A pitch deck is a brief presentation of a business idea you give in front of potential investors. Venture capitalists, customers, partners, team members, and co-founders are the usual audience for pitch deck presentations. The pitch deck is one of the most basic tools to use when creating your startup. You can use specialized software like PowerPoint, Excel, Prezi, and Keynote to build your pitch deck.
The Value of a Pitch Deck
Any new business would benefit from some fresh money. If you manage to do it right, your chance to get funding increases. Pitch decks happen in face-to-face and online meetings alike. Think of them as the next step after an elevator pitch.
The latter captures the attention of the potential funder. The former needs to explain in short while their initial impression of your idea is right. You need to master the art of creating a pitch deck if you hope to get the money to realize your new business idea.
Why a Pitch Deck?
Do you remember the time before computers played an integral part in everyday life? Think back to when no one had even heard of PowerPoint because it just didn’t exist. Don’t worry if you were too young or not even born at that time, you’ll still be able to get your pitch deck in order.
During that pre-PC era, people used projectors to make a presentation. Each slide was a different card you had to manually insert into the machine. To make a whole presentation, you needed a deck of cards. This is where the term pitch deck comes from, as well as the other one – slide deck, which is sometimes used instead.
Creating a Successful Investors Pitch Deck
Fundraising is never easy, but it becomes manageable in the early stages of development with a proper pitch deck template. There are no rules set in stone about what a pitch deck should look like. If you check out pitch deck examples from companies like Airbnb and Uber, you’ll notice some patterns.
The Airbnb pitch deck for Series A funding is available online, along with many others. Make sure to study them in detail before you get down to work on yours. Every successful pitch deck shares several integral qualities:
- It is short
- It is on point
- It uses plain language and a lot of visuals
While there isn’t a standard presentation template for a pitch deck, potential investors expect to learn about your business plan from it. That’s why you need to include certain sections and elements.
The first slide of your PowerPoint presentation should give an overview of your business. Tell potential backers who you are and what you’re doing. Remember to keep things short and sweet. A couple of sentences is enough.
Some people make the mistake of going into too much detail in the introduction. You’ll make a much bigger impact if you manage to give the essence of the company in just a few words. Think of the introduction as your elevator pitch. It is, after all, just that.
This is where you introduce the key team members. Give their name and positions in the company. There’s no need to provide their entire CVs in the slide. Leave more detail for the spoken part of the presentation or their LinkedIn accounts.
Even when you are talking to your audience, provide them only with the highlights of the team’s accomplishments. Keep the info relevant to the company and your goals.
Your startup is trying to solve a problem for your target market. Describe that issue and what the market size for the solution is.
This section is the hook that’ll get the audience’s attention. Explain why the issue exists and the reason it needs to be fixed.
Try to use short, grabbing sentences and eye-catching graphics. Your goal here is to make the listener want to learn about your solution.
Pitch decks are all about storytelling. To keep the dramatic tension high, you shouldn’t just go directly from the problem to the value proposition. This is a good place to go into a little detail about the advantages your startup has.
Tell them how your team is better prepared to deal with the challenge than the competition. Inform them why you think you are the right company to grab the market opportunity you have noticed.
This part is the business pitch for your company in front of the investors. As always, short, punchy sentences are the best. Infographics will help, as well. You need to project confidence in your abilities and the feasibility of your idea.
This is the first part your potential backers will eagerly anticipate during your own pitch deck. They already know about the problem and how you are the best people for the job. Describe how you are going to fix the issue.
Will it be a new product or a service? Are you planning on improving on an already existing business model or creating something entirely new? Give as many details as you can while keeping things short. There will be enough time to provide specific details later. Your current mission is to sell your business idea.
This slide is dedicated to providing a little more background on the solution. You’ve already told the audience whether it is a product or a service. They have heard a couple of sentences about it. Hopefully, they have demonstrated enough interest to believe the product might work.
