Creating the Perfect Pitch Deck
An investor pitch deck (or presentation) is often described as the most important document that an entrepreneur will create for their company. Considering the number of funding requests received by venture capital firms on a weekly basis, analysts only have a few minutes to scan the information, which means you have very limited time to pique their curiosity enough to hopefully land that all-important meeting.
Striking a balance between trying to include a lot of useful information (we get it, you’re passionate!) and keeping your deck punchy is no easy feat, hence it’s vital to understand what an investor wants to see in order to be convinced enough to call you in for a pitch.
To help you compile a compelling pitch deck, we’ve put together a guide of the key sections that should comprise your presentation, along with some handy tricks and mistakes to avoid.
And if there’s one piece of advice we can leave you with – keep it clear, concise, and accurate.
Before we go any further, let’s first look at exactly what an investor pitch deck is.
What does an investor pitch deck look like?
The majority of pitch decks created are typically made on Microsoft Powerpoint, as it is known to be the easiest to use. However, Canva is a very popular alternative as it comes with pre-designed templates which are easy to use and have a quick turnaround.
Tone and Design
The design of a pitch deck goes a long way as far as informing an investor about the type of person running the business, as it reflects on their creative and conceptual mindset and how they may approach the daily running of their business. If your deck is overly dependent on hard data, it may be considered dry and boring, whereas a pitch that can deliver valuable content while displaying a level of creativity (and perhaps, humour!) can generate a favourable response. It is always a good idea to try to find out as much as you can about the investors that you’ll be pitching to ahead of time so that you can adjust the delivery of your deck accordingly.
3 minutes and 44 seconds. Research conducted by DocSend reveals that this is the average amount of time that an investor spends looking at a company’s pitch deck. Keep that in mind when creating your document as that should serve as a guide to what information you should include and how to display it.
As a general rule of thumb, your deck should be around 10-15 pages long. Anything below 10 pages for a company that is not super early-stage would be considered too short, whilst 20 pages should be the limit for any company regardless of stage. Try to limit each section (e.g. Market, Problem, Solution, etc…) to 1 to 2 pages maximum.
Images and file type
Images contribute to a more visually compelling pitch deck as they can inject personality and convey information quickly and without words. They should be used generously to reflect and express the activity of the business or target market. They also allow investors to read through your pitch deck quicker and pick out key points.
Also, use graphs and charts to represent growth in numbers and percentages. Line graphs are perfect to represent growth in metrics, as seeing an upward-trending line sits favourably with an investor. Pie charts should be used to indicate percentage-related metrics, especially where these metrics are in your favour. Include the percentage as a number (e.g. 92%) within the image for added effect.
On the issue of file type: if you’re emailing your pitch deck, it is advisable to save it as a PDF so that formatting, fonts, and imagery remain intact. Always try to avoid sending out editable versions, where possible. In-person presentations should be presented using a suitable application such as PowerPoint or InDesign, so ensure you are comfortable using the application beforehand.
What sections should I include?
Getting your Problem statement slide right is central to delivering a powerful and intriguing pitch. It is here where you need to accurately define the challenge or barrier that your business seeks to address and present the significance of the problem in relation to the time and money this costs users every year. Focus on resolving one thing – you will come across as more focused and attentive.
It’s important to accurately break down and define the challenge, as this indicates to potential investors that you have a thorough understanding and can therefore design and provide a more holistic solution. If you have well-researched statistics to back up the extent of the problem – include them! Finding the pain points caused by the problem will also help you draw on the experiences of the reader and engage on a more personal level. This will go a long way in helping you secure funding!
It is critical that you demonstrate a direct link between the identified Problem and the Solution that your company provides. This helps with demonstrating to investors that you have a thorough grasp of the issues you have set out to solve. You need to present a clear explanation of what the product/service is that you are providing and how the product/service directly addresses the user challenges raised earlier.
You also need to illustrate why your solution makes sense right now. If you are focused on proving you have a first-mover advantage, it would be wise to also show why the solution is not too early to market.
The How-it-Works section of your investor pitch deck is an extension of the solution, but rather than focusing on what the product/service is, here you need to explain at a more granular level how the product/service operates and how it is to be used. As previously noted, images of your product/service in action can add more value to this section than words.
Explain the tech stack deployed to create the product and/or provide the service, the steps users need to follow in order to use your product/service to its fullest extent, and provide an in-depth explanation of your monetization strategy (who pays what and when).
Investors want to see information on the Market that you are targeting with your product/service, including the current size and its projected growth.
When making an investment, investors are already looking forward to a potential exit. They want to know that there is already a sizable market for your product/service, but they need to be convinced that the growth of the market over the investment term will yield them outsized returns.
It’s important to be realistic when talking about your ability to capture market share. Being overly bullish can come across as arrogant and work against you, whilst erring too much on the side of caution might not sufficiently pique the investor’s curiosity.
Traction is a critical piece of information for potential investors as it demonstrates that there is a market for your product/service. The information included here should validate the company’s business model by showing things like month-over-month growth through early sales or support from reputable target companies/users.
The best way to demonstrate the traction your product/service has achieved so far is through metrics. Showcase items like your growth in user base and your improving profitability. You may also elect to include other information like partners and strategic investors, patents, certifications, awards, and media coverage.
Team and Advisors
Before meeting company management, investors would like to know who the team is in order to gauge their capabilities and experience. The strength of the management team is often a deciding factor when investors deliberate as to whether or not they will make an investment. Include in your pitch deck the names and short bios of your c-suite and perhaps a limited number of other key personnel and/or advisors. Keep it brief – further discussions can take place in a meeting.
What are some tricks I can employ to stand out?
- Remember, as an early-stage company, an investor is going to be really interested in knowing about the leadership and technical team. In the absence of significant traction, you need to convince investors that you have a capable and experienced team in place that can deliver on the goals you have set out
- Having a good grasp of the details and being able to describe the size of the available market will stand you in good stead as investors want to know you’ve really done your homework and understand the available opportunity. Even if the market doesn’t present a billion-dollar opportunity, it’s better to be accurate than inflate the figures
- Lastly, giving a demo always goes down better than just talking about the solution. As far as possible, be prepared to give a demo. Not only does this give the investor a better understanding of your solution, but it also leaves the investor with the feeling that the product/service is ready to go and not just an idea
What are some common mistakes to avoid?
- Making the bold claim that your solution is so unique that your company has no competition is a big red flag and you will be viewed as naïve or boastful. An inadequate representation of the competition will also show that you are unprepared. As investors expect you to have a thorough knowledge of the competition, focusing your attention on differentiating your product/service from the competition will serve you a lot better
- Find a balance between visuals and text. Too much, or too little, information is a red flag and often turns investors away before they can adequately judge your company. Including too much text makes sifting through your information to find essential information extremely difficult and annoying. At the same time, while including a few visuals to enhance your deck can be accretive, ensure they are relevant to your business and not simply space fillers
- By not being forthcoming or not being able to show adequately how you plan to spend the investment to grow the company, you immediately build up a trust wall. Investors expect openness and honesty about all aspects of the business. In the same breath, painting your company with a high valuation in the absence of significant traction, and being unwilling to negotiate, will only see that investor communication cease
We trust that these insights into creating the perfect pitch deck will serve as a useful and valuable guide for your team as you begin compiling the most important document that you will create for your company over its lifetime!