So, you’ve kicked off your new startup, built your team and have a solid plan for the coming 6–12 months. Sometimes, entrepreneurs don’t think about the plan much. That plan — part of your overall business model — should include delivery milestones and achievements; a list of the resources you have at your disposal to make those things happen; and the metrics for the path your business is on. It is, in fact, everything that needs to go into your startup pitch deck to attract investors after all.
What you’ll need now is the pitch deck or investor deck, as it is often called. You’ll either send it to your potential investors or you’ll present it to them when you meet. Generally, the investor deck is the first formal external step in the investment process.
The deck is roughly ten to twenty slides, created with presentation software like PowerPoint or Keynote, although it’s generally delivered in PDF form. Doing it as a PDF make it more universal, small, and it will discourage anyone from futzing with it. The deck helps to tell the story of your business and why it’s interesting. The goal with the deck is to convince investors that your company is the one to invest their money in. But, you should note that the presentation is very rarely enough — it’s often just the first step in a deliberate process.
With fierce competition from numerous startups for money, you want your deck to stand out from the pack. Many founders don’t realize they rarely present their decks to investors. Most often, you send it to them via email first, and then they’ll decide if they want to meet with you. Or, they’ll look at it prior to a prescheduled meeting. You often won’t be able to walk them through it the first time they view it or give them additional information, so your startup pitch deck has to be visually appealing, easily understandable and stand on its own.
Some of the deck’s highlights include what you’re planning to do, how much money you’re seeking to raise, why you’re raising that amount of money, how you will use the money, what it will produce, and the type of return that investors will receive. These are the types of key variables that investors look for when deciding on what startups to invest their money in.
There are some tried-and-true approaches to the creation of an investor presentation. Your deck should tell a story. It should be logical and flow well. It should be compelling and captivating to the reader. The reader should walk away having learned something new and unique.
But, the deck doesn’t need to be long. In fact, long decks either won’t be looked at or might just get a cursory glance. You should be able to get across your key messages in about 12 slides with a few more held in backup to send or present later. And these won’t be text-heavy, jam-packed slides, either. You should use graphics rich with charts and data with text that supports that information. Again, you likely won’t be with them when they’re looking at it.
It’s a Story. An Emotional Story.
The best decks open up with an emotional story or question about the market you’re selling into or the state of your customer. The story should make the viewer feel the pain that exists for the customer. This gives them a sympathetic view for the opportunity you’re addressing and the solution to the problem you’re proposing. The following few slides introduce them to your solution and then tells them why you have a unique approach to the problem or to the market. Then, of course, another slide tells them why you have the right team to take advantage of the situation.
Here’s a more specific outline.
- The problem you’re solving. That is, the existing customer pain. It’s a challenge to get people to invest in problems that aren’t clear to the customer. Make the pain your customer has really obvious. If you can, make it emotional to have them feel the pain themselves. 1–2 slides.
- The product/service you’ll build to seize the opportunity — it’s highly unlikely that you’ll have a unique solution if there’s a large market opportunity. 3–4 slides.
- Why your approach to the problem is different from existing solutions and the status quo — you have to assume that doing nothing is a reasonable option for your customer. 1–2 slides.
- Proof of product-market fit. You may not have it yet. If not, speak to the status of your efforts to establish it. It’s much better if you have proven it already. 1–2 slides.
- How you’ll reach the people who have the problem you’ve outlined. This is your marketing plan. 1–2 slides.
- How your customer will purchase your solution, Your sales plan. 1 slide.
- The team you’ve put together that makes your company better than any other in the market. 1 slide.
- How much money you need to raise and what milestones you’ll achieve with it. Show the viewer that you’ve done your homework on your real capital needs. Ask for the money, don’t be soft about it. “We’re looking for $n and we’d appreciate if you’d consider investing in us.” 1 slide.
Use Pictures to Tell the Story
The design of your deck and the imagery that you use can convey significant information about your company. Again, charts, graphics, and images can often show something about your startup rather than just using words to tell your story. Many founders often neglect to put a lot of thought into the titles of their slides, but those too can be used to your advantage. You can broadcast the framework of your story with just the headlines. And, finally, you should include a validating quote or logo from a customer or industry luminary on just about every slide. The goal with this is to give potential investors subtle positive messages from authorities that build credibility.
Remember that the startup pitch deck is likely your first introduction to an investor. Don’t take its development lightly. First, make sure you’re ready to ask for an investment. Have you vetted your idea? Have you built a solid business model? Try to delay seeking capital until you’ve carefully refined and documented your business and its plans. Then, run the deck you create based on those plans by as many people in and around your company as you can. You may only get one shot. Make sure you take your best one.
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