What is a pitch deck?
A pitch deck is usually a 10-20 slide presentation designed to give a short summary of your company, your business plan and your startup vision. Pitch decks also serve very different purposes, from trying to get a meeting with a new investor, to presenting in front of a stage, and each one of them should follow a different structure.
A demo day presentation, for example, should be very visual and contain very little text. It’s going to be seen from afar and you’re going to do all the talking. On the other hand, a pitch presentation that you’re planning to email should be completely self explanatory. It’s going to be seen on a laptop monitor, so small font is not so bad.
In these cases it’s also very useful to track your investor’s activity on the presentation, to figure out if they actually read the 100% of the slides; this can be critical when determining the frequency for follow up emails. In our case, it was key to raising our most recent round of funding. A number of pitch deck platforms offer this as a feature.
What should be in an investor deck?
A number of authors, venture capitalists, startup founders and evangelists have created different versions of what they consider required elements to a successful pitch presentation.
For the purpose of this article, we’ve reviewed the contents of the following, most popular and well-known pitch deck templates:
Guy Kawasaki is a renowned presentation evangelist. He was an advisor to the Motorola business unit of Google and chief evangelist of Apple. BOOM!
Kawasaki’s take is very strict on the number of slides, he emphasizes there should be 10 slides. We don’t necessarily agree with this, because you probably want 20 nice and clean slides vs 10 crammed up slides, but hey, he’s the expert.
His presentation structure is something like this:
Financial Projections and Key Metrics
Current status, accomplishments to date, timeline and use of funds>> (really, all in one slide?)
What we do agree with is the overall structure and storytelling of the deck. You see, it’s organic to start talking about the problem you’re solving, move to the solution, talk about how you’re going to execute it and why you are THE best person to do it.
500 Startups is a leading global venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator headquartered in Silicon Valley with over $350M AUM.
This template is ideal for initial approaches to investors. If they ask to see your pitch deck, this is what you want to send. The outline of the pitch deck mainly focuses on your startup's growth metrics and traction.
These are 500 Startups recommended slides:
Traction / Milestones
You can view the full pitch deck template here, along with their comments and recommendations.
Sequoia Capital is one of the most well-known venture capital firms in Silicon Valley. They specialize in incubation, seed stage, start-up stage, early stage, and growth stage investments in private companies. It also invests in public and private companies from all sectors.
If you haven’t heard of them, I bet you’ve heard about the companies they’ve funded… they include, Dropbox, Yik Yak, Airbnb, Evernote, KAYAK, Stripe and Youtube. Anyhow, it’s safe to say they know their stuff.
This is the template they offer:
NextView Ventures is a venture capital firm specialized in investments in seed, startup, and early-stage companies.The firm invests in software, consumer and business focused technology companies, and internet businesses.
According to David Beisel from NVV; usually, when raising a seed round, your pitch process with a VC firm starts with a small number of meetings with just one or two team members — or else you’re pitching angel investors individually. In those contexts, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll want to stand up and “pitch” a deck. Usually, a more human interaction works better. You introduce yourself, you talk about why you started your company, and you start digging into the details in a conversational way.
This is a summary of their slides. As David mentions, this deck is ideal for investor meetings, rather than pre-meeting emails:
Use of Funds
The Airbnb original deck from 2009 has become an increasingly popular reference for entrepreneurs around the world. The company founders, Brian Chesky, Joe Gebbia and Nathan Blecharczyk used this pitch to raise $600K from Sequoia Capital and Y Ventures. The company has since become a giant in the Travel industry, closing a round in early 2015 on a valuation of over USD $20 Billion.
Originally recovered from a 2011 talk by Blecharczyk on Startup Bootcamp in Boston, we got a glimpse at the exact slides that they used to pitch investors on their original fundraise. The deck was incredibly successful at summarizing the company vision and the huge market opportunity they had before them.
Related Read: Airbnb pitch deck: teardown and redesign
These are the slides:
All together now:
Let’s look at that chart once again.
Every author agrees that the Problem, Solution, Business Model, Competition, Team and Fundraising slides need to be on your deck, making them the absolute most important slides in your presentation.
Almost equally important, 4 authors agree the Market Validation, Market Size, Go-to-Market Plan, Traction / Use of Funds should also have a their own slide.
Less popular, Press / User Testimonials as well as Executive Summary don’t seem to be required fields.
The ideal pitch deck outline
Intro: grab their attention
The first two slides on your deck should be stunning to ensure you catch your viewers attention through the rest of the presentation. They should include your company name, one 'hero image' of your startup and your elevator pitch or tagline. This text should be a 5-7 word description of your product or service, that's just enough to understand what your company does. Don't get greedy!
Also, pick a product image that really reflects and explains what your company does. Hero images often include a person actively using your product/service.
The business opportunity
For the Problem Slide in the deck, make sure that you are able to summarize the problem in 1-4 bullet points. If your investor can understand the problem you are describing, they will empathize with your product earlier on, which is great!
