Pitch Deck 101
YOU have the next big idea that will change the world. Don’t you?
Now all that stands between your dreams and reality is the wall of investment. Isn’t that right?
Well, the first step to break that wall is a powerful investor pitch deck.
But, what is a pitch deck?
Simply put, it’s a brief presentation about your business that provides investors an overview of:
- What do you do?
- What problems do you wish to target with your product?
- How you’re going to get rich doing it?
Why are investor pitch decks so important?
“The deck can show that a founder has thought through the critical aspects of her business. The deck also gives a glimpse as to whether the founder can sell, including if she’ll be able to recruit the right team and win customers and partners.” says Karin Klein, a founding partner at Bloomberg Beta, Bloomberg LP’s venture arm.`
Pitch decks so popular primarily for three reasons:
- To get the attention of investors
- To make a positive first impression
- To reach out to as many investors as possible
Thus, it is an essential step to get secure funding. While there are many variations to a startup pitch, there are certain presentation keys that will guarantee success.
What are the key components of the best pitch decks?
According to research done by DocSend, investors spend on average 3 minutes and 44 seconds per investor deck. So, brevity is key.
Your business pitch presentation should not exceed 20 slides. Best if wrapped up in 10 pitch slides.
But how do you decide what to dump and what to keep?
There’s no fixed format you must follow for pitch deck slides. Several authors, venture capitalists, startup founders, and evangelists have created different versions of what they consider required elements for successful pitching presentations.
Let us discuss what they agree on through some pitch deck examples.
Your business deck’s cover should be stellar enough to catch your viewers’ attention. What should it include?
- Your company name and logo.
- A tagline or text of 5-7 words accurately describing your product.
Take a look at AirBnB’s cover slide from their original startup presentation that raised $500k in 2009.
In only 7 words:
- It piques the curiosity as to ‘how can one book a room with locals?’
- Nails the solution.
- Makes the vision of the business crystal clear.
As a result, it’s precise, concise, and most importantly, can entice.
Without beating around the bush, pin the pain point of your target audience. Why is your product relevant in the first place? Is it a necessity? What problem does it solve?
Summarize the problem in 1-4 bullet points in the most layman language that you can. In addition, tell a relatable story when you are defining the problem. The best pitch decks make the problem as real as possible. This allows investors to understand your business and your goals in the pitch deck slides.
Let’s have a look at the problem slide from the Uber pitch deck.
It clearly articulates problems that were widely felt in the pre-uber era in its short and simple to understand phrases. The taxi of that day “yellow taxi” is also shown in the Uber pitch deck to make the audience quickly remember their experiences in that car. It’s a brilliant stroke to ignite emotions and make the audience connect with the problem.
You’ve established the problem. Great! Now you need to convey how your product is going to solve it. Needless to say, the solution has to be convincing, innovative, and convenient.
Make sure you portray the solution your product has to offer with 3 key benefits. Support this with a real-life example of how it helped a customer.
Airbnb’s startup pitch makes one of the best investor deck examples. They came across Sequoia’s capital pitch deck guide and the rest is history. Take a look at this slide from Airbnb’s business pitch presentation.
This ticks everything we just said.
No fancy words. Just a simple yet very effective solution that changed the travel industry forever.
This slide is all about showing screenshots of your product in action.
You can make it powerful by adding:
- A compelling description of the product’s benefits itself
- Quotes of your existing clients talking about how much they love your product
Look at Snapchat’s startup pitch and how they showcased their product.
It all boils down to how many people are willing to buy your product.
That’s the primary motive of this slide. Firstly, to show investors that there is a large, untapped market of potential customers. Secondly, how you’ll acquire and retain those customers.
In other words, you paint a picture of the scope and scale of the problem you are solving. Then you support it with solid figures.
You must portray your company that will not only dominate the industry but has the potential to fundamentally reshape the way consumers interact with a market. Show statistics that outline the market growth in the past and future potential growth. This helps investors quantify the upside and potential ROI on their investment.
Be careful with this slide, though. It’s tempting to try and define your market to be as large as possible. But remember, the more specific you are, the more realistic your pitch will be.
In the example below, WeWork clearly shows this in their startup pitch deck. It looks at the rise of freelancing as a profession and the growing demand for flexible workspaces.
Describe how you fit in the market landscape. What gives you the edge over other alternatives and competitors who are in the market?
The key here is to highlight your startup’s competitive advantages in the marketplace, how you’re unique, and why customers would rather choose you.
Here’s an example from AirBnB’s y combinator pitch deck which made use of a 2-axis diagram to illustrate its competition.
