10 Slides Every Pitch Deck Needs

This is a Guest blog post from Andre Averbug, an entrepreneur, economist, and writer who has been helping entrepreneurs prepare for their investor pitches for several years.

0. Title

Before the content slides, you need a slick title slide to catch people’s attention from the get-go. Include your company logo/name and perhaps a great picture that represents your mission or broader vision. I like it when companies also include a short sentence, such as a slogan or value proposition, that already gives the audience an idea of what the company is about. Mint’s title slide from its 2007 pitch is a great example.

1. Problem

Every startup should be focused on solving a particular problem – big or small. The first slide is the place where you explain what the problem is with facts and numbers. For ex, Breakthrough, a company that provides mental health services, laid out a clear problem statement that set the stage for why its business mattered. You can also focus the discussion of the problem on a typical customer or beneficiary, to make it more personable (“Mr. Smith has mental health problems, but he doesn’t feel comfortable sharing his illness with others and seeking help…”)

2. Solution

After the problem, of course, comes the solution. What is your company doing to solve the problem? This could be framed as a value proposition or the company’s broader vision but should also include specifics as to how your product or service is making people’s lives better. Gleamr, an app that provides professional auto detail on-the-go, laid out its solution very clearly.

3. Product / Service

Now is the time to describe in detail how your product or service works. Include screenshots, images, graphs, anything that helps the audience understand what is it that you’re offering. If the product is not ready yet, include pictures of the prototype or wireframes. If you provide a service, include a simple schematic showing how the service works. The example below is from Airbnb’s first pitch deck.

4. Business Model

Every investor will need to know how you plan to make money with your business. Explain how much you are charging your clients, for which offerings and, if other partners are involved, who takes how much of the profits. Gleamr makes it all very clear with a simple infographic.

5. Market Opportunity

How big is the potential market for your product or service? How many people in your country, region or even world could become paying customers? Talk about your target market, their overall characteristics and preferences. Learn about the concepts of TAM, SAM and SOM. Airbnb’s example below is good, but I personally prefer to present market size figures in dollars. Therefore, I would multiply the 84 million SOM (share of market) by the average amount charged for a trip (for ex, if the average trip is $100, total SOM would be $8.4 billion).

6. Marketing

You need to show investors you have a clear plan to attract and retain customers. What is your go-to-market strategy? How will you reach out to potential customers? Will you use social media, paid ads, attend conferences, blog etc.? Gleamr actually went beyond and included information on “staying competitive”, with insights about product development – however, in most cases, focusing on marketing and sales and saying a few words about keeping customers is enough.

7. Competition

Who are your (direct and indirect) competitors? Never say you don’t have any, it is simply not true! How do you differ from them? What is your competitive advantage? To convey the message in a clear way, many companies use graphs plotting down competition across different axes (e.g.: price, quality, speed, customer experience) or a table that compares specific features across products.

8. Traction (and/or Financials)

What have you accomplished so far? Let numbers tell the story. How many active users and paying customers do you have? How much revenue? Have you broken even yet? What is your EBITDA margin? If you’re very early stage, what partnerships have you developed? Have you won any relevant award (e.g.: innovation, product development)? Have you been selected to an accelerator/incubator? Do you have an MVP? Have you run a successful pilot and, if so, what were the results?

9. Team

Many investors bet more on the jockey (i.e., entrepreneurs) than the horse (i.e., company). But even if they don’t, you need to show them you are the best team out there to execute this wonderful business plan. Include up to 5 people maximum and be sure to use nice pictures and include short bios in bullets. This is a good time to share your passion for what you’re building and talk about how great you complement each other and work together.

10. Financial Projections and Ask

Finally, it is time to show what you plan to accomplish in the next few years and what you need to get there. Include a table or graph showing your financial projections (revenues and EBITDA or net income should suffice for a short pitch) for the next few years – I personally stop believing in year 3.  Explain how much money you need to reach your goals. Include a use-of-funds table or pie-chart, such as the one below, to show exactly how you plan to spend the funds you’re raising.

Finally, if you didn’t have your contacts and company website at the bottom of each slide, you might want to wrap up the presentation with a “Thank you!” slide including contact information.

