Pitch deck outline: what to include in a startup pitch

A pitch deck is the standard document used by startups to present their case to investors; it’s a brief deck comprised of about 10 to 20 slides. While an effective communication tool, its use is very widespread mostly because it’s what an investor expects to see before meeting a prospect, and even an extended version of that presentation is what ends up being used most of the meeting.

With how competitive and complex the process to raise money is, it’s not an exaggeration to say that a pitch deck can make or break your company: when done correctly, pitch decks can really go the whole nine yards.


What should be in a pitch deck?

First things first, this is the standard pitch deck outline:

  • Problem

  • Solution

  • Business Model

  • Competition

  • Founding Team

  • Marketing Plan

  • Fundraising

We’ve actually gone through the trouble of looking at the most popular pitch deck references, and concluded that those elements are the absolutely most essential slides your document must have.

Here’s a comparison table:

While different authors and accelerators disagree on certain points, the pitch deck structure remains rather unchanged. It follows a recognizable presentation storytelling resource we call the three-act structure (More on that here). In the first act, it’s critical to engage your audience, capture their attention and establish the status quo. In the second act, your story should be developed to build excitement about the business opportunity, by providing numbers that are as irresistible as they are irrefutable. The third act is where the rubber meets the road and you deal the killer blow, making your point about why investing in your company is a fantastic opportunity.

Remember, investors aren’t there to like you or fall in love with your team. They are there to make money, and the more you can convince them that their investment will be returned tenfold, the better.


Here’s an overview of the three-act structure: 

First section: status quo

The first two slides should provide the company name, founder team members, hero images and an elevator pitch. Let your audience know why the founding team members are the rock stars of the company. Text should be five to seven descriptive words of the product or service. You may want to select hero images that showcase a person actively using your product or service.

The problem should be summarized in a one to four fashioned bullet points that are easy to understand. The solution should be presented in a layout that shows three key benefits of your product or service. The business model is a key slide in your sales presentation. Lay it out carefully, clearly and with as few words as possible.

Second section: how we are disrupting the market

Name your competition and outline why you can beat them. Point out their weaknesses and talk about why your company has the advantage. Creating a founding team slide lets the investors know your company has the skills to reach milestones.

Third section: we rock and you should invest in us

The marketing plan slide is another key element. Your potential investors will want to know: “How are you going to get those millions of dollars in revenue?” Be sure to lay out short- and long-term customer acquisition strategies that answer that question. Focus on the metrics of unit economics of how much it costs to acquire a customer and the LTV (Lifetime Value of Customer). These metrics are the heartbeat of any company.

A full breakdown on these sections, and the contents of these slides can be found on our Complete Guide to a Pitch Deck.


Pre-built pitch deck outlines

Most of the references mentioned above have made their outlines publicly available. We took the liberty of redesigning the slides that were most outdated, and making them available to you, as a free download or as a starting template on our pitch deck creator.