Next comes the Solution, which is of course, your product; in this slide, you want to layout 3 key benefits of your service.
Finally, the Market Size slide should refer to the real addressable market for your company, and should give an estimate of what percentage of the market are you looking to dominate.
This is a key slide in your pitch deck. The business model should be very clear, so ensure that to lay it out with as few words as possible.
Why can you beat the market?
Acknowledging competition is a good thing, it tells your investor that you are on top of things and that you have strategies in mind to beat them. Your Proprietary Technology slide should refer to your unfair advantages, IP, technologies and innovations that are unique to your company. On the Competition Slide, name your top competitors and point out their weaknesses.
The Marketing Plan slide is another key element of any pitch deck. It should layout your long-term customer acquisition strategies and answer the question of 'How are you going to get to millions of dollars in revenue?'.
The Team Slide
Talk about your core team and let your investor know that you have all the skills to bring your company to your next milestone. Remember the Hacker, Hustler, Hipster combination is always ideal.
Unless your mentors are someone like Guy Kawasaki, don't waste a lot of time/space on them.
This should be the killer slide in your deck! The bigger and steeper the chart the better, so make sure to pick your most relevant metric and brag about it here. In any pitch deck, traction makes the difference!
The best way to think about your pitch deck outline is by applying the three act structure used in storytelling. Each act will explain critical aspects of your value proposition, allowing you to build up enough interest for the moment when you sell your product/service.
Here's a quick overview on how to plan your pitch deck outline (your presentation deck journey, sort of speak). As you can see, the outline allows you to organize your content in a logical way.
Related Read: Presentation Storytelling
In the first act...
You need to establish the status quo, and convince people there is a problem that needs solving. There is a narrow window of opportunity to catch people's attention from the very beginning, so the intro of your pitch is crucial.
In the second act...
You get the chance to develop your story. This is where you elaborate on what your solution is, and why you and your team are the ones meant to see it done. This is the time to wow your audience, and make them believe in your business. A startup deck needs to be filled with mind-blowing numbers, from the minute you get on stage to the moment you get off. The most successful pitch decks are not based on vision and promises alone, but on traction and numbers that prove you're unquestionably up to something great! Remember that throughout your entire presentation.
The climax & third act...
This is the moment when the van touches the water in Inception. This is when all you've been building up to c0mes to its highest pick, and you get to do "The Ask". This can range from revealing your pricing tiers, to announcing a sexy partnership with a big player in your market. This is the moment where your audience needs to be saying "shut up and take my money!" so make sure you deliver.
After that, come back to earth, summarize your key metrics, and remind your audience who you are (i.e. startup name + one-liner).
Demo Day: pitching your startup in 3 minutes
If you’re reading this, you’re probably halfway through a startup accelerator, preparing your deck for your Demo Day. I've had plenty of experience with Demo Days, attended quite a few and pitched my companies from DreamIt Ventures in NY to 500 Startups in Silicon Valley.
From Startup Chile to Y Combinator Demo Day, the format seems to be a standard everywhere: 10-30 companies pitching on stage to an audience of investors. Of course, when you're pitching next to 29 equally-awesome companies, standing out and getting remembered can be tough.
Three minutes is a short time to say everything want to say about your company. So where to start?
Key Guidelines to keep in mind
1. Focus on Metrics
Ideas get investors and judges pre-excited. They might hate them or they might love them, but the success of a good idea is still to be seen and it depends completely on your execution. Even if they love an idea, they can’t say for sure if you’ll be able to pull it off. In the past I've tried raising money on an idea and failed.
Now metrics, oh, metrics are Startup Viagra! Metrics are often sign of a well-executed idea with a confirmed target market and great potential for growth. This is why metrics should be on your first few slides.
2.- Make sure your slides stand out
Great design has become a quintessential part of any pitch deck. A deck is probably the first look people will get of your product, so make sure to wow them early on. (Some good presentation software can help with that).
3.- Get your deck in front of EVERYONE
Your Demo Day is just the beginning, be sure to prepare your strategy to get the most of the exposure that this event will bring you. You might find these tips from Andrew Ackerman (managing partner at DreamIt Ventures) very useful when talking to investors.
Don't forget to mention your website url and your twitter handle at least a couple times through the presentation. If you can get them to tweet about you, you'll be exposed to 1000s of potential users or investors with similar profiles and interests.
Keep a copy of your deck in the cloud, and keep it updated.
Do your best to get some press. (Here's How We Managed to Get Featured in Techcrunch)
How to create a pitch deck for Demo Day? (500 Startups Style)
My approach to presentations has always related significantly to storytelling: telling a good and exciting story that creates an impact in your audience, both in their minds as in their hearts. This is now combined with the input from the 500 Startups team as we went through the program (particularly from our awesome mentor Bob Neivert). You want to tell a compelling, exciting and hopefully relatable story that your investors will buy into, but in the end everything comes down to metrics.