The slides above and their order are of course suggestions only. The ultimate number and content of slides are dependent on the time available to present, whether you are presenting in an event with multiple companies and investors or to one investor only, if the audience already knows your business, among other factors. In any case, I consider these ten pieces of content to be the backbone of most investor pitches.

Good luck!

Image: freepik.com

Andre portrait

Andre Averbug is an entrepreneur, economist, and writer. He has over two decades of international experience working in the intersection of economic development, entrepreneurship, and innovation. He has worked and lived in multiple countries across North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Central Asia.

Andre has started and run four startups, in Brazil and the US, and was awarded Global Innovator of the Year in 2009 by World Bank’s infoDev. He has extensive experience supporting companies as mentor and consultant, both independently and as part of incubators such as 1776 and the Kosmos Innovation Center, and programs like Shell LIVEWire, StartUp Weekend and WeXchange.

As an economist, Andre has worked in topics ranging from innovation ecosystems, entrepreneurship and MSME development policy, competitiveness, business climate, infrastructure finance, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), and country assistance strategy for the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). He has also consulted for clients such as DAI Global, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), TechnoServe, among many others. He holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of London (UK) and an MBA from McGill University (Canada). Andre lives in the Washington, DC area.

He writes an awesome Blog called Entrepreneurship Compass and you can sign up here: https://entrepreneurshipcompass.com

Building the Best Investment Pitch Deck

Early Pitch Decks Of 10 Startups Before They Became Billion-Dollar  Companies | Robin Hood Ventures Philadelphia

This is a Guest blog post by William E. Dyess, “Pitchmaster General” and Principal at TXN Advisors, a Washington, DC-region business consulting firm that provides corporate development, marketing and strategic advisory services.

This post is an analysis of the last 50 pitch decks we received at The Dyess Group’s deck review portal and our strategy on building a winning deck.

The Basics of Deck Building

At The Dyess Group (TDG) we generally follow the Sequoia Pitch Template when building decks for clients, but with our own spin. Whether you use the Sequoia template or not, it is important to follow a thoughtful narrative flow that induces and compels the reader to take the desired action. There are several effective, proven models and suggestions such as the Dale Carnegie Transactional Selling Steps from the 1950s:

  1. Attention (What is the sizzle?)
  2. Interest (Why does it matter? Why does the world need you? )
  3. Desire (Are you better than a traditional solutions to the same problem?)
  4. Conviction (How do you handle objections, what’s the traction?)
  5. Action (Ask for the order, go for the close!)

The important practice here is to design a narrative flow that you believe fits your company the best and make it yours. Below we will present what we have found are the elements often forgotten, missed, or misunderstood when building an effective narrative flow. We do this using the first three slides of the Sequoia model.

Tip #1: Make sure people understand what you do, as quickly as possible (Don’t Waste Your Title Slide!)

We usually don’t hear about what the product or service does until the 5th slide.

The single most important thing you can do in your deck is to make sure people understand what you do. It needs to be in layman’s terms — meaning without using a lot of “marketing speak” and it needs to happen immediately.

When an investor, or any audience, clearly understands what you do, it provides much needed context to the rest of your story. The following is a front slide example from a deck The Dyess Group created for its client company Guac.

An example front slide from a Dyess Group deck

Here is another example illustrating how a very small amount of information immediately helps the reader (e.g., investor, partner, customer) orient themselves properly for the rest of the deck. This is for our customer, Socrates.

Tip #2: Find ways to combine key information into your narrative to make your deck more concise

Roughly 20% of the decks we review have the “Market Size” slide as the one of the first 3 slides.

And it almost always says one thing…the market is big. Unfortunately, putting this information so early is often disruptive to an effective narrative flow. Although Market Size is important and relevant, it is tangential information that can be a distraction at odds with understanding the opportunity. An alternative technique for getting attention with the size of the market is to combine the information with more important aspects of the narrative flow.

Tip #3: Combine traction and the solution to drive conviction to invest early

Only 15% of the decks we review feature customer referrals or actual market traction in the first three slides.

