A great pitch deck will help you raise money for your startup. It will also help you convince world-class investors to write checks. The main secrets to creating a great pitch deck are keeping it short, communicating clearly, and removing as much risk as possible.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
- When do you need a pitch deck?
- What should you include in your pitch deck?
- What should you avoid adding to your pitch deck?
And if you want even more detail, check out our pitch deck roadmap tool.
When Do You Need a Pitch Deck?
You need a pitch deck if you’re meeting with investors (and you’ll often be asked to email it in advance). Your slides help you tell your story, and remind you to cover every detail.
It’s helpful to draft a pitch deck even if you aren’t raising money right now, since it will help you organize your thoughts and sharpen your narrative.
At 10xU, we recommend having your pitch deck 90% nailed down by the time you’re taking introductory meetings with investors. Don’t wait until your first pitch meetings are scheduled to start working on your deck/ You’ll end up rushing it and it’ll be easy to make mistakes.
Think of pitch decks as a process that takes time, practice, and feedback to perfect. You will probably also have to do some work on your business to strengthen weak sections.
What to Include in a Pitch Deck
Here are eight main elements that investors expect to see in every great pitch deck. You can make each one of these an individual slide, or you can add additional slides to create your narrative.
You can adjust the order based on your strengths. Lead with your team if it’s awesome, or lead with a chart of your growth in active users if it’s a hockey stick.
Resist the urge to include every single detail about your business. You’ll usually have several conversations with people before they write you a check, so you’ll have lots of time to get into the weeds with everyone who’s interested. We recommend keeping the length below fifteen slides.
The important thing is to tell your story in a way that’s both inspirational and easy to understand for investors.
The most important thing is to tell people where you are in your journey. Be honest. It’s fine if you’re at the idea stage—just make sure to be clear about it.
Investors tend to get excited when you bring proof—also called traction or validation—that customers love your product or service. Do you have daily or weekly active users who keep coming back? Do you have revenue? Have you run some tests on Facebook or Google to see how much it costs you to acquire each customer?
All of this is great information to include in your pitch deck.
If you don’t have this info already, what can you do to start collecting it? Some entrepreneurs start building communities for free on Facebook pages or Kickstarter before converting them into customers later.
The number one question I’m asking myself during every pitch is, “Will customers actually love this?” We all win when you include the proof in your pitch deck.
Every great story has a villain, and every startup needs a big problem to solve. Yours needs to be a big pain point for potential customers. Most important though, it needs to be stated in a way that potential investors can understand—and it helps if you can show proof in the form of revenue or active users.
Your Unique Solution
Once you’ve described the problem, you need to be able to pinpoint exactly where the opportunity is and how you’re going to exploit it. To do this effectively, describe how your solution will upend the market in a way that presents your company — and your company’s investors — with a high-value opportunity that can’t be easily duplicated because of your competitive advantage.
Explain what you charge and how you earn revenue. We see a ton of pitch decks at 10xU that leave out this crucial information. Remember that your goal is to build a working business, and your investors will want to understand how it makes money. You might also include your costs, along with how much you make on each sale.
Every successful business has competition. It’s best to be upfront and honest, which means describing who your competitors are, what they do, how they do it. and—most importantly—how none of that matters because of the strength of your competitive advantage.
There are two crucial ingredients here: market size and marketing plan. First, investors want to know that you’re entering a large and growing market—because it’ll make it easier for you to succeed. Second, investors want to know that you’ve already figured out how to acquire customers at an attractive price. Remember that your job is to build a functioning business, which requires customers. It helps if you can mention data you’ve gathered about who your customers are, how you reach them, and how much it costs to sign them up.
Why are you the right people to make this business work? Will you be able to succeed regardless of the challenges you face? Have you done this before? We recommend focusing on the key executives, briefly describing their backgrounds (it’s always a good idea to include logos of previous companies) and why their presence on the team will help youwin. You may also want to include key advisors, and possibly previous investors.
The future is uncertain, but investors need to at least have a taste of what’s to come. This helps them compare your pitch with the hundred other companies they’ll look at this month. Building your projections also helps you identify your underlying assumptions. Get to work proving your guesses, and bring as much data as possible to your investor pitches.
We recommend 36 months of projections, and you can download our financial projections slide template here.
Your Ask & Uses of Funds
Finally, you’ll want to include how much money you’re raising, how long a runway it gives you, and what you’ll accomplish with it. We recommend something along the lines of “We’re raising $500k as equity to reach 10,000 weekly active users in the next 12 months.” Focus on one or two key goals.
You can also include a “Use of Funds” section that details how you’ll expand your team, develop new technology, or scale up your sales funnel. This is less useful, because investors know that you’ll spend their money on salaries and marketing. The key question is: What will you accomplish?
We’ve come up with a simple way to show how much you’re asking for, what you’ve already accomplished, and what you’ll do with the new money. Grab the 10xU milestones slide template to drop into your pitch deck.Your pitch deck should include how much money you’re raising, how long a runway it gives you, and what you’ll accomplish with it. Click To Tweet
More Free Advice
Check out these three articles from famous investors for more suggestions:
- Fred Wilson’s “When you sit down and build your pitch deck, think of six slides that will inspire and leave something for the imagination.”
- Mark Suster’s guide on how best to use your pitch deck
- Sequoia Capital’s list of topics to cover in a short and sweet pitch.
What to Exclude from a Pitch Deck
Shorter works better, and less is more. As Fred Wilson puts it, “You can explain your business in mind numbing detail or you can inspire an investor and let them imagine. Guess what works better?”
Here are the three things to exclude in your pitch deck:
1. Complicated Explanation of Your Industry
Focus on investors who understand your sector. Not only will this make it more likely that an investor will write a check, but it also means they’re already going to understand your industry. As a result, you can focus on your competitive advantage.
2. Detailed Product Roadmap
While you do need to paint a picture of the future, you want to avoid getting too deep into the weeds. Your priorities can change quickly based on your customers and your market as a whole. High-level direction for a product is great, but keep the sprint-level planning out of your pitch deck.
3. Ten Slides About Your Vision
It’s important to have a clear, inspiring vision for your company and its potential long-term impact. Make sure you know it backwards and forwards, but don’t make it the center of your pitch deck. Investors want the one-line summary, not the three-hour spiel.
Try to keep your entire pitch to twenty minutes or less, including your product demo. This will give you time to get to know your audience. Think of your pitch deck as a tool that helps you have a conversation, rather than a scripted presentation that you have to run through exactly the same way every time.
Also check out our pitch deck roadmap tool if you want even more detail about what goes into a great presentation.
Relax, have fun, and get as much feedback as possible. Then use what you hear to make your pitch deck even better for your next investor meeting.