If you are a first-time founder looking for advice on how to build a winning pitch deck, a simple Google Search will flood you with information. And most of it is pretty decent. Recently, the following resources have been my favourite to send to our startups:
- Pitching resources by Seedr
- A breakdown and review of LinkedIn’s pitch deck for their Series B investment (not quite early-stage, but still very insightful)
- Building the best competitor slide I have ever seen
But there are a few insights and nuggets I have come to realise while reviewing the pitch decks of some of our teams at the High-Tech SeedLab. And with the risk of simply adding to the pile of information regarding pitch decks, I am happy to share them with the wider audience.
Pitch deck slides should convey important investment hypotheses
The biggest take-away I’ve had about pitch design came from one of the first resources I read (please excuse my lack of remembering what exactly that was). Let me recall: before getting your hands dirty with designing your pitch deck, think about the core investment hypothesis your audience needs to believe to give you their precious time, network, and money. Then make sure that each slide in your pitch deck drives home a point that supports these investment hypotheses. On the one hand, this keeps you focused. On the other hand, it ensures that you don’t overload your slides. As a rule of thumb: max three pieces of information, supporting one strong statement.
Create flow through storytelling
Combine numbers with experiences
It seems to be best practice to communicate the problem you are solving through numbers and percentages. And while I think that is great, I strongly believe that there should be a relatable element to kick off the story you are going to tell. Think about situations from you or your customers’ daily life where they encounter the struggle you are going to solve. Then, use that situation to build a little story around the numbers you want to show. Or another great way is to confront your audience with a personal story. Or ask them when they last experienced something. This method creates instant engagement.
Ensure consistency along the way
Another best practice I have found to be working well is structuring your pitch deck according to your story. Let me give you an example. You are a startup that wants to enter a highly competitive market with a strong incumbent firm. You have a differentiated product and business model. How can you best make this work for you? Show your solution and business model. Then add in the competitor slide (I highly recommend reading the article on the competitor slide above, it has been the single best resource I’ve read last month). Follow-up with a slide that concisely communicates your USP or secret sauce. Finally, finish off by showing the market volume and a guesstimated share you think you can nib from the market leader based on your strong USP. Do you see what we did here? We acknowledge that there is strong competition. But we support our claim of market share by how we are going to outrun competition. In the end, this makes our guesstimation (which we are building up to) much more believable. These are the kind of things you should consider when structuring your pitch deck. And don’t forget the rest of the slides not mentioned in this paragraph.
Integrate the big vision with your current product or go-to-market strategy
One of the struggles our team (and I) had was to distinguish between the big vision and the current product or strategy. Don’t get me wrong – we are quite clear on what the two things are or going to be. But which one do you focus on in your pitch? When you speak about business model, do you talk about your current solution, or the solution you are working towards?
As you may have suspected, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. But I can share how we have worked around this challenge. One team simply put the roadmap slide first. This might be unconventional, but especially when you have a big vision that might seem slightly crazy right now, it is good to tell it first. Then you can build your case of how you are going to get there. It also shows clearly where you are right now, and where you are planning to go. This is a great opener for a story, as the reader will be intrigued to see how you will achieve that big hairy audacious goal.
In a second example we made sure that the labels of the slides are very clear. As the solution we communicated our big vision. Next, we described the first product/MVP as the go-to-market strategy, which also transitioned into the business model as it is right now. The market potential slide, however, should show your current market, the market you enter next, and your final target market that is aligned with your big solution. This also provides a nice opener for your road-map and the milestones you want to achieve with your investment. This is how you can clearly show your strategy towards achieving the final solution with the first product/MVP.
Turn potential weaknesses into a strength
Let’s be honest – when we approach business angels or investors we very clearly know the gaps and possible challenges that could shoot us down. But rather than trying to hide them, position them as a strength. There might be examples where it doesn’t work, and then you should start thinking about a well-crafted answer for the Q&A session. Here, however, is an example where I have found it useful:
Mothers turning entrepreneurs might not look like your usual “safe” investment. Having a family means time being spent looking after the children and running the household (btw – does this concern also apply to fathers or am I being too gender-conscious here?). So in order to pre-empt people’s perception of what being a mother of three means, position yourself as that head of the household that is managing the life of five people, that gains incredible insights into your customers (especially useful if they are families and parents), and showcase what you have achieved so far – all while taking care of your family.