Almost every entrepreneur who raises capital goes through the process of creating a slide deck to share with potential investors and to use as a visual during pitches. What makes for an ideal deck? The truth is everyone has a different opinion and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. What you put in your slide deck depends on your business, your audience, and your capital needs.
The right or wrong stuff can make or break your pitch. What’s in your pitch deck?
Rather than try to provide you with a definitive list, we thought we’d summarize what several noteworthy investors in the startup world have to say on the subject.
Dave McClure, the outspoken super angel and founder of 500 Startups, breaks down the ideal slide deck into 10 elements:
- Elevator Pitch
- The Problem
- The Solution
- Market size
- Business Model
- Proprietary Technology and Expertise
- Marketing Plan
Ironically, McClure created a colorful presentation on how to craft the perfect pitch deck. You can view it at the bottom of this post.
In his popular blog Both Sides of the Table, Mark Suster from GRP Partners makes the case that having a slide deck is critical heading into a meeting with venture capitalists. Calling it the “triple play,” Suster categorizes the deck as the middle act between initiating the discussion and demoing your product. His model pitch deck (outlined here under the “VC Meeting Slides” header) shares many of the same elements of McClure’s model, so we’ll skip a slide-by-slide comparison. But Suster also incorporates a high level rule from Guy Kawasaki that’s great advice for entrepreneurs:
I always liked Guy Kawasaki’s rule he calls 10/20/30. 10 slides, 20 minutes, 30 point font. It’s a very good rule. In reality you can have 12-15 slides (and other 10 in an appendix that you only refer to if asked a “deep dive” question”. In reality you can plan for 40 minutes (but be ready for what you would do if you only had 20. VC’s are notoriously 20 minutes late to meetings and if they’re respectful they’ll give you a full 40 minutes to pitch – but not always). I’m not a stickler for the 30 point font but I would say be as visual as possible, don’t use many words, don’t use the slides as your “crib notes” and don’t put up slides and then say, “I know this slide is a bit too detailed or hard to read.” The clichéd messages apply: 1) less is more and 2) a picture is worth a thousand words.
Finally, Y Combinator founder Paul Graham compiled a series of useful tips based on rehearsal presentations given by his fund’s own startups. He encourages entrepreneurs to give a concise verbal description of what they plan to do before launching into a demo. Graham urges specificity—“better a narrow description than a vague one”—cautioning entrepreneurs to avoid the pitfall of elaborating on all of their product’s features, instead conveying the big picture that your business is worth talking about further. He also encourages teams to designate one person as the speaker and to tell stories about users to illustrate how your company solves a problem.
While this rundown is hardly an exhaustive reference for creating a perfect pitch deck, it does show the importance of being on-message and concisely conveying what’s important about your business when you make a presentation.