If you look at some of the most famous startup pitch decks, you’ll notice that even though they showcase products and services that have almost nothing in common, they share one important element: they’re short and to the point. In fact, most of them have only 10 slides.
To be able to simplify an idea is perhaps more complicated than to come up with it. Information overload is approaching critical levels for many of us who struggle with generating and managing the ceaseless flow of news, social media and data. Investors are only human. Aside from the huge volume of information they consume as business people, as consumers and as citizens, they also have to process the information that you bring to their attention.
The clearer you are in communicating startup’s vision and your business plans, the easier it will be for investors and VCs to focus their attention on your needs for a short amount of time.
And this is another reason to keep your startup pitch deck short - you need to be able to present your ideas fairly quickly (and also leave time for questions).
We like business plans that present a lot of information in as few words as possible.
Simply put, your pitch should have ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. This rule, made popular by entrepreneur Guy Kawasaky, is applicable for any presentation to reach agreement.
Here are our suggestions for your 10 slides:
Slide 1: Who you are
Before you start strong, make sure your first slide sets a good start to the meeting. Simplicity, remember? Have your name, logo, and business venture name on it. Get your audience accustomed to your brand elements and make sure they know your name.
Slide 2: Vision
Dive into your pitch deck with the vision for your business. Many entrepreneurs choose to go with a comparison statement for their vision. For example “AirBnB for cooks” or “Amazon for oysters”. While that might be helpful for you in finding the right niche or in framing your idea, it’s not a good way to start your pitch.
On one site alone—AngelList, where startups can court angel investors and employees—526 companies included “Uber for” in their listings. As a judge for various emerging technology startup competitions, I saw “Uber for” so many times that at some point, I developed perceptual blindness.
Amy Webb via Wired.com
Make sure you convey the originality of your idea in a simple vision.
Slide 3: The problem
No surprise here. A valuable tip I can offer is: frame the problem in a way that people can relate to it. Even though this particular problem you're trying to solve doesn’t address your current audience, explain it in a way that makes sense to them. Trigger their empathy in acknowledging that this is a real problem that requires a real solution, which you can deliver.
The more you connect with your audience and make them feel what you feel - a passion for creating something that delivers value - the higher the chances of them supporting you.
Slide 4: Target market
If you’ve managed to follow the advice above, you’re now required to zoom in on the people experiencing that problem. Not only who they are but what a day in their lives looks like, what they struggle with, what they celebrate, how they interact with other people. How does this problem affect their lives and how would a solution make it easier for them?
Questions over market size are the single biggest killer of deals. Keep an eye out for these cringe factors when designing this slide. To estimate the total audience size for your product you can do either a 'top down' or 'bottom up' approach. Keep in mind that the total achievable market is smaller than the total addressable market. And don’t forget to rely on solid data.
Slide 5: The solution: your product
Think different and focused.
Venture people want to back big ideas and big markets that will lead to big companies, but when you go back and look at the big winners, they usually started with very little capital and very focused offerings. That's particularly true in consumer Internet: Google (GOOG) began as just page-ranked search, Yahoo! (YHOO) was a very focused directory of the Web, and eBay was really winning in core collectibles. They did just one thing extraordinarily well – better than anyone in the world.
Peter Fenton via Bloomberg.com
Once you have that covered, don’t sell the product, sell what it solves.
Slide 6: Business Model
Talk about your revenue model, pricing strategy, average account size and/or lifetime value, sales and distribution model and your customer/pipeline list. Easy right? Maybe not, but consider that this is the moment where you get these people to trust that you have a sound plan to bring that vision to life. It should be well-documented and presented with confidence.
You should also include a profit and loss statement, that also contains predictions on a month-by-month basis for the first year, and quarterly for at least 2 more years after that.
Even though your slide won’t contain it, make sure you know every single one of your expenses–rental costs, salaries for a full staff, utility bills and accounting and legal fees, in case they ask (which they probably will). Same goes for your cash flow.
Slide 7: Traction
Defined as the velocity that you are acquiring customers and/or increasing revenue, traction doesn’t necessarily mean profitability. Most entrepreneurs agree that traction centers on engagement.
Engagement is critical. I have seen many great startups fail because they don't or can't engage with their target market. Without engagement you can't even begin to measure traction as you have none.
Julian Carter, Founder & Managing Director at Mosi Seven via Quora
I think of traction in terms of engagement by your target stakeholder groups. If you are building a development platform, look at the number and quality of developers using it. If you are building a consumer play, how many consumers are engaging with your product?
Aziz Gilani, VC Investor in early stage startups via Quora
Aside from engagement, your slide about traction should also mention:
- Active users
- Registered users
Slide 8: Marketing Strategy
Many startup founders don’t have a background in marketing, so the strategy doesn’t come naturally to them. As long as you’re touching key points such as: a differentiator and value proposition, a digital strategy, customer feedback, audience segmentation, influencer targeting and messaging, you should be off to a great start. Think how you can embed marketing into every aspect of your product.
Don’t try to do everything yourself. It’s better to hire a specialist who can really understand and implement growth hacking strategies, than to lose momentum. Include that in your slide to reassure investors that you’re prepared to make this happen.
Slide 9: Team
They say this is the deal breaker for many pitches: the team. And it makes sense, if you think about it; you could have an amazing plan but if you don’t have the right people to implement it, it’s all for nothing.
Although some people recommend that you have the team slide earlier on in the pitch deck, most investors prefer some context before you talk about yourselves.
For the 99.9% of us who are not famous, it’s important that investors understand the context of the company before they can fully care about your team’s experience. It’s hard to care that the person pitching spent 10 years exploring submerged oil veins in Alaska until you understand that it’s exactly that person who should be leading this company’s R&D effort.
Nicole Gravagna, Director of Operations for the Rockies Venture Club
Include here founders, employees, mentors, advisors, and board members. Be clear who will be doing what and make sure you emphasise the strengths and achievements of each person on that slide. You have to pitch your team as well if you want to get that money.
The team slide is your chance to showcase why you are exceptional and why we should bet on your team. It’s your chance to kick off the meeting with more than the standard 15 second intro. Think about what questions you should be answering with your team slide.
Josh Hannah, Early stage tech VC at Matrix Partners via Quora
Slide 10: Call to action
Ask for what you want. It’s important to end your presentation with a strong statement that urges for direct action. Design your slide in a simple and powerful way, to emphasize the message.
You can also include here a summary of the deck, to help refocus their minds on your pitch. After you’re done, make sure to reach out to them and ask if they have any questions.
Your audience just spent 5, 10, maybe even 20 minutes watching your mannerisms, hearing your voice, feeling your message, probably all for the first time. They are in a bit of a daze. Even if they zoned out during your pitch, when you beseech the audience for feedback, they tend to tune back in.
Nicole Gravagna, Director of Operations for the Rockies Venture Club
Remember to bring some emotion to your pitch. You can create emotion not only with your slides, but also with the way you present them and engage with the audience. Even though not everyone will remember every piece of information in your deck, they will remember how you delivered it and how they felt.
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