’m Umang and I want to be the chief executive of an NHS Trust)
Once you have this — everyone you meet immediately knows what box to put you in and how they can help you.
People want to help you. Make it easy for them.
This is why I tell everyone about my loonshot list and potential guests I want to connect with. Sometimes it helps in really unexpected ways:
That’s it. I hope you didn’t throw up in your mouth a little bit from me giving unsolicited advice. Hope this helped Ranga.
Ranga Sampath
@MustafaSultan @EricTopol This is huge..he is an absolute hero for me too in Healthcare+AI.

Please give me the tip on how you made this happen :) -> I have a podcast too :).
Podcast Episodes
#020 Deep Medicine — Dr Eric Topol
#019 James Somauroo on Forging Your Own Career Path and Personal Branding — Dr James Somauroo somX
All the best
Musty
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Mustafa Sultan

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