Depending on the stage of your company you might or might not have metrics to show, and if we all had perfect metrics then we wouldn’t need to raise money at all, would we?
Here are some basic guidelines to abide by. You can watch how our pitch ended up on the video at the bottom of the page. You might also want to check out article on the best pitch decks from our Demo Day in 500 Startups.
1- First 5 seconds: Catch their attention with a question
At the start of your pitch you have about 5 seconds to get investors to pay attention to you through the rest of your deck. This is particularly true for pitch competitions and demo day events and less so for one on one meetings (unless the investor you are meeting is a real douche). The point is, investors are busy people and if you don’t catch their attention they will wonder back to their phones, laptops and simply not pay attention.
‘How long does it usually take you to create a presentation?’ was my question for the 500 Startups Demo Day, followed by a short pause.
Be careful, rhetorical or too complex questions will be perceived as annoying. Also, make sure that the audience that you’re speaking to actually related to the question you are asking. Finally, if you’re presenting to a small audience make sure that your timing doesn’t imply that you actually expect them to answer, this will just create an awkward silence.
Following your question a tagline from your product should follow. Finding taglines is hard (and your investor tagline might be very different from your website copy!), so be sure to test it on random strangers that have no idea what your company is. This sounds crazy, but it’s true.
You need to find 4-7 words that will capture their attention on the spot. Our example would be ‘Slidebean designs slides automatically based on your content'.
2- First 30 seconds: how much money can you make?
The next 30 seconds are crucial. A good 5-second intro will get you another 30 seconds worth of attention, and this is where you want to call out your biggest traction achievement to date, and what better accomplishment than revenue?
In 500 Startups, founders usually call out two out of the following milestones. Start from the top and move down only if you don’t have metrics to show on that point.
Annual Run Rate, based on your last month’s ACTUAL revenue. No forecasts.
Month over month revenue growth, or MRR Growth if you are a subscription business.
Cost per user acquisition vs LTV.
Total user base (if it’s a significant number).
User base month over month growth.
Contrary to what you might have been lead to believe, an active user base doesn’t excite investors (unless it’s in the millions), so absolutely focus on getting revenue, even if it’s not scalable. Hustle is good!
3- Problem and Solution:
Next up, let’s talk about your actual business. I’m sure this will be very straightforward to you, after all, you should fully understand the problem that you are trying to solve and even more so, how your product can change the status quo.
Make sure that you point out how many people suffer the problem, and if possible, try to tell a story that resonates with your audience, whether if they’re investors, other startups, etc… A good way to approach this is to put a face on it.
Telling stories tends to have a much better impact in people than just random jabber. Moving on to a solution…
It’s utterly important (I love that word, ‘utterly’), to speak about your product in benefits instead of features. A benefits helps the user accomplish something, avoid pain, make more money… a feature is something your product does. (If you say our product does blah blah, you’re talking about a feature, not a benefit).
4- Business Model, Market and Growth Channels
As you move on, your audience will want to know how you make money. Explaining a subscription business or a commission model is simple, but if you are a B2B2C company you want to make sure that your point is made clear. If you model is complex, don’t get into too much detail, keep it simple!
Now about market. I used to pay little to no attention to these slides, but started to value them after the 500 Startups experience. Market not only refers to the total yearly spend in your industry; you also want to point out your competition, why are you better and why will you put them out of business.
Market size also relates to the potential valuation of your company. I had the experience of not pointing out correctly how much money is spent in our category, which caused investors to assume that the market was too small and therefore the company could never reach a $100MM+ valuation. (I’ll be sure to announce when it does :D ).
Finally, a summary of your acquisition channels is also fundamental. It’s obvious, understandable and expected that you don’t have a clear path to growth (you wouldn’t be a startup if you did), but this should be as clear as possible. Unit economics play a big part in this, how much does it cost you to acquire a customer and what’s it’s LTV? These metrics are the heartbeat of most companies, make sure they’re there.
Now comes the team. Non-founders team members tend to be irrelevant here (unless they are rockstars), so don’t waste time talking about your team. Also, for short pitches you want to ignore board or your advisors. Ultimately, they want to know about YOU, your co-founders, the team culture and chemistry, how long have you been working together and why are you the best people to execute this company you’ve been talking about.
Titles coming from Harvard, Stanford or the likes tend to be useful here, it seems. I don’t have any of those so I can’t speak for myself about the impact it actually has.
6- Wrap it up
Finally make sure that you bring your audience back to your key milestones. You should have already talked about each of those during your presentation, but a refresher at this point is useful. Use the same priority list that I mentioned above.
You want to leave with a clear call to action. Is it to contact you? Is it to sign up for your product? is it to talk to you afterwards? Highlight this and make sure that this final statement highlights your passion for your company.
I hope this article ended up being useful for you. Please let me know in the comments below. Now go and get funded!