Your job in the product/service section is to convince them their initial assumption was right. Spend a little time explaining to them how the product works. The best way to do that is with examples. Use test and research results you have conducted. If these aren’t available, you can resort to examples of similar products or services that are already on the market.
You have reached the middle of your pitch deck. Congratulations! This is not the time to slow down, though. If you have kept things short and sweet, as you should, your listeners have the necessary info and interest. They aren’t tired either, so it is time to give them even more reasons to get excited about funding your idea.
The traction is the place where you start talking about your actual business plan. It will demonstrate to them you aren’t just someone with a good idea, but you know how to do business. The traction slide of your pitch deck is where you demonstrate you have a measurable set of potential customers. You need them to prove your idea deserves your realization.
The size of your target market matters to investors. They need to know it before they give you the funding. That means you need to know it, as well. You have to put a slide in your pitch deck specifically dedicated to the question of the market size.
If the nature of the product or service doesn’t allow you to make an accurate assessment of your potential market size, do your best to guess. Any predictions you make should be backed by considerable research.
There are different types of competition you’ll face once your startup begins operating. First, you’ll have to compete with companies that already occupy the market segment. They’ll provide products or services similar to yours. Or, they’ll be trying to fix the same problems as you. In any case, if you position yourself successfully in the market, more problems will arise. If some factors are true:
- The market size allows it
- There is room for growth
- Production and initial startup costs are low
- You are successful
Other companies will try to move into your niche. New competition is something many startups forget about until it’s too late. It’s only natural because you are focused on how to get your company going. Including new competition in your pitch deck will demonstrate two things to your potential investors:
1) You have confidence in both the target market and the success of your company.
2) You are confident enough in your endeavors to think several moves ahead in the game.
You should have already created a business plan document. There you’ll have delved deep into the business model you’ve used. Your pitch deck is the place to give your potential investors the highlights of your plan. Tell them how you plan to make money. Don’t forget to give them a schedule about when they can expect a return on their investment. That is a crucial part of your pitch effort.
Even if you have enough confidence in your accounting skills, it’s always better to have an experienced accountant look over your estimates. Investors know how to spot mistakes. Making one is bad enough for you, but you are running the risk of someone thinking you either incompetent or deceiving. In both cases, you can kiss your funding dreams goodbye.
Don’t Underestimate the Situation
Each part of your pitch deck is vital. Think of your business model as a first among equals. It matters very little what your business idea is. You might be pitching the next big startup to Silicon Valley venture capitalists, or a taco truck to your cousin. Both cases, and anything in between, require attention to detail and diligence on your part.
Near the end of your pitch deck presentation, you’ve already got the attention of your potential investors. It’s time to tell them what you want from them. The Investing section of the presentation is where you spill the beans on your budget.
Tell the investors what budget you’ve estimated you’re going to need. Share details about how much of the funding you already have. Tell them what kind of money you want for them. If there are not some confidentiality clauses, you can tell them who else has already committed their cash to your company.
If you can’t legally share names, telling them there are other parties involved in your startup would be enough at that stage.
In the best-case scenario, potential investors would decide to back you while you’re still together in the room or Zoom call. In reality, that is rarely the case. Investors need some time to think things over and do their due diligence. They would want to do that even if you presented them with the most revolutionary idea since sliced bread.
The last slide of your pitch deck presentation should give a call to action and your contact info:
- Name and position
- Phone number
- Social media
- Prefer method of communication
- Any other detail necessary for potential investors to get in touch with you quickly
At the end of every presentation, leave enough time, and opportunity for Q&A. Don’t worry about it. Getting a lot of questions from your presentation’s audience means you have captured their attention. Your potential investors want to learn more about your idea, plans, and research.
The opposite – not getting questions, would mean that things did not go as well as you hoped.
Business Plan Vs. Pitch deck
You’ve probably noticed already that all the information in your pitch deck comes from your business plan. The business plan is the document you prepare before you go to your potential investors. It’s a detailed description of your startup idea but is different than a pitch deck. You would want to give your business plan to the audience at the end of the pitch deck. In that way, they’ll have the opportunity to check some details from the pitch before they decide to give you money.