A solution without traction is really just an idea. You haven’t proven that you’ve solved anything. You want to eliminate as much risk from your offering as early as possible by enhancing the reader’s conviction. Introducing your product without any supporting traction in the same slide, or soon thereafter, doesn’t help the reader understand how far you’ve come in solving your problem. Inline with embedding statistics into the narrative, consider including some of the following along with your product:

  • Customer Testimonials
  • Success Rates
  • Total Users
  • Growth Rates

Applying lessons from User Experience (UX) research techniques to your pitch deck

UX research is the unsung hero of your favorite apps. A world leader in research-based UX consulting, Nielsen Norman Group have researched and documented the effectiveness of many UX techniques. We apply their forward-thinking UX methodologies to pitch decks we build for our clients.

UX Techniques

VCs only spend about three minutes reading your deck before a meeting. People can only keep seven things (plus or minus two) in their working memory. You have limited time and space to make your point, so raise the bar with respect to what information makes the cut. Key things to keep in mind through the body of your deck:

  • Reduce the hard work for consuming key information (Rate of Gain)
  • Don’t over-burden the reader with information (Cognitive Load)
  • Be as succinct with your messaging as possible (“BLUF”)
  • Organize information for max understanding (Progressive Disclosure)
  • Give the deck some design basics for strong ethos (Halo Effect)

Each of these is discussed in greater detail below.

Rate of Gain

The Rate of Gain is the value a reader gets from new information divided by how much work that user needs to do to get it.

A measurement used in User Experience to measure ease of use and value to users

In the case of your pitch deck, the user is an investor, partner, or customer, and Rate of Gain measures how valuable the information on each page is divided by how many words are on the page.

This would mean that a good slide would have the most valuable information possible in the least amount of words.

How to have a high Rate of Gain in your content

One of our partners hired a highly coveted speech writer for a Series B raise and the main piece of advice — delete more words.

The best piece of free advice we can give you about your deck is to delete more words.

Cognitive Load

It’s well documented that there are limitations of one’s ability to remember things while doing a task, aka working memory. People have a very finite working memory to consume the content of your pitch. This is why you should use techniques to be as succinct as possible to convey the most value.

A reader may naturally try and determine what information they need to know in order to preserve their working memory. This means giving the reader the ability to triage a page to decide whether or not they need all of the information is a good technique for keeping a user’s memory free to remember the main points.

This really forces you to boil down the words on a page to the point where you keep track of the cost and benefit of each word. Each additional word adds additional cost to the reader to try and understand.

Bottom Line Up Front (“BLUF”)

There is a concept in journalism called the Bottom Line Up Front, you can also think of this as TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read). It’s the same reason that we put an abstract at the beginning of a research paper, or an executive summary at the beginning of a business plan. Respect the reader’s time and tell them the main point up-front so they can triage the page and decide if they need to look at the details or not.

If you use a “headline” based approach you will allow readers to skim the page and decide if it’s something that they think they need to invest the effort to further investigate. If the reader avoids taking in more information than they need, they can arrive at the end of the deck quickly having only read the information they cared about. This will reduce frustration and increase retention and overall satisfaction.

Progressive Disclosure

The concept of progressive disclosure in apps defers advanced or rarely used features to a secondary screen, making the learning process easier and less error-prone. For applications, this means showing the most important features front-and-center and leaving the seldom used, or less important features to be shown later or at the users request. This removes added complexity of needing to understand more features than may be necessary.

Take Google for example. The home page is literally just a search box, and the ability to search (or click I’m Feeling Lucky like I always do).

Now you’ve given the user the option, should they want more information, to go find it. In deck-writing, progressive disclosure serves two ends: keeping the deck clean and succinct, but also allowing the user ready access to any information they would need — perhaps even in an appendix.

Halo Effect

The halo effect is a phenomenon that causes people to be biased in their judgments by transferring their feelings about one attribute of something to other, unrelated, attributes. In the case of decks, the overall aesthetic and cleanliness of the deck will set the sense of sophistication to your reader. The easiest way to create this is to be concise; use abundant white space and be consistent throughout.