You can also discuss how your pricing fits into the larger market with this y combinator pitch deck. Are you a premium, high-price offering, or a budget offering that undercuts existing solutions on the market?
What is your basic business model for acquiring customers and generating revenues?
What do you charge and who pays the bills? For some businesses (content sites, for example), advertisers pay the bills instead of users. So, it’s important to flesh out the details here.
This is an extension of the previous slide, but here, you briefly mention some of your sources of finance, key milestones, and talk about how much you’ll be able to generate from your business in the future.
You need to be very specific about the number of funds you wish to raise. After that, explain how you’re gonna make use of the investment and what you promise to deliver in return to the investor.
You will most likely need to show sales, total customers, total expenses, and profits from your past records and future projections.
At the time of delivery, you should be prepared to discuss the underlying assumptions you’ve made to arrive at your sales goals and what your key expense drivers are.
What have you achieved with your model so far? Are you generating any revenue? Do you have any top partnerships or clients that you can show?
Investors want to see that you have proven some aspect of your business model as that reduces risk. So any proof that validates that the solution and problem you’re targeting is extremely powerful.
You can also discuss your milestones and some of the goals that you’ve managed to achieve. If you have a significant metric you want to brag about, this is your chance. Take this business pitch example of Buffer’s traction slide.
Remember that investors are really investing in you, not the business idea. Your team members are keeping the operations pumping in your business’s veins.
Ask yourself why you’re the best team to execute this company you’ve been talking about.
You need to highlight the main team members and the key skills and successes that they have.
The 10 heads in the pitch deck examples discussed above are a must for every startup pitch presentation.
The sequoia pitch deck template has the following slides:
- Company Purpose
- Why Now
- Market Size
- Business Model
You can also take notes from successful startup pitches for more investor deck examples.
That’s all there is to an investor deck if you want to email it. What if you need to pitch it to a room full of investors?
6 tips to deliver your pitch deck successfully
Unfortunately, when you are pitching on a stage, having a brilliant idea isn’t enough to turn heads and make yourself heard in the room.
You need to sell your vision to the investors to get their trust and investment. Make your story, their story.
For this, you need to show your passion, courage, and commitment to do things out of the box.
This depends a lot on how you deliver your pitch.
Here some tips by TEDx speech coach David Beckett and a few of our own to nail your pitch delivery.
Know your audience
You need their money and support, right? So it’s quite obvious you need to keep your investors’ needs and limitations in mind.
Are they an expert in your niche? Do they understand the jargons you’re using and complex data as it is? Or do you need to break it down?
If they don’t understand, let alone connect to your vision, everything goes in vain.
Numbers aren’t enough to sell an investor on partnering with you.
Storytelling is what makes the numbers come alive. Therefore, make your pitch concrete by providing examples and real-life stories.
It allows investors to grasp your vision, see why your business has promise, and why your team is the one to lead the company to success.
Your startup pitch presentation has two important elements.
- The story you support with it
- Your area of emphasis
Both should be relevant to the audience and the objective of your pitch.
“Are they people interested in money or sustainability? Are they theoretical or doers? Are they young or old? Are they progressive and innovative or conservative?”
Questions like these should be deeply pondered upon and answered accurately to stand out from the crowd.
Open with a bang
They say it takes about 7 seconds to make a first impression. Don’t waste your time with “Good afternoon, my name is..” and lose this precious opportunity to make an impact.
Instead, open with a question that reflects the problem you’re trying to solve, or a powerful statement about the groundbreaking solution your product offers. Whatever you open with should be persuasive and relatable enough to pull the attention of the listener.
For instance, the Facebook pitch deck opened with this compelling quote from the Stanford Daily, the university’s student newspaper:
“Classes are being skipped. Work is ignored. Students are spending hours in front of the computer in utter fascination. Thefacebook.com craze has swept through campus.”
This quote in the Facebook pitch deck is jam-packed with excitement. It also tickles the reader’s curiosity as to what is making those students stick to the screens which clearly conveys the sweeping success of the business.
Simplify the data
Big numbers and huge pools of the information displayed in pointers make the concoction of a boring presentation.
People cannot read and listen at the same time. So, it also increases the chances of your audience missing some key points.
Aim to break down complex data and numbers as much as you can, in your startup presentation ppt as well as its delivery. You need to do the math for your audience. Numbers extend credibility.
However, don’t go overboard. It can get confusing and take away attention from what’s really important.
Reduce your slides down to only the most important metrics which are relevant to your business and the investors.
Minimize bullet points. Instead, visualize the problem you’re solving in the pitch slides. Make each slide’s data extra easy to consume using timelines, flow charts, graphs, pie charts, etc.
