For the last two years, you and your partner have spent countless nights and weekends anxiously discussing the viability of your business. You’ve asked friends for their opinion. Maybe you ventured out to chat with would-be customers – they’d buy it. You even ran it by your family physician at a local charity event, who, after a few too many scotches, said he’d invest tomorrow. You’re giddy and you’re ready to begin.
Details aside, dozens of stories like these have been shared with us by startup founders, during those early discussions when they’re hopeful we’ll be the team they entrust to design and build their
websites and mobile apps. We’re not (that) special. This is business as usual for digital engagements. Entrepreneurs arrive at a designer’s doorstep because they admire their work and trust in their creative expertise. But at some point during the lifecycle of the project, the entrepreneur begins working on their own pitch deck. The presentation which they’ll be showing the investors who will either fund their dreams or withdraw with, “This will never work. Go’way.”
We’ve seen these abominations…
Have you ever listened to someone defend themselves in court? Bit of a train wreck, right? Same thing here, except you probably won’t go to jail for a bad pitch deck. You could probably use a throat jab, but the point is, you’ve toiled endlessly to conceptualize this business and have an expert create digital art around your brand. But then your pitch deck is littered with bulleted text (Times New Roman, no less) and clip art images of a bunch of racially diverse people sitting in a sterile conference room. Why have you done this?!
An article in TechCrunch highlights the problem entrepreneurs face, “As most entrepreneurs are well aware, creating a pitch deck is pretty much the best way to get a meeting with an investor. But it’s also annoying, time-consuming, and it’s difficult as all hell to design a beautiful, succinct presentation that gets investors clamoring for more. Most people struggle when talking about themselves, let alone something as close to their heart as their business.”
OK, truth be told — if your product is that good and your team that impressive, you already have a big ol’ leg up on the laundry list of pitches this investor has heard today. But why risk lulling them to sleep with block arrows, callouts and crappy PowerPoint animations? You have about 15 minutes to convince them your venture is worthwhile. Think, maybe, with all that’s at stake, you should ask for some help here?
Slides to Consider Including
Over the years of working with startups, we’ve also been fortunate to work closely with a host of angels, investors, mentors, board members, and accelerator directors. In other words, the rich, influential folk that may be interested in investing in your startup.
We’ve sat in on pitch after pitch. We’ve taken notes. We’ve refined our clients’ decks based on investor and customer feedback. And so that brings us here… We’re not only sharing the slides investors ask for, but educating you on the best way to lay it all out for them.
- Elevator Pitch - answer to what, how & why are addressed
- Problem – what’s broken (sometimes this can be folded into the Opportunity slide)
- Market Opportunity – the potential return for whichever team can solve this problem
- Solution – the answer to the problem that you’re bringing to market
- Product Demo – mockups or screenshots of your website’s/app’s core components
- Business Model – this is how your company will make money
- Marketing Strategy – how you will you find and retain your customers; mentions CPA
- Growth Projections – illustrate your traction to show when your company will be profitable (if not already)
- Milestones – your timeline for what you’ve accomplished vs. what’s next
- Competitive Landscape – what others are doing in this space and how are you different (don’t insult them by saying you’re the first & only)
- Team – not only who you are, but why you are the perfect group to execute
- Testimonials – affirmation of the problem and/or endorsements of your team and solution
- Needs – bringing it all together along with investment commitments you’re after
Important: Just like few businesses are the same, few decks will be the same. Include/exclude based on your team & business, as well as rearrange the order to put the strongest slides up front. And lastly, don’t get hung up on how someone else did it that received funding – your story is not theirs.
Presentation Really IS Important
There are lots and lots and lots of examples of God-awful pitch decks out there. If you’re bored, need to feel better about yourself or just feel like laughing at someone else’s expense, just start googling “worst powerpoint presentations ever”. We’ll see you in a few hours.
But this is awesome news for you. Why?! Because it means that you get it. Your beautifully crafted pitch deck has exhibited that in your first attempt to execute against your vision, you nailed it. Combine that with an epic business concept, and you’ve piqued your investor’s interest. Now, as long as you didn’t come dressed like Miley Cyrus on a wrecking ball… Good Idea + Solid Team(Degree of Deck Awesomeness) = Investor Who Wants to Make Out. (*patent pending algorithm)
Below are some best practices for the design of your pitch deck, or any presentation for that matter:
- Unless you have a design background, don’t do it yourself. Please? And even then, sometimes it’s still a bad idea to create a pitch about your own business. Takeaway: call in a pro.
- Lay off the stock PowerPoint and Keynote elements. If you’ve followed rule #1, your designer probably won’t commit such sins, but you’d be surprised.
- Less is more. Stick to the slides we recommended above. Don’t drown the investor in content – aim for getting through each slide in no more than two minutes.
- Color is important, but use appropriately. If your slides have dark, color-rich backgrounds and you need to print your deck out, make sure you’re using a high-quality printer. Better, have a print vendor print it for you.
- If it turns out your investors want the deck without you having a chance to present it, avoid the temptation of stuffing in additional notes. If you need to, do so in the email in which you attach the deck. Trust that if the investors like what they see, they’ll call to ask more questions.
- Visuals sell. Go back and look at the almighty master of sales presentations, Steve Jobs. He delighted with images and left you hanging on his every word.
- Respect your brand. Hopefully, you paid a designer to create your brand’s visual identity – logo, website, app, banners, print materials, etc. Make sure your deck doesn’t butcher and contrast those assets. Related, limit the appearances your logo appears to, max, the intro and summary slides.
Foreseeably, your pitch deck could be all that stands between you and a big, fat endowment. Of course we understand that there’s plenty more that goes into making a financial commitment to your startup. But the point we’ve been driving at is to avoid shooting yourself in the foot by bringing a lame presentation to your investor and expecting them to shower you in praise or dollars — especially if this is your first time around the circuit. When you’re serial entrepreneur, Bill Nguyen, you can fake your way to $41M in startup capital with a pitch deck that might as well have looked like the fake version that New Work City created. Till then, make sure your deck is mint.
What’s been your experience in creating and presenting pitch decks?
Ready to take your deck and your fund raising seriously? Get in touch with us.