Demo days are often times the first chance a startup gets at getting in front of investors. For most startup accelerators, this is your graduation event and a lot of work goes into preparing your slides and pitches.
We're going to dig into what investors are looking for, how to stand out from the crowd, and lessons learned when preparing a demo day pitch deck.
Demo Day pitch deck is not too different from... let's call it a regular pitch deck. It's a 10 or 15 slide introduction to your company, that should paint a good picture of what you do and why you are going to get rich doing it.
The core difference is regular pitch decks get sent over email. This time you are pitching on stage, and it's your responsibility to carry the audience through the deck, to sell your company vision.
This is, in order, the slides a pitch deck should have:
Go to Market
And this is how you should re-arrange for Demo Day:
Go to Market
Both of these templates are available on Slidebean, so feel free to download them on the links below.
Check out our article how to create a pitch deck for investors if you are looking for guidance on your design. Remember, the pitch deck is the very first impression at investor might get at your business, and it should look stellar.
First, let's talk about the opener.
Demo Days are long events. After the fifth pitch, anyone will get bored and start blurring the memories between one company and the other. Also, investors are busy people; they can easily divert to their laptops or Twitter if they aren't interested in what they're seeing.
When you get on stage, you have 5 seconds to catch an investor's attention. If you succeed, you've earned an extra 30 seconds of their attention span and finally, if you nail those 30 seconds, chances are they'll pay attention through the end of your presentation. Using your first 5 seconds to say- 'Good Morning, my name is what, I'm the CEO of what’ is a terrible waste of that time. They aren't remembering your name, or your company name, and it's quite obvious you are one of the co-founders.
Use these 5 seconds to catch their attention in some other way. My favorite approach is staring with a question, a question that speaks about your problem statement.
Reference: Slidebean Pitch at DreamIt Ventures Demo Day
When we pitched in 500 Startups, I started with 'How much time do you waste creating slide presentations?'. We crafted this question after weeks of trial and error, but it meets the requirements,
When you get asked a question, you inevitably answer it in your head.
We are talking about a struggle that we know for a fact every one of them has.
It hints about our product, the problem we are trying to solve and the dimension of the problem.
It creates empathy. It relates them to the problem.
Again, my name is on the slide. The company name and logo is on the slide, so the point here is, let's get right to business. Chances are by the end of the event they'll remember 'the presentation company,' not Caya from Slidebean; and that's fine, they now know what you do.
The Traction Slide
Notice how it's been moved to second.
If you've nailed your opener you've now earned an extra 30 seconds. The absolute best way to stand out is bragging about what you've accomplished.
A lot of accelerators focus too much on the pitch itself- when your focus at all times should be growth. Use this opportunity to show a hockey stick chart of your revenue. If you have it, then this is the killer slide right here. Investors in the Bay Area want to see 30% MoM growth for seed stage companies. 20% should still be rather good.
If you are below this, then your sole focus should be getting to 30%, not watching me talk about Demo Day.
Still, if you must pitch and you don't have revenue, then brag about your user growth, which should also have a hockey stick chart.
The point here is, this will give you CREDIBILITY. The reaction you need here is curiosity about what the hell your company is doing to be growing so fast. This is the kind of thing that grabs someone's attention for the 3 minutes you have left.
Speaking of CREDIBILITY, we've recently launched a free platform called FounderHub. It's a resource that helps founders solve all the non-sexy startup tasks (such as incorporating, human resources, etc) in one easy to manage interface, built out with recommendations of all the services that successful startups need to have to scale quickly.
Now your pitch deck turns into a more traditional deck. We have a full video explaining how to solve each one of these slides.
The difference here is you'll want to keep this short- because you need to deliver it in 3 minutes.
Some basic tips for the slides
The slides are a guide for you to keep the story straight, there's no need to transcribe what you are going to say. You could very well do with an image and a large number rather than a whole paragraph.
Remember, people can either read or listen, they can rarely do both. Whatever you write on the slide, it pulls attention away from what you are saying.
Big, bold fonts and bold colors. Your branding should be visible on every single slide: people are quite good at remembering color palettes.
Practice a lot! Practice with a chronometer and make sure you nail your time limit on every attempt.
Don't memorize. I've seen people write a script and spit it out on stage; trust me, people can tell. If you are the CEO, you need to be able to deliver this stuff effortlessly, or at least pretend like it's effortless.
Also, if you practice long enough, you'll eventually memorize the story anyway.
Now, there's another reality we must discuss on demo days, and that's the fact that no company gets funded on Demo Day. Let me say that again; COMPANIES DON'T GET CHECKS ON DEMO DAYS.
I interviewed Andrew Ackerman a few months ago- he's the managing partner at the DreamIt accelerator. Watch the full video here.
So are demo days useless?
My answer here is, they are less useful than what you'd expect. With all the hype and the prep, you'd expect to get a lot more out of it, but by 2019 Demo Days have become more of a press stunt and a graduation/deadline sort of event for accelerators, rather than a place to get funding.
First, you can bet anything that a high-end VC will not be sitting in the audience. They'll send their interns to collect notes and business cards and brief them on the exciting companies.
Second, many companies come into Demo Day with some progress on their investor relationships. If a company is truly ready to raise funding, it has probably been getting intros and doing meetings for weeks or months leading up to demo day. Demo Day could be useful to meet a couple more investors or to close the last few thousand dollars of an already-committed round.
Startup press is often present on Demo Days- so this is an excellent opportunity to shine to them, meet some reporters and get some exposure.
And finally, the Demo Day is just the first of many, many steps in the fundraising process. If you do get interested investors coming to your booth or asking for your business card, by all means, take those meetings, but know beforehand that they will be the first of many, and that you will need to reach to a lot more investors if you want to close that round.
We have another video on the reality of startup fundraising, so go and check that out.