Who’s Drafting Your Pitch Deck?
By Kevin Vela
If you found this blog, then you probably already know what a pitch deck is, and you’re probably searching for the best way to present your company to potential investors. The good news is—you came to the right place; the not so good news—there’s no one size fits all pitch deck outline to give you. Each presentation needs to be tailored to your business. The following thoughts and links should provide some basic insight into how to produce an effective pitch deck that cleanly and accurately reflects your company and its potential.
Why We’re Writing This Post
As a firm specializing in startups, we see a lot of pitch decks at Vela Wood, and clients often come to us looking for help with their presentations. While our assistance may provide the comfort of familiarity with the process, you generally don’t want your attorney drafting your deck.
You may consider us “experts” in the field of startups, but you are the expert when it comes to your company. You have spent countless hours researching, developing, and vetting your idea. In the context of making and delivering pitch decks, that time—not some fancy degree or years of general experience—is of real value. Your ability to synthesize the information and deliver it in a concise manner is paramount.
Persuasively communicating your company’s potential could be all that’s standing in the way of you and your ideal investor. Audio and video are okay when used correctly, but try to avoid a Dale Doback and Brennan Huff Stepbrothers scenario (“Prestige-World-Wi-Wi-Wiiiide”).
It’s Okay to Hire Someone
It’s okay to hire someone to make your deck look fancy and add graphics. Visionaries aren’t necessarily creatives, and there are reasonably priced resources out there. But hiring someone to draft the deck will deny you the valuable learning that goes along with building your deck.
Why Are Pitch Decks So Important?
Pitch decks are crucial when raising capital. Often times, a pitch deck introduces your company to investors. Most investors will start the investment process by asking you to send them your deck.
In the context of a live pitch, presenting can be an intimidating process. Without proper preparation, this can mean losing the audience with your anxiety or trifling details; a strong deck and hours of rehearsal can solve this. The way investors perceive a company during this pitch can determine whether they invest or ever give the company a second look. For a point-by-point breakdown of pitch day do’s and don’ts, see my two-part blog from 2013: Startup Pitch Tips (Part 1) and Startup Pitch Tips (Part 2).
Take some time soaking up the following basic principles and exploring the links on this page. Keep in mind that the examples are simply examples; use them wisely while focusing on your deck’s unique qualities that set your business apart. Many websites claim to contain the ideal formula for pitching any company. I hate to break it to you, but that just doesn’t exist. Pitches should be tailored to each particular company, with the following clear guidelines:
#1: Pitch Decks Should Be Clear and Concise
All pitch decks should maintain an element of clarity. The fundamental purpose of a pitch deck is to help presenters stay on track and focus on pertinent information while having their audience’s full attention. The pitch is not an actual meeting, but the goal is to get to one.
For an easy-to-read and comprehensive analysis that explains the value of clarity and concision in this process, see another one of my blogs from 2012.
While some online templates have as many as 30 slides per presentation, we recommend limiting your pitch to 10-15 slides.
Less is definitely more here. If you can reduce your deck down more and still get your message across, do it. One of the best pitches I ever saw was a four-slide deck. The people in the room focused solely on the presenter. The material was complimentary—not the focus. Investors like this. If people are interested, they’ll ask for more information, but your first priority is to keep them listening long enough that they do. Remember that the point of a pitch deck is to get to a meeting.
#2: All Pitch Decks Should Contain Some Basic Essential Information
Each presentation will vary, but there are a few essential slides that every pitch should have. These include:
- A cover page
- A slide discussing the problem that your company will solve
- A slide introducing your company’s proposed solution
- A slide visualizing the market for your company’s proposed product or service
- A brief competitive analysis
- A high-level overview of your company’s current revenue model and financial projections
- An introduction to your team
- An appendix—this section should cover issues that were not addressed in the previous slides, but you know investors will ask you about.
#3: Use a Simple Format
If you are emailing your deck, a PDF is preferred. Don’t assume that your investors use Power Point or Keynote. If you are using an online format, make sure there is no sign-on required (a password is okay). Let’s not make your potential investors jump over a registration login hurdle for a random site. I’m seeing more and more web decks —I love these. They’re easy to access, and they look sharp. However, make sure you have a PDF backup in case an investor asks for it.
To help you get started, we’ve compiled a list of some of our favorite pitch deck resources to help you save money while developing your perfect pitch deck.
Visit the links below as you begin to put together your presentation. Some help to explain the process of creating a deck, while others provide actual examples, and many do both. You will start to get a feel for what investors are expecting, and you can use them as a foundation for developing your own pitch. Use them as a starting point, but remember that these are a foundation for your deck, not the actual deck.
A 2013 article written by angel investor J. Skyler Fernandes that provides a basic overview of the pitching process and what presenters should focus on. This article also includes links to additional sites and materials.
Examples of early pitch decks used by many successful and recognizable companies. The list includes: Facebook, Airbnb, LinkedIn, and more. This link also includes links to additional sites and materials.
A short 2014 Forbes article that clearly explains the purpose and importance of a pitch deck and provides links to examples and templates.
A recent article from VC firm Next View Ventures’ blog, which explains two different types, or styles, of presentations.
A LinkedIn presentation that mimics the pitch deck design and provides insight into what each slide should address.
Another J. Skyler Fernandes link, and also another LinkedIn presentation, that mimics the pitch deck design and provides insight into what each slide should address. This presentation was created specifically for startups.