When it comes to crafting a winning pitch deck for your startup, here’s the problem. There’s a disconnect between what founders think they should include in their pitch decks and what investors actually want to see.
Founders are naturally enthusiastic about their startups. As a result, they’re tempted to pack their pitch deck with tons of information. And it makes sense. After all, they want to convince investors to give them money. But this is where things get complicated.
In any given week, investors meet with dozens of founders and look at hundreds of pitch decks every year. So we have one group (founders) that’s eager to share their startup with the world, and another group (investors) that has limited time and gets pitched all day.
For this reason, while crafting a winning pitch deck the goal should be to create a pitch deck that explains what your startup does. It should also say why it’s a great investment and be succinct enough to hold an investor’s attention on top of that. But the question is: how do you do (all of) this?
Let’s answer that for you in this piece.
The first rule: Humans have a short attention span
The most important information needs to be stated at the start of the pitch.
If a meeting is an hour-long, it’s a rookie mistake to assume receiving a full hour of the audience’s attention. It would be smarter to have a 30-minute presentation instead. You can use the remaining 30 minutes for Q&As.
Keep it simple.
One of the most important things is not to overwhelm the viewer with your presentation. Using as little text as possible will help with keeping the information short and streamlined. You can also visualize information with the help of images or try reducing text with the use of icons.
Use impactful images.
When using images, try not to fall back on generic stock images. Instead, use actual photos of your team and product. If you don’t have a visual product, try to represent it in other ways, possibly through an illustration or diagram.
This is the so-called blank space between different elements. It can be a great help to make the slides easy to read and lead the eye. Instead of cluttering your slides with text, making it feel claustrophobic, try to use whitespace effectively and intentionally.
Visualize your data.
To make your presentation easier to understand, you can use charts and infographics whenever you want to present data-heavy content. This helps to understand complicated statistics more easily.
A Winning Pitch Deck Should Include: Company Mission, Vision, and Purpose
The mission statement is a short, simple slide at the beginning or end of the pitch deck that explains why your company exists. At the prototype stage, the mission slide provides direction for you and your team. During a seeding round, it provides investors with insight into the idea that is driving your venture forward.
A vision slide is a great addition to any concept pitch. It describes the world your product will help to create or your long-term plan for your business. It shows investors that you have a firm idea of how the business will grow.
The purpose statement is some sort of “philosophical heartbeat.” In my experience, an organization’s purpose is best found by asking, as a company, why you are doing the work you are doing.
When describing your business and its goals, aim to convey the originality of your idea. Many entrepreneurs describe their business by utilizing comparisons to other well-known companies. However, this can diminish the uniqueness of your idea.
Bonus tip: Provide written copies on the day of the presentation
It would be wrong to assume that every single person you’re presenting to has read the extended business proposal. That’s why it’s an excellent idea to have printed copies of the proposal ready and available when you give your presentation. It shows preparation and consideration for your client – a winning combination.
The Pain Point (The Problem)
Just as a good story needs conflict, your pitch deck needs to outline the problem that your startup is solving. In a winning pitch deck, you should be crystal clear about what the problem is and who it affects. Even if the investor(s) you’re pitching don’t experience the problem you’re solving, they should understand how deep of a pain point it is and why it needs a solution.
It is particularly important to frame the problem in a way that people can easily relate to. While talking about the problem you should also see this as an opportunity to add a personal touch and connect with your audience.
You can talk about the current solutions in the market, but don’t spend too much time on the competitive landscape on this slide – you’ll have a chance to do that later on.
Bonus Tip: Don’t belittle your competition
Acknowledging your company’s position relative to your competition is necessary. At the same time it is important not to underestimate or belittle your competition. This could backfire, reflect poorly on you, or potentially be off-putting for investors.
Target Market and Opportunity
You should explain who your ideal customer is and how many of them there are. What is the total market size and how do you position your company in the market? If you can find the data, investors will want to know how much people or businesses currently spend in the market to get a sense of the total market size.
This is where you tell the story about the scope and scale of the problem you are solving.
If it makes sense for your business, you’ll want to divide your market into segments that you will address with different types of marketing and perhaps different types of product offerings.
Be careful with this slide, though. It’s tempting to try and define your market to be as large as possible. Instead, investors will want to see that you have a very specific and reachable market. The more specific you are, the more realistic your pitch will be.
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Solution: Your Product or Service
You need to follow the Problem with the natural Solution: your company’s product or service.
On the same slide or on a separate slide, you’ll also need to spell out exactly what your company’s product or service involves, and why it is distinct from what already exists on the market.
Showing your product is far more powerful than simply describing its functionality in words. If your company has a product ready to be demo-ed, this would be a natural point to introduce it to investors, either live or in a video. Otherwise, you can also include screenshots and powerful images or visuals.
If you haven’t completed the product itself, include a mockup so investors have a visual aide. You should highlight your product’s key features, target user, product milestones and roadmaps, and key differentiating features.
A Winning Pitch Deck Should Include: Your Team
The team slide is undeniably the most important slide of your pitch deck: investors invest in great teams before anything else. You might have the best product, execution is arguably the hardest part of any startup.
Investors want to know that you have the right team in place to solve the problem. Use this slide to highlight the key players in your team and what they bring to the table.
This is particularly important when you’re raising a pre-seed or seed round and are still building your foundation. When you’re that early on, investors are investing in your team just as much as your business.
As a rule of thumb, your team slide should not include more than 5 team members. For the team members’ details, keep it simple: name, position, years of experience and/or previous companies is more than enough.
Anticipate Potential Questions (and Incorporate Answers Into the Deck)
An oft-overlooked step in the pitch deck creation is the anticipation of investor questions. You must critically examine your company and your presentation to identify the potential gaps.
Instead of being caught off-guard by the investor, think about what investors might ask and create supplemental slides to provide visual support for your answers.
Ideally, a winning pitch deck should answer these core questions:
- What problem (or want) are you solving?
- What kinds of people, groups, or organizations have that problem?
- How many are there, where are they, what do they do about it now?
- How are you different?
- Who are you going to compete with and how are they different?
- How will you make money?
- How will you make money for your investors? How fast can you grow your business?
- How fast can you grow your business?
- What traction have you made?
- What milestones have you met?
- How are you going to get the word out?
- How are you going to close sales?
- How are you going to get started?
- How are you going to spend investors’ money?
- What makes your team suited for this business?
Use Stories Throughout Your Presentation
Another powerful tool to keep your audience engaged is storytelling.
Storytelling is captivating for a reason. From childhood through adulthood, we are drawn to the lessons we learn, the exciting journeys we embark upon, the knowledge we gain, and the opportunity to unleash our imaginations.
Stories celebrate our culture, and stories are a testament to the lives we have led. Stories also make messages pass easier. Our brains are wired to process and recall information better if it’s framed in a story.
The structure up above is a straightforward iteration of that: problem, solution, epilogue.
Raising capital is arguably the most important step to getting your business off the ground for startups. And raising capital is not an easy task. Convincing stakeholders that your business is worth investing in requires planning, persuasion, and presentation.
While it’s hard to tell a startup what exactly to put in its pitch deck, there’s an effective framework that can help a company build one.
The goal of your pitch deck is to engage your investors sufficiently that they want to know more about you and your startup. So endeavor to make your pitch deck simple, interesting, and easy to understand. Doing this should put you ahead of other startups.