Creating a Pitch Deck for Your New Tech? Follow These 4 Guidelines to Win Over Investors and Clients
September 25, 2020
What is a pitch deck?
Basically, think of your pitch deck as your startup’s resume and interview prep all in one.
A pitch deck is a brief presentation that informs potential investors, partners, customers, and the public/media about your product. It should be short enough to keep their attention, but long enough to give them a clear understanding of your product, vision, and goals for your company.
You will notice that we said that your presentation should be brief. You are the expert about your tech and, of course, excited to share all the details with anyone who will listen. You and your team have spent long hours and invested tons of sweat equity, getting it to where it is today. Save the lengthy explanations for your friends and family. Your pitch should be as short and concise as possible, without omitting any important information, this will ensure that people stay fully engaged.
What does brief mean? Your pitch deck should contain about 18-20 slides, each one containing one big idea. Focus on keeping a balance between the number of slides and presenting a clean, clear message.
So, all a founder has to do is create one slide deck that details the product, and they are good to go?
Not really, just like career consultants advise job seekers to tailor their resumes and cover letters to the job they are seeking, you should also customize your pitch deck to different targets.
1. Realize That One Size Does Not Fit All
Each audience will be looking for specific details about your firm, and having customized presentations speaks volumes about your organization’s proactive nature and level of professionalism.
How many presentations should you prepare? That really depends on your product, your funding stage, and your application. But, at any time, you should have at least three slide decks ready that address the questions, concerns, and issues that the below audiences may have.
- Partner’s /Customer
- General Public/Media
Before you get nervous, know that you will not need to recreate the wheel for each pitch deck, but you certainly should customize the content and its complexity.
2. Know Your Audience
For your startup, the pitch deck will likely be your most vital fundraising tool, whether you’re looking to raise $50,000, $500,000, or $50 million. In the same way that human resource managers see endless resumes each day and candidates have only a few moments to catch their eye, funders see scores of pitch decks each week, and according to DocSend, VCs spend only about 3:23 minutes on a successful pitch deck.
What do you need to do to ensure that your presentation has what it takes to wow them? Follow in the footsteps of those who have done it before and have been successful. Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal, Palantir, president of Clarium Capital Management, and early angel investor in Facebook certainly knows his way around the venture capital world. He suggested that VC/fundraising presentations be clear, simple, compelling, easy to act on, and include the following components.
- Market Size
- Amount being raised
And while there is no doubt that Peter has been highly successful, both as a founder and as an investor, we might suggest a slight tweak to his list to include the following.
- Cover slide
- Problem/Need Gap
- Why you/Why now
- Market size
- Competitive landscape
- Business model
- Amount being raised
- Roadmap - Go to Market
- Future directions
- The Ask
3. Tell The Story
You may ask, since investors are going to spend less than four minutes reviewing my pitch deck shouldn't I skip a cover slide and get right to the point? Your pitch deck is doing more than conveying facts and figures; it is telling a story.
Think of going to the movie theater and watching the trailers. You get excited by that short snippet of storytelling and will look forward to seeing that movie. Your cover slide is the trailer for your presentation. It builds expectations about what you, your tech, and your startup are about. Your cover slide should, of course, include your logo and contact information, but more importantly, it should focus on what is at the heart of your solution. You need to demonstrate not just the value of your tech, but also your creativity and pride in what you are building. This is where you showcase your cause, your brand, and where you can build a connection with your audience. You help to build that connection by including both a tagline (think of Nike’s Just Do It) and an impactful image that brings to mind what you seek to achieve. Are you creating a cooking application that integrates recipes, pictures, and instructions with streaming video so that people can work on the same recipe across the miles? Use an image that evokes all of the feelings of cooking at home with a loved one.
Once you have your audience drawn into your story, you can then share the ONE painful problem with which many people can relate and that you know the investors will understand. Note that we said one, not two, or three problems.
You do not want to overwhelm investors, and you want to show them how focused you are on achieving your mission.
You must be able to communicate as simply as possible a description of your tech and how it works – no deep dives here. It is also vital to share the benefits to the user(s) and to have available a great short product demo.
Investors will want to understand why your solution is the right one as there undoubtedly other companies tackling the same challenge with different approaches. You will also need to articulate why now is the right time for your tech. Timing is critical to startups facing a rapidly changing marketplace and competition racing to get to launch first.