  • Consistent margins (white space is your friend)
  • Consistent use of font sizes (we use 32pt and 18pt fonts for everything)
  • Consistent messaging (Whatever you call it, call it that every time)

We’ll cover this topic in more depth later in the series.

Pulling It All Together

The slide design below does a good job implementing the UX techniques we just covered.

  • Rate of Gain: With only two to three lines (tops!) for the main message, the value of the information is high, and the workload to obtain it is low.
  • Cognitive Load: By using the headline approach, we allow readers to triage whether supporting information below the headline is worth further investigation.
  • Progressive Design: Byincluding the path to more information, you let users know that there is a way to learn more. In doing this you also free their minds to focus on the slide at hand.

Fundraising is always hard. Fundraising in the current climate is harder. There has never been a better time to make sure your company can stand out, effectively deliver its message, and spark the interest of investors who will be more selective than ever before. Use the Sequoia Pitch Template and our techniques outlined here to make it easy for them to understand what you do and why your company deserves to be at the top of the stack.

William E. Dyess is “Pitchmaster General” and Principal at TXN Advisors, a Washington, DC-region business consulting firm that provides corporate development, marketing and strategic advisory services. We work in partnership with executive management to save them time and advance the corporate mission by helping them create killer pitch decks, management and investor presentations, board reports, corporate dashboards and the underlying business strategy and messaging to maximize growth and value. William can be reached at wdyess@thedyessgroup.com

Email your deck to deck@thedyessgroup.com for a free deck review.

Words Have Power: Concise Pitch Decks Pack More Punch

This is a Guest Post from CONNECTpreneur Coach and partner, Ines LeBow of Enterprise Transformation Solutons.

Every. Word. Counts.

So does every second during your funding pitch to potential investors. On average, you’ve got less than three minutes to make your case before your audience gives a mental thumbs-up or thumbs-down on your business idea.

Do the Math

If you’re looking to raise $1 million in seed funding, a pitch deck with 10 slides averaging 55 words per slide puts the value of each word at $1,818. For $10 million in Series A funding, each word is worth more than $18,000. For $55 million in funding, each word is worth $100,000.

Packing more words and details into your pitch isn’t going to make it more appealing or more valuable to your audience. The opposite occurs: it actually devalues the most important information. In essence, you end up burying the treasure.

Word Power

Some of the most successful people have harnessed the power of words to vault themselves to prominence in their respective fields:

  • Rick Rubin, 8x Grammy Award Winner: “There’s a tremendous power in using the least amount of information to get a point across.”
  • Dianna Booher, Prolific Author and Communications Expert: “People aren’t likely to be influenced by a message they can’t remember. Be clear, concise, and clever.”
  • Frank Lloyd Wright, Renowned Architect: “Lack of clarity is the No. 1 time-waster.”
  • Rudyard Kipling, Nobel Prize-Winning Author: “Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.”

Be Epically Focused

Investors want your presentation to be brief and on point, but they also want to hear an epic story. Remember, these are people who listen to dozens of pitches each week that are too long, too boring, and too scattershot in their approach. They want you to draw them in and dazzle them with a narrative that is clear, concise, and compelling. So inspire them, inform and educate them, and, most importantly, connect with them.

To start shaping your epic story, consider what prompted the idea for your product or service and what inspired you to start your company. Weave these concepts into a vivid movie trailer-like story that elicits excitement, emotion, and eagerness for what comes next, with the investor playing a starring role in the production.

Funding Pitch Opportunity

If you are an entrepreneur looking for funding and would like to present to potential investors through CONNECTpreneur, please reach out to me.

For more on funding success, here are links to some recent posts I’ve written on the topic:

·        Be Unique, Get Funded

·        Get Funded in 2021: Super Angels

·        7 Factors for Startup Success

·        5 Keys to Convince Investors Your Product Can Make Money

To learn more on how to stand out with an epic fundraising story, contact me for a complimentary consultation by phone at 314-578-0958 or by email at ilebow@transformationsolutions.pro. You find her on LinkedIn Profile at www.linkedin.com/in/ineslebow or her ETS website at www.transformationsolutions.pro.