You’ve landed a meeting with that top tech VC. Now it’s time to put together a winning pitch deck. After all, you’ll just need to convey what a stellar team you’ve assembled, how your product will change the world. You’ll also want to communicate how you stand head and shoulders above the competition, all within a handful of slides.
By Iris Leung
A solid pitch deck is essential to the fundraising process, one of the key cogs in securing the capital needed to grow your startup.
According to a 2015 analysis on 200 pitch decks that raised a collective $360 million, companies go through approximately 40 investor meetings over the course of 12 weeks in order to close a round.
With a great pitch deck in hand, you’ll be that much closer to winning over investors.
Perhaps you’ve been inspired by our list of legendary startup pitch decks, but aren’t sure where to get started. This is why we created a list of actionable tips from top VCs and inspiration drawn from legendary decks that will elevate your pitch from good to great. Here goes!
Start With a Tagline that Speaks to Your Vision
500 Startups, a global VC shop with roots in Silicon Valley, has some valuable pitching advice for startups. It suggests that you start off your pitch with a short tagline that hints at your company’s vision in some way.
Here’s BuzzFeed’s tagline from its Series A pitch deck that won them $3.5 million with SoftBank as their lead investor.
After you wow ‘em with your tagline, you should follow up with a five-second explanation of your service and why it’s revolutionary.
500’s examples are pretty good:
“We make Facebook ads easy,” is a lot better than “we drive synergistic mobile bitcoin monetization through international arbitrage using a distributed GPU cloud-based computation and transaction engine written in assembly.”
We got anxious just writing out that sentence.
Here’s another example that drives home the “less is more” point. YouTube’s 2005 pitch deck tagline is as concise as they come. Two words is all they needed to communicate their vision.
Using this deck, it was able to raise $3.5 million from Sequoia and ARTIS Ventures. The following year, it picked up a follow on round from its existing investors before being acquired by Google for $1.65 billion. The rest, as they say, is history.
Use Market Metrics to Highlight Growth Potential
A good workaround for this is to present the market opportunity with a clear route to market strategy. This shows investors that you understand how to execute.
Airbnb did this in their pitch deck, the one that subsequently helped them raise $600,000 from Sequoia Capital.
By now, all startups know how to take this approach, but not everyone shows that they:
- Truly understand the customer pain points from within this market
- Can prove that their product is the best possible solution for the problem
You need to be able to describe the specific market segment, the problem plaguing it, and the differentiated value that your product brings. You should also be able to do it in a way that any person off the street could understand.
Robo-portfolio management platform WealthSimple’s deck also leveraged market metrics in two ways. It first added a timeline on the evolution of the investment industry over the past few decades. This set the stage for the market opportunity slide.
It then illustrated the huge gap (worth a whopping $1.3 trillion) in a market currently offering either full-service or self-directed products. There’s certainly no confusion as to where WealthSimple’s product fits into today’s investment environment.
Make Sure Your Deck Answers the “Why”
According to Aviv Gilboa, an analyst with Kleiner Perkins (KPCB), it is essential to include a slide in your deck that answers the “why.” This drives home the purpose behind the business and also answers a handful of really important questions:
- Why the business matters to the world and to the entrepreneur
- What the story is behind the idea and the startup’s creation
- What the motivation is behind the business
- What problem it’s trying to solve
Many consider Airbnb’s pitch deck as the perfect, winning example — which is why we’re going to reference it again. It very clearly stated the problem it was trying to solve, and answered the “why” behind it.
Airbnb’s product is disrupting the hotel industry, because after all — those accommodations are pricey and leave customers feeling “disconnected” from local culture.
Why are they doing it?
- Because they want to reconnect customers with local culture.
- The opportunity is huge because there is no current solution to this problem.
Motivational speaker Simon Sinek said it best in his famous TED Talk, where he dissects “why” people buy into not just a product, but a brand.
Using Apple as an example, he pitted two marketing messages against each other — one starting with answering the “what” and the other, the “why.”
“We make great computers. They’re user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. Want to buy one?”
“With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently. Our products are user friendly, beautifully designed, and easy to use. We just happen to make great computers. Want to buy one?”
The same can be said for that “why” slide in your pitch deck. VCs want a return on investment, sure, but Gilboa’s weighs in on the “why”:
Another great example is from MixPanel’s Series B pitch deck from 2014. It answered the “why” in the best way possible — they wanted to build a “sophisticated” solution to a problem that existing technology had not solved yet.
It’s also hard not to be sold by the casual arrogance of: “It’s the reason we are winning.” And Andreessen Horowitz, the Rolls-Royce of Silicon Valley VCs, bought into it and financed the entire $65 million round.
Tell Your Product’s Story in the Right Way
One of the common mistakes that startups often make with their pitch decks is they focus more on the product’s features, not its benefits.
Here’s the difference between the two:
- Benefits: What your product helps people do: “The iPod puts 3,000 songs in your pocket.”
- Features: What your product does: “The iPod is an mp3 player with 2GB of storage.”
Quite easy to tell them apart, right? Driving home the benefits will prove to investors that you have a good product marketing strategy in place. Product benefits will convince customers to buy your product, which is a top priority for your investors as sales lead to company growth.
Mattermark’s Series A pitch deck does a great job at answering three important product questions in one sentence: What the product is (Google for business people), how it works (like a search engine), and who it is for (the B2B market).
They were able to raise $6.5 million from the Foundry Group in 2014 with this deck.
The next step is to then explain how your company currently is, or will be profitable in the future. This can be done by answering two questions:
- How are you going to beat out your competition?
- What is your monetization strategy?
As for its monetization strategy, the below slide shows that WeWork spaces have a proven track record of pulling in revenue as they operate at 100% occupancy with average margins of over 40%. Pretty attractive indeed.
WeWork was able to raise a whopping $355 million back in 2014 with this Series D deck. While this is an example of a later-stage startup that already has plenty of traction to show for, it still serves as a golden example of how you can effectively communicate your monetization strategy.
Sell Your Team to the Investors
It’s a long-term partnership that requires matching expectations, and a lot of compromise. Which is why the team slide in your pitch deck is really, really important. Investors want to see more than just a great product and a way to bring it to market. They want to get to know the core team that’s going to execute.
Buffer did a great job with their team slide by sharing the track records of each cofounder, while also validating itself as a venture-backed startup that was able to attract business-savvy advisors.
In Buffer’s case, this 2011 pitch deck helped it raise its seed round of $500,000.
Any ambitious startup’s journey to success is full of setbacks; no one knows that better than investors.
Another great example would be WeWork’s 2014 Series D deck. Although a later stage investment round usually indicates that the startup knows its way around a fundraising pitch, scaling a global network of coworking spaces is no easy feat. And WeWork’s team slide showed that its core team had the goods to back it up.
A quick scan of the slide will tell you that WeWork’s core team is strong and diverse. Their people are serial entrepreneurs, investors, and former employees of top tech and retail firms.
When in Doubt, Emulate
There’s plenty of inspiration floating around the web, but Airbnb’s original pitch deck dating back to 2008 is still heralded as the best and the brightest.
It’s easy to see why, it communicates the problem and market opportunity in a clear and concise way, and the core team convinced investors that they were able to execute on the vision.
So we’ll leave this here, because when in doubt, you should just emulate success. And this oldie is definitely a goodie.