This is the part of the pitch that potential investors are here for; how will your unique product make you and them money? They may believe in your solution, and they may even like you, but they are investors after all, and they are looking for their return. You need to clearly explain how large you believe your company can be (market size and competitive landscape – utilize top-down or bottom-up analysis), where it is going (trends), what are you going to spend to get you there (financials), how you are going to get there (business model), how much funding do you need to get you there (amount being raised), who will get you there (team), and what you have already accomplished (traction.)
Roadmap - Go to Market
This slide will make it simple for a VC to envision how you will grow your audience or scale. Especially as an early-stage startup, you have no way of knowing if any of your ideas will be successful, but that is the nature of all new businesses. As you move through stages of funding and implement different strategies, you can update the slide with your wins and refined tactics.
Airbnb pitched a 'dual posting feature' to investors in which host properties would be listed on Kayak.com. That partnership never came to fruition, but they developed a bot function that reposted any Airbnb listing on Craigslist and linked back to Airbnb, increasing traffic.
Remember when we said to focus on only one problem and one solution? Well, this is your chance to share your long-term vision for what your tech can be in five or ten years. Start like Jeff Bezos, pitch your online bookstore, but share your vision for the everything store for everyone. This slide can also share opportunities for new markets, partnerships, or collaborations.
The answer is always no if you never ask the question. This slide should be tailored to the specific funder/investor, their capacity, and their engagement. Be sure to align the size of your ask with funding that they have provided to startups like your own. This means doing your research before the pitch meeting. Over or under-asking can start a relationship off on the wrong foot.
Since you will want to engage partners and customers at a similar level as investors, but they will have less, well, invested, their deck does not need to be quite as detailed.
They will still be interested in the following:
- Cover slide
Problem/Need Gap – from THEIR perspective
- Solution - Product
- Success stories
- Competitive advantage
- How can they buy from you or work with you
General Public/Media Deck
This is sometimes called a “send out” deck and helps garner interest in your product. Your goal should always be to only pitch in person, but a send-out deck can be especially useful with the media. The content shared here should be pared down significantly and can often be accomplished with a one page PDF. It should include:
- Market details – brief
- Competition – why you are better
- How to contact/learn more
4. Make It Flawless
Once you have the content you need for your pitch, it is time to make it look amazing. There are a plethora of presentation software tools available; just a few to consider are:
Regardless of which solution you choose, remember that the design, while being professional and streamlined, is not the star of the show. It is merely the backdrop for your information. Think of it as wearing a subdued, well-fitting outfit to an interview. It sets the stage but does not distract from the candidate.
As with any presentation, do not put all of your details on your slides. You do not want your audience to read from a screen. Instead, you want them to focus on the content and engaging with you.
You have only one chance to make a first impression. Proof, proof, and proof your pitch deck again. Share it with other members of your team. If you have trusted people outside of your team, share it with them. Glaring errors often become invisible to us when we are deeply immersed in a project.
With tens of thousands or even millions of dollars on the line, it might make sense to have an individual with an understanding of sales psychology review your pitch deck. Their insights could add a comma to your funding outcomes.
Be The Best You Can Be
Most people realize today that presenting is not reading from slides. However, what might not be so apparent is that presenting, especially in a high-stakes situation like funding pitches, is a practiced art. Even the most seasoned professionals would reasonably get nervous when asking for large amounts of funding. Some ways to help overcome any unease would be to work with a speech/presentation coach. These individuals can help not only build your acumen but can role-play different situations with you and show you how to address them. There are even coaches who will help you with video presentation skills and addressing challenges specific to engaging people virtually. Just like honing any craft, seamlessly conducting a pitch takes practice, practice, practice.
Impressing investors, partners, or customers is not easy. It can be incredibly daunting for a first-time founder whose last time giving a presentation was sophomore year in college. Finding a partner who understands the startup ecosystem and selling tech can provide you with valuable resources and ensure you are ready when that great opportunity presents itself. The Latin quote may say that fortune favors the bold, but it also looks kindly on the well-prepared. Having your pitch decks ready for a meeting when you meet that big prospect unexpectedly can make all the difference.