You can also make figures, even more, easier to consume by highlighting them in different colors. Not only does this make the slide almost effortless to skim, but the contrasting colors also make the numbers stick out in an investor’s mind.
Tell it as you mean it
You need to show how passionate you are about your business. For this, tell a story of how you built your company from the ground up, the challenges you overcame to execute your idea, and how your product changed the life of people.
However, it is essential to balance enthusiasm with reality. Investors will see right through over-inflated promises and hollow ambitious plans.
One way to avoid giving off this impression is to inject some deliberate pausing. Periodically ask your audience, “Any questions?” to encourage their input. This shows you are thorough and confident with your startup presentation ppt.
Have a powerful closing
Having a strong closing is as important as the opening of your business deck.
At the end of your pitch presentation, bring your audience back to who you are, why you do what you do, and what gives your business the X factor.
You must also definitely leave with a clear call to action. Be clear about what you expect your audience to do. Is it to contact you? Is it to sign up for your product? Is it to have a follow-up meeting?
Lastly, do not forget to thank the investors for their time. If possible, keep time to welcome feedback or questions from the audience.
Practice, practice, practice
Your pitch delivery should be effortless, or at least that’s what it should look like. So memorizing a script, or rambling on with no sense of clarity and direction is a big no-no.
“It isn’t about having confidence in yourself, but about your investors having confidence in you.”
To generate this confidence, you need to exude certainty and clarity of vision with conviction evident in your voice. You must know what you’re going to say, what you’re going to do, and how you’ll convey it logically beforehand.
Practice your pitch with a timer and make sure you nail the time-limit every time. Above all, pay special attention to your voice modulation, pauses while speaking, body language and gestures, and expressions while presenting.
Self assesses yourself by practicing in front of the mirror. Pitch it to your friends and ask for feedback.
Still here? Congratulations on making this rather lengthy article! Starting to feel confident about your business deck?
Before we sign off, let’s clear some misconceptions around pitch decks.
3 common myths about pitch deck
- MYTH: INVESTORS CARE ABOUT THE PROBLEM YOUR COMPANY IS SOLVING AND HOW INNOVATIVE YOUR SOLUTION IS.
FACT: INVESTORS ARE PERSUADED BY MARKET SIZE, MARKET TIMING.
You might be tempted to talk in-depth about the problem your company is solving, why you care about it, your product, and how unique it is.
Instead, keep that information brief and focus on what investors care about most.
So what do they care about?
Investors are looking for a place to put money to get a higher return on their investment and they are most interested in at least three topics.
- Market size: They want to know that you have a large, growing, or new market with a lot of sales potential.
- Right product at the right time
- The profitability of the plan: They want to know if your business can consistently grow and make money.
Take a closer look at the business pitch examples discussed earlier for tips.
- MYTH: A PRETTY INVESTOR DECK WILL MAKE INVESTMENTS HAPPEN.
FACT: CLEARLY EXPLAIN HOW YOU MAKE MONEY, PREPARE FOR DUE DILIGENCE, AND ENSURE FUNDING READINESS.
Decks don’t have to be beautiful. Simple slides work as long as you have a unique product, strategy, solid business, and the numbers to back it up.
Having an elaborately designed pitch deck presentation is useless if it is missing the variety of financial information your investor is looking for when evaluating your pitch. Some of the most important include your profit plan, a clean capitalization table, deal terms, and an exit strategy.
- MYTH: ALL YOU NEED IS A PITCH PRESENTATION
FACT: IT’S ONLY A SMALL STEP IN THE MARATHON
Raising investment is extremely difficult even if you have everything in place.
A good pitch presentation is only one of the elements that are necessary. Details like which funding platform to use, fielding difficult investor questions, and financial forecasts are equally important.
To wrap up!!
Crafting a startup pitch deck for the first time can be a daunting task. And why wouldn’t it be?
Your startup presentation is supposed to be short, but must also include enough information to convince investors to give you money. To squeeze your vision and life worths efforts and bank balances into a few minutes is not a piece of cake. But there’s no need to fret.
All you need is a solid foundation to build a successful pitch deck presentation. Did you notice something common in all the investor deck examples above?
They follow the golden words: Simplicity, Clarity, Focus.
Guy Kawasaki’s pitch deck’s 10/20/30 Rule is a good way to stick to that. It simply means that a pitch should have ten slides, shouldn’t last more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points.
Want more pitch presentation examples? Or looking for a sample pitch deck to get started?
Check out this blog by Piktochart for in-depth insights.
All the best!