Startups founded before the COVID 19 pandemic faced some of the most difficult challenges of their existence when the disease started spreading across the world.
Around 74% of startups saw their revenues decline since the beginning of the crisis, and 41% of startups globally were threatened in what is called the “red zone”: having three months or less of cash runway left. Others had to figure out ways to reinvent themselves in order to thrive. Despite these difficulties, the numbers show that startup valuations are on the rise: in 2020 startups broke a record $156.2 billion raised, topping the previous record of $142.7 billion in 2018, and $138.1 billion in 2019.3
So amidst the foggy road ahead of 2023, one thing is certain: innovative, creative, and resilient founders will continue to drive economies forward. As long as newly established companies can prove to have relevant traction, exponential growth, and/or massive scalability potential, investors will continue to pour money into their buckets.
What is the best way to pitch your business in this increasingly uncertain and highly competitive landscape? In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about how to create the best pitch deck for your startup in 2023. This includes:
Let’s get started!
At its most basic form, a pitch deck is a story about your company. This story should explain what inspired you to create the company (problem/opportunity), what you have accomplished so far, and what vision you have for the business in the future. A pitch deck is intended to be a convincing piece of content that provides factual, quantitative information about your business’ growth. After all, most (if not all) pitch decks are intended to be a means to securing funding for your company, whether that is your first seed round, or a bigger Series A and over.
This is why your story needs to sound and actually be impressive, urgent, and groundbreaking. They say you should sell painkillers, not vitamins. You need to explain why your product, or service, is absolutely critical for your market, as opposed to mere convenience. A pitch deck should always communicate the most important KPIs(key performance indicators) of your business, and it should convey a sense of urgency. FOMO is the name of the game when pitching to investors because who doesn’t want in on a company that could become the next unicorn?
Your pitch deck should distill the most relevant pieces of information about your company. While it may be tempting to cover every single feature of your product and every single milestone you have achieved so far, this is a one-way ticket to losing people’s attention. You should remember that a pitch deck is hardly ever the definitive factor that secures funding. In most instances, it is the gateway to more in-depth interactions that may result in investment later on (according to Forbes, the average investment cycle can go from six to nine months to complete). So it should tease at the main highlights of your product or service, but not reveal the full scope of details.
The best pitch decks are the ones that are data-oriented while being accessible and easy to understand. There used to be a time when you could get away with a pitch deck that was focused on ideas only, but the winds of investment have shifted dramatically over the years, and investors are now more driven by numbers and the traction your business is already generating. So the main purpose of a pitch deck is to explain the problem-solution dichotomy by showcasing your most relevant metrics, and proving your product-market-fit (we’ll get into this in a minute). The investment then becomes fuel for growth and not a wildcard to test your assumptions. By the time you meet an investor, these assumptions should have already been tested and validated.
A pitch deck is typically written by the company’s CEO, or by one of the founders. Even if they manage to consult with a business analyst to help them write their pitch deck, they are the ones providing the substance for the slides. The reason is that the person in charge of explaining all the different aspects of the business should have a deep understanding of the company’s foundation, vision, and metrics. Company directors, managers, or employees don’t necessarily have such a broad scope of the company, nor should they have to.
The company’s CEO or Founder should be the one doing and presenting the pitch deck also due to the fact that fundraising is closely related to the company growth, financial stability, risk assessment, and budget allocation. All of these things typically fall into the CEO’s responsibility or are shared by the founding team.
This obviously doesn’t mean that the pitch deck can’t be a collaboration between various people in your organization, but it most certainly means that it requires the highest level of command in your organization to put it together, synthesize, and deliver it. Speaking of delivery: the final reason why the pitch deck is written by the CEO is that this is the person who will handle fundraising meetings, and thus has to have a deep understanding of the data shown on the slides and be able to answer any questions related to the content that appears on the slides (and anything that doesn’t appear on them as well).
The short answer is yes. Most investors expect founders to do the homework of putting together a pitch deck for a number of reasons:
All of this is especially true in a year where we continue to have a lot of remote interactions with stakeholders of our businesses. Many investors won’t be able to meet with you in person, and thus a presentation is the easiest and safest way to review your value proposition.
Always remember that an investor relationship is a human one. Pace yourself, be respectful and be readily available without being needy or pushy. These are busy people, and their time is limited and valuable.
There’s no universal recipe, and it all depends on a number of factors:
All of these factors will drastically affect how long your pitch deck should be. For instance, live presentations let you cover a great deal of information verbally and thus allow more minimal slides. Whereas presentations you send over email usually require (or allow) a little more information to compensate for not having a presenter explaining them on site.
