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I’m far from the biggest pitching expert in the world, but I’ve pitched CrankWheel on stage at multiple conferences around the world, and I’ve won pitching competitions a couple of times. I’ve also been angel investing for the last 5 years, so I’ve seen my fair share of both good and bad pitch decks.
You pitch for multiple reasons, all of them in the end having to do with promoting your startup. In this presentation, we’ll focus on pitching in general i.e. the art of promoting your startup through an in-person presentation, and on the type of material you would include in a pitch deck if you are pitching to attract investors.
There are two types of pitch deck for startups: The one that you can email an investor and leave with them, and the one that is only intended to be shown with you presenting the pitch. We’ll focus on the latter, but there are many links to resources on the former in the resources section.
Don’t forget the basics: Your slides should look nice. Get a designer to help you, or buy a PowerPoint template you can customize – for example, the templates for these slides were purchased at www.graphicriver.net. There are even lots of free PowerPoint and Keynote templates available. Follow Guy Kawasaki’s advice 10/20/30 advice: No more than 10 slides, should take no more than 20 minutes to deliver, and no font should be smaller than 30 points (this prevents you from having slides that are too text-rich). Practice your pitch until you can deliver it without reading from any notes, and with maximum emotional impact.
My number one piece of advice is that you need to find a way to have your audience connect emotionally to what you’re telling them. It’s best if you can give them a direct emotional connection to the problem you’re trying to solve, for example if you’re improving pizza delivery you might ask the audience “when was the last time your pizza arrived cold”? If it’s hard for them to directly connect, see if you can connect through somebody they care deeply about, e.g. “have you ever seen your kids so deeply engrossed in a computer game you couldn’t talk to them?” and then tell them how you’re making computer games even more engaging.
These are roughly the areas I’d recommend covering in an investor pitch, typically in roughly this order although it depends on your strengths and weaknesses. If your team isn’t incredibly impressive but you have a great product demo, don’t make that the second slide, put it after you’ve vowed them with your product. Many of these are not separate slides – keep your slides to 10 or fewer than that if you can.
Your first slide should simply tell people, in a nutshell, what you’re all about. If you can’t distill it down to one sentence, then make a sentence that tells people roughly in what space you are and makes them intrigued.
This example is an adaptation of AirBnB’s original pitch deck.
If your team is strong, you should highlight its strengths early on in the pitch. Here’s an example from Square, which had an extremely strong founding team.
You need to explain the problem that you’re addressing. What is the pain point or lack of efficiency that you help with? Ideally, customers should NEED a solution to this problem, rather than WANT one. This is sometimes expressed as whether your product is a vitamin (customers want it) or a painkiller (customers need it).
Here’s an example from Mixpanel. They went on to say that companies were using inconsistent data from multiple sources without a single source of truth or a good way to analyze things.
Describe your solution as simply as possible. You’ll have a separate chance to show off the details if you have a product demo or a few slides on your product.
What unfair advantage, that your competitors will find hard to beat, do you have as a company or with your product? This can be technology, it can be existing market size, growth rate, and more. You should also illustrate how your solution is better than the existing solutions out there.
Here’s where you either do a brief product demo or show a few slides illustrating your product. If possible, your demo should reinforce why your solution is better and the unfair advantages you may have. This is one of Foursquare’s original slides.
If you can, show the traction you are getting on a slide. Buffer’s original deck is very ho-hum and kind of ugly, until you get to the traction slide, at which point most people would want to invest. If you don’t have that kind of traction, you can still try to show traction by means of customer testimonials, money saved or ROI with your customers, etc.
The most typical way to show your market is to show the TAM (Total Available Market), the SAM (Serviceable Available Market) and your own projected market share. Here’s that slide adapted from AirBnB’s original deck.
You often also want to show what your go-to-market strategy is: How will you get your product in front of users? What will be the acquisition cost of a new customer, and what will be the lifetime value?
Another example from AirBnB is one of the nicest ways to illustrate your competitive landscape. Choose a couple of axes where your startup will be up and to the right compared to the competition – in this example, AirBnB is most affordable and the most online transaction-y. Regardless of what your slide looks like, what you want to show when you talk about the competition is how your startup is positioned to be different and better than the rest.
A lot of articles on pitch decks will tell you to have 3-year financial projections summarized in one slide. No investor worth their salt would ever believe such projections. In my opinion the best thing to show on the business model / financials slide is that you have solid unit economics: The lifetime value of a user/customer greatly exceeds the typical acquisition cost of a user/customer. You should ideally already have shown in your traction slide that you are able to grow your user/customer base fast.
Your investment slide or “Ask” is improtant to include if you’re actually asking for money. Typically you would include how much money you’re looking for, roughly what the terms are (e.g. priced round or a convertible note at X% discount), and how much runway this gives you. Sometimes, when it’s not obvious, you should include how the funds will be allocated, for example if there’s a significant capital outlay rather than primarily just salaries.
This is one of the original slides from TheFacebook that they used as a press kit. Just goes to show that although I advise you to make your slide deck look good, in the end of the day it’s the quality of your company that matters.
If you want folks to be able to contact you after your presentation, you’d better include your contact details on one of the slides. If you’re sending out a pitch deck rather than presenting in person, this is doubly important.
I put together a short blog article on resources you can use to build your pitch deck, relevant articles, and more, as I created this presentation. It’s published on one of my side projects’ blogs, at StartupResources.io/blog/how-to-pitch. You’ll find all the links you need there!
You should always end your pitches with a call to action. If it’s an investor pitch, then the call to action is simply to get in touch with you and invest. If you’re pitching in front of a larger audience, you may want to have a call to action such as “hey everyone pull out their phone please” and then “since your phone is out already, why not install our app?”. For today, my call to action is this: Go to startupresources.io above to see more resources about pitching, and please sign up for our weekly newsletter that will help you build your startup.
Pitching your startup: Lessons learned
LISTEN TO ME
DO A PITCH COMPETITION
SELL TO CUSTOMERS
PROMOTE YOUR STARTUP
TWO TYPES OF PITCH DECK