As a startup founder, entrepreneur, or business owner, looking to secure funding, a compelling pitch deck is key to winning over investors. A pitch deck is your statement of purpose as a company that showcases your product, and business model and provides investors an insight into your capabilities as an organization. It’s an essential fundraising tool regardless of the funds you’re looking to raise.
Whether you’re a seasoned pitcher or a first-time founder, creating an effective pitch deck is a daunting task. To help you create a pitch deck that gets you the funding you need, this article will chalk out the must-haves for a successful pitch deck.
Pitch Deck Success Step #1: Right Size It: How Long is Too Long?
There is no clear consensus about the ideal length of an effective pitch deck. Venture capitalist, Fred Wilson, believes, “You can explain your startup in mind-numbing detail or you can inspire an investor and let them imagine. Guess what works better? When you sit down and build your investor deck, think of six slides that will inspire and leave something for the imagination.” And most VCs agree that conciseness is a virtue in pitch deck creation – although it shouldn’t come at the cost of naturalness, clarity, or information.
A standard pitch deck template will include elements such as:
Purpose: Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Problem: What challenges are you solving?
Solution: The demo of your product/service
Market: Is there one for your product/service?
Competition: How will you fare against them?
Value Proposition: What sets you apart?
Business Model and Monetization Strategy: How will you grow as a company?
People and Skills: What are your capabilities as an organization?
Financials: How does your balance sheet tie into your vision for growth?
Current Status: Where are you now and how are you using funds to get where you want to go?
A cleverly developed deck could fit all of this information into 10-15 slides. However, those numbers are more of a guiding rule than a principle. The nature of your product or service will determine how much detail you need to share with investors. Your goal is to provide them with enough information to persuade them to put money into your business.
It is worth noting that an average investor is exposed to over 5000 pitches every year. So, it is crucial that you research beforehand if potential investors specialize in your sector and tailor your pitch to drive home your point. Also, remember that your pitch deck exists to support your oral presentation – so, persuasive information in your pitch deck would ideally be data and statistics, and, in your oral presentation you can go into greater detail about how these numbers relate to your vision and growth as a company.
Pitch Deck Success Step #2: Make Your Financials the Hero of Your Pitch
“The most fundamental strategy of a startup is the financing strategy. If your company runs out of finance it will close no matter how good the product strategy is,” says Reid Hoffman, Venture Capitalist, and LinkedIn Co-founder. “My strategy was to steer immediately into the revenue question because that was investors’ biggest concern in 2004.”
Guess what? It’s 2020 and revenue is still investors' bigger concern. Especially, in light of the spectacular startup busts we’ve witnessed in 2019 and 2020. Household names such as OYO, HikeMessenger, Grofers, and BigBasket are riding on big losses. While this was acceptable to investors in the boom era of the early and mid-2010s, the market is starkly different now. Acquiring market share at the cost of profits is no longer considered a sustainable business model unless you’re an Amazon or Flipkart.
If you’re looking to make a solid presentation to investors, let your financial data do the talking. After all, finance is the language of business.
The good news is, you don’t need to be a CFO or hold an MBA to create a compelling finance story. You just need to outline to your investors:
What to expect: Create financial projections based on your current position
How you’re making money: How well is your product/service doing? How does your sales pipeline look?
What are your expenses: Entrepreneurs frequently underestimate their expenses. It’s wiser to have a real-world calculation of what overhead and monthly expenses look like.
Income statement: The basic formula is Total Revenue minus Cost of Sales (COGS) equals Gross Profit, which is the money you have left to pay your Operating Expenses. From here, Gross Margin % equals Gross Profit divided by Total Revenue.
Subtract Operating Expenses (Sales & Marketing plus Research & Development plus General & Administrative) from Gross Profit to arrive at EBITDA (you may also hear some startups call this EBIT, although technically EBITDA is different than EBIT).
– Cost of Good Sold (COGS or sometimes Cost of Sales in an online business)
= Gross Profit
Sales & Marketing Expenses (S&M)
Research & Development Expenses (R&D)
General & Administrative Expenses (G&A)
Cash position: Income statements are a great addition to your pitch deck but remember that it necessarily doesn’t covey your cash position. Include a cash line at the bottom of your pitch deck.
Here are a few templates that should help you visualize your finance slide in the pitch deck
An ideal finance slide template for a SaaS startup
A chart outlining use of funds for a funded startup
A business model projection for a hospitality startup
Pitch Deck Success Step #3: Get Feedback
While we firmly believe that anyone can make a great pitch deck – it’s always helpful to have some expert feedback. Whether it’s your co-founder, CFO partner or your marketing team – seek active feedback. Chances are, you won’t get it right in the first go, but it is critical that you get started. If you already have a CFO onboard or a virtual CFO partner, work with them to get all the details in place. In fact, you can use our templates and this article to tell them how you expect the finance slide to look.
Approach Fundraising with Confidence
A successful pitch is the sum of all its parts – Pitch deck, financials, investor fit, and oral presentation. At times, pitching can become easier if you have the right partners on board to help you out. After all, storytelling is as important to your pitch as your pitch deck. If you’d rather focus on getting your presentation right, you could enlist expert help to create your pitch deck or the finance slide. Remember, the entire Apple team worked tirelessly to perfect product launches, but people only remember Steve Job’s spectacular presentations. Delivering a persuasive presentation becomes a lot easier if you leave the details to the experts. And with that we wish you all the best for your fundraising pitch!