Presentation medium is also critical in understanding how much information to include in your slides. Demo days or event speakers usually present in big auditoriums which require bigger fonts and more minimal slides, whereas meetings in an office or seeing a pitch deck on-screen will increase the readability of your slides, therefore allowing you to go lower on font sizes.
Another important factor is how familiar your audience is with your problem, industry, market, or technology. If they aren’t, you’ll need to provide a little more context and expand on certain topics that more savvy viewers could skip altogether.
Whatever combination of those factors you happen to be in, there are two rules of thumb:
What to include in your pitch deck is a very common question among first-time entrepreneurs but there's not a universally accepted set of contents. However, there's common ground among VCs and angel investors as to what they expect to see in a pitch deck (and in what order)
We have created a new pitch deck template, distilled from benchmarking dozens of venture-backed startup presentations, and from our own experience working with thousands of companies in our pitch deck consulting Agency.
This is the breakdown of our own formula for structuring and presenting your slides:
Often overlooked or underestimated, the cover of your pitch deck is precious real estate that allows you to introduce your company. It should always include your company’s brand and your one-liner/tagline. Some people will literally decide whether or not to read your pitch deck by scrolling through the first couple of slides, so make sure you invest a decent amount of time introducing your company. It’s also a good opportunity to include a visual teaser of your product, a mockup of your platform, or a hint at your ideal customer.
On the same line of capturing your investors’ interest early on, a teaser slide about your traction is a great attention grabber when you begin your pitch. This obviously depends on actually having good enough traction to brag about in the first place.
Always focus your energy on selling the problem, or business opportunity. A rookie mistake founders make is to spend too much time selling their solution, and spend little time justifying there’s actually a market need for it. If your problem statements are convincing enough, your audience is exponentially more likely to buy into your solution. Always make sure your statements are validated by data and reputable sources, and not just your opinions.
This is the part where you explain your solution in the abstract. That means explaining how your business solves the problems and needs that you established on the previous slide, without getting into details of features, or the uniqueness of your brand. Such details should be covered later on. To understand this better, here’s a simple Problem - Solution example:
Problem: People need to cut large pieces of paper into smaller pieces, but tearing paper by hand is inefficient and makes the paper uneven on the edges.
Solution: A mechanical device that cuts through paper easily and evenly.
Now for the fun part: introduce your actual product. If your product has a visual representation (a device photo, a platform mockup), this is a great opportunity to showcase it.
If your product requires an explanation of how it actually works, provide a step-by-step guide on how it works, or how your users interact with it to get its benefits. Avoid overly detailed descriptions, and focus on the major touchpoints of the interaction.
It’s always better to talk about benefits rather than features, or more accurately: always attach a benefit to the features you’re explaining in order to sell value. Features are meaningless unless they help users alleviate their pain points and achieve their goals.
If applicable or relevant, provide an explanation of your tech infrastructure. This slide is most commonly used for enterprise or IT-focused products.
Use other companies and/or similar products to reaffirm how your product could perform in the market. This slide is especially important if your product drastically changes your customer's behavior.
A good way to present your product is to talk about your ideal customer. Who are they? What are their interests? Why would they buy your product? These descriptions help envision the potential user of your product and provide a better understanding of the type of client you want to attract. If you're a B2C company, focus on the demographics, and interests of your target audience. Be narrow and specific about who they are. If you're a B2B company, talk about the type of company that will buy your product/service, and who the decision-maker is.
Assuming your product is live, give the investor an example use case of your technology. Focus on the success metrics you used to track performance. This slide is most common with B2B products/services. It’s also a good idea to provide happy customer quotes as social proof of your value proposition.
This is one of the most crucial slides in your pitch deck. Explaining your business model means, quite bluntly, telling investors how you generate revenue. There’s no need to get into too many details of each plan or revenue stream, and by all means, make it as simple to understand as possible. Focus on your business model and your potential gross profit.
Highlight the milestones you have achieved so far, and explain your plans for the months to come. Once again, focus on significant events and goals, and leave out any trivial details.
Tell investors more information about the KPIs that you are tracking, and why they are relevant to you. Showing an understanding of your unit economics is key to convincing investors that you understand your business.
Go into detail about your single, most-important marketing channel. If you are raising capital, you should have identified at least one promising channel, and have some numbers around how it could scale. If you need to, you can refer to no more than 1 or 2 additional channels you intend to focus on with the capital you are raising. Remember, this slide is not a list of every growth tactic you plan on using or experimenting with.
Even when forecasts are rarely met in the startup world, it’s important to prove you have done the homework of planning for various potential outcomes for your business. The very process of running these projections lets you plan ahead of these possible scenarios: execute contingency plans if things don’t go as expected, or double down on the strategies that are working in the best-case scenario.
You need to explain what’s the potential market for your product. After all, a great solution is not an enticing business to an investor if it doesn’t appeal to a potentially massive audience. Therefore, talking about your TAM (Total Addressable Market) is key. It should be a bottom-up approach, rather than a top-down approach. An example of a bottom-up approach would be as follows:
There are X target customers in the market. At our Y pricing, this is how large this company could become.
If you want to learn more about how to estimate your market size, check out our CEO’s video
Hardly any business these days has NO competitors, and investors know and understand this. Talking about them is important because it lets you talk about your advantages over them and the specific areas in which your product will excel or be innovative. It also provides market validation while at the same time pointing out competitor flaws and shortcomings.
Talk about your secret sauce. What makes you unique in comparison to any other solution in the market? Focus on what you understand about the current market that your competitors don't. This can be an advancement in technology, an increase in speed or efficiency, a simplification of an otherwise cumbersome process, a cut in costs, etc.
You may not have media coverage of your company, but if you do, this is an amazing validation of your business. Not only does it make your business sound hot and trendy, but it provides an outsider vision of an unbiased source. If you don’t have media coverage just yet, user testimonials also do the trick.
They say an investor will seldomly invest in a business of a team they don’t equally believe in. This makes perfect sense, as these are long-term business relationships for which they’re betting heavily. Keep bios super short, and include only relevant experience in their fields. Long bios usually are interpreted as either cocky or overcompensating, so avoid at all costs.
Provide your potential investors with a 3-5 year financial projection. These projections should be simplified and based on industry benchmark KPIs. Slidebean can help you build your Financial Model with everything an investors is expecting to see
Alias, “the ask” slide. Make sure you frame your round of investment in terms of what you’re intending to use the money for:
“Raising $xxxx-xxxx to reach [Revenue/MRR Goal] after xx Months”
Providing this level of detail show that you have a clear use intended for this money, and not looking to raise capital for the sake of it (or even worse, to fix a leaking boat)
Provide round terms if other investors have already defined them, and make sure the milestone you are targeting allows you to secure additional funding.
Your pitch deck is an essential part of your fundraising journey. It opens up the dialog with potential investors, and it helps put together the story of your company. It should be an exciting story, one that’s easy to navigate and understand, even for people who are unfamiliar with your industry. The very purpose of a pitch deck is not to explain every single aspect of your company, but rather be an executive summary of your solution, your traction, and your business model.
It is typically written by the company’s CEO and most investors agree a shorter pitch deck is usually better than a longer one. The content of the pitch deck can vary and there’s not a universally accepted formula. Still, try to follow industry standards, and what actual investors say they expect to see on your slides. Whatever pitch deck template you use, try as best as you can to make it traction-oriented, number-based, authentic, and realistic. Leave out platitudes or superfluous details, and focus on your most robust metrics.
Best of lucks in your fundraising!
Are you looking for some extra inspiration to create a pitch deck for your startup? We've gathered our top 5 pitch decks templates of all time, available in Slidebean in editable format:
The Airbnb Pitch Deck is one of the most sought-after references in the startup world, not just because of the company’s massive global scale, but because it helped the company raise its first XXXX-XXXXX of venture funding.
Uber’s popularity and controversy have made this one of the best-known unicorns on the planet. Their original pitch deck is especially attractive because of its length and structure.
It’s rather hard to imagine a world without Facebook today. But back in 2004, 21-year-old Eduardo Saverin was just another entrepreneur trying to convince people to put money into a growing company called thefacebook.com, co-founded by him and his friend Mark Zuckerberg.
Peloton broke the fitness industry with their stationary bike system which connects users and trainers via the internet. We recreated the pitch deck that Peloton used to obtain funding.
Tesla is arguably one of the most innovative and disruptive companies in the world today. But how did the company first approach investors when they were out seeking funds for the first time? This pitch deck is based on their original slides.
Discover the journey from startups to scaleups in our comprehensive guide, exploring business growth strategies and success tips for thriving enterprises. Dive in now!
This is a functional model you can use to create your own formulas and project your potential business growth. Instructions on how to use it are on the front page.