Our recommendation? We’re split between “don’t even think about trying this” and what may be a more pragmatic approach. If you’re trying to launch a site with a very small target market, it seems perfectly acceptable to send email to people who may be able to help you find similar sites.
You’ll have to use your own judgement on this one, and keep in mind that Internet users are very sensitive about this subject, and for good reason. Everyone receives unsolicited email, and it’s extremely annoying. If nothing else, this story should show you how a small, dedicated core group can be leveraged to create a much larger audience.
One final warning! Website operators who send unsolicited email risk more than their reputation. Nearly all ISPs and hosting companies include a prohibition against unsolicited email (also called SPAM), and sending out SPAM can cause your account to be terminated without notice. For more information, see “A Warning About Netiquette” in the Marketing section of this site.