The Ground Rules for a Successful Pitch Deck
A successful pitch deck convinces potential investors to examine your new business idea and give you money. Experience shows some strategies and formats help you achieve that goal, while others don’t. The basic guidelines to follow:
- Tell a story. Storytelling is a powerful tool even when you’re dealing with people focused on money. So, tell an exciting story about your startup and the problems you’re planning to fix. That shows the human side of your business.
- One slide – one idea. It makes the presentation easy to follow. You avoid the risk of audience members losing their focus and being on different pages.
- First impressions matter. Make sure the initial couple of minutes of your pitch deck capture the audience’s attention.
- Show the people. Products and services are great, but they won’t work if the right people don’t realize them. Each key team member needs to be present in the team slide.
- Consistency makes for great visuals. Each slide needs to follow the same design and tone. The same goes for the writing style and the language you use within the slides. The perfect result is when these styles match your manner of talking as well.
- Be sure about the key metrics. Know every bit of information better than anyone in the room. Exude confidence and you’ll make a great impression on potential investors during the Q&A.
Mistakes to Avoid
Now that you know the Do’s of a pitch deck, make sure to avoid the Don’ts:
- Too many bullet points are confusing. Strike a balance to make your presentation stand out. They need to be presented in a graphically pleasing way and include only your key points.
- Don’t go for too long. Even if you kill it with the first impression, you’ll negate the positive effect if the presentation is too long. Statistics show that the average pitch goes for 38 slides. Average pitches are not successful in securing funding. The attention span of your audience is 10 to 15 slides. These make the best pitch decks. They are more than enough to get your message across.
- Don’t rely on your script. It’s a good idea to write down your presentation in advance. Eye contact is crucial during pitch meetings. You can’t do it while your face is buried in the notes. Not to mention you’ll sound like a robot and it’s your first pitch in front of an audience.
- Don’t let the text dominate your presentation. Leave the words for when you’re speaking and answering questions. The slides need to be rich in images and graphics. They require only a minimal amount of text.
- Don’t go in the room underprepared. Investors will tell right away, and it reflects negatively on your confidence as well. No buffer or technique can save you in such a case.
- Don’t underestimate the font of the slides. It should be big enough to read. Nothing too fancy, either.
Additional Slides You Can Include
Let’s say you have succeeded in presenting the core of your business idea. That means your audience is fresh and excited. They might want to learn more. Even though there will be time for questions, it’s best if you show them you’ve anticipated what they might want to learn. You can add a couple more slides. Their nature depends on the type of business, the market, and the proposition you’re making.
Demonstrate you’ve researched the market segment and know the players. Key strategic partnerships can make or break a company and investors know that. It’ll leave a good impression if you show you deem such things important enough to include them in your pitch deck. Include copyright licenses, distribution partners, and other allies you plan to get on board with your idea.
Startups often get taken over or bought out by other larger companies. That is a logical step in their growth. It also means a big payday for the initial investors. IPOs and going public are the end-goal for some startups. Others just get bought by major regional players. In any case, dedicate an exit strategy slide to the topic.
Do you have a working prototype of your product or service? What better way to show your investors what your company is all about than showing them the demo? In some cases, a couple of screenshots will be captivating enough, as well. It all boils down to the precise type of service/product we’re talking about here.
Any Other Documentation
Your pitch deck needs to be short. Your investors will require all info at a later point when they know they have a viable business idea at hand. Include one last slide with links to all relevant paperwork, research, and documents they might ask from you:
- Executive summary
- Technical documents
- Financial models (with details)
- Market research (with details)
The less of their time you waste, the better their impression of you will be. Mix it with proven anticipation of their needs and wishes from you, and you have the perfect investor pitch deck.
The elevator pitch helps you get in a room with investors. The business plan is what finally convinces the people with money to back you. The deck pitch is the link between the two stages. Roll up your sleeves and get down to working on it. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments.