Looking to get funding for your startup? With these best practices, you’ll learn how to create a pitch deck that will always hook your audience!
15 minute read
In business, as in love, there are several factors that will set you up for success. You must be compatible, understand what the other person’s needs are, and earn their trust.
Now, I’m sure there are dozens of reasons why you love your business idea, but how do you get investors to buy into your vision? How can you get them to share the love and the contents of their wallet?
You don’t need just any pitch deck. See, there’s a problem. Investors are extremely impatient and wary of their time.
So, you need a great deck to give a potential investor a clear overview of your company and solution while being concise enough not to lose them halfway through.
But, there’s good news too.
In this article, we'll skip the basics of what is a pitch deck and dive head first into all the elements your pitch deck should include and provide some actionable tips. You’re a few minute read away from a pitch deck better than 99% of those out there.
DISCLAIMER: Investors can often be very particular about the pitch deck structure they want to get. So your first move should be to research this and build personalized pitch decks for specific investors. Look for the information on their website, ask people they’ve invested in, or ask them directly.
If this information is beyond your reach, then use our broad guidelines. Let’s go.
There are unlimited ways to create a pitch deck, but some decks are better than others. What makes them better is that they are clear, concise, and upfront about what they offer, and back it with numbers.
Clarity trumps creativity and data trumps big ideas. That’s because clarity brings understanding, and data brings trust.
Everything else you do in your pitch deck relies on these 2 principles. And it may very well be true that your product is prettier, wittier, or dreamier than the rest, but laying the foundation of understanding and trust will let you build up to those higher levels.
But enough theory. There's a close to definitve answer to what a pitch deck should include.
We have an entire article about it, but in short, there are 10 slides almost all investors expect to see to trust you and gain an understanding of what you do. And then, and only then, will they grant you their funding and give you their time. Let’s go over these slides one by one.
Don’t judge a book by its cover is a wonderful moral to teach your kids. But your kids aren’t seeking funding for their business and you are. Your pitch deck is your cover by which your business is going to be judged.
According to our data, it takes people only 10 seconds to decide if you’re interested in reading your deck. So, you should start with a strong hook that gets your viewers’ attention and gives them a good reason to continue reading.
The best way to turn those 10 seconds into a few minutes is to use a captivating one-liner or a mission statement.
After that, you should provide a brief overview of your product or service in simple, easily understandable terms.
Think of it as a family dinner conversation. You’re sitting down at a table, about to dig into another slice of pie, when a relative asks the question we’ve all grown to hate:
“So, what is it that you do again?”
How do you explain your job in a way your aunt Deborah, who still can’t wrap her head around Facebook, will understand?
As frustrating as it can be, it’s a great opportunity to practice your elevator pitch-style introduction. The same rule applies to pitch decks. They will likely be passed around internally among VC partners for further review.
Make sure your pitch is clear both to people already familiar with your industry, and those who don’t have much context.
Your focus here should be on presenting your unique value proposition. In other words, what distinct benefits does your product or service offer, and what edge do you have over other established companies?
Let’s take a look at an example of an investor pitch deck. The cover slide includes the company logo and tagline next to some industry-related visuals that give readers a clear overview of the company’s line of business.
After the cover slide, we can see the unique value proposition—an elevator pitch-style summary of the company’s vision.
This is where you identify a gap in your target market and explain how your startup bridges that gap.
How? Tell a story your investors can relate to. What are some of the common pain points they’re experiencing and why is it important to solve them?
By introducing a real-life problem, you’ll be tickling their emotional curiosity. This will, in turn, allow you to sell more than a solution. You’ll be selling change.
After all, it’s emotional curiosity that motivates people to ditch the current way of doing things and embrace fresh ideas.
If investors have experienced a similar problem in the past, they’ll have a better understanding of your business concept and objectives. Meaning, they’ll be more likely to give you money to eliminate the problem that’s been bothering them!
Don’t dwell on the competitive landscape here. That comes later. Demonstrate the necessity of your product or service in the marketplace. Paint your story in a way that makes it impossible for them to imagine a world without your solution in it!
Following the example of nicebox, a tiered slide is a great way to showcase the main problems plaguing the industry.
So, you’ve outlined the main problems your company aims to solve and built up a sense of urgency. Now, it’s time for your product or service to come to the rescue!
In this section, you can dive deeper into describing what it is that you actually do. How do customers use your solution to make their lives better? Ideally, back up their statements with some visuals—such as screenshots or product demos.
Again, your solution needs to be concise and easy to grasp. Maybe it’s an absolute powerhouse jam-packed with features to address different types of needs.
You’ve poured your heart and soul into creating this one-stop shop and want to tell the world about everything it’s capable of. I’m sorry, but this won’t do.
Keep your target market in mind. Focus on their particular needs and show what your solution can do for them specifically.
More importantly, what your potential investor wants to see is whether your business idea is scalable.
As your startup grows and new resources are added, can you keep increasing your total output and an investor’s ROI? At the end of the day, they just want to see the wheels turning and get their money’s worth!
Instead of listing all the features and capabilities, we can see that the slide provides a succinct description of the solution—just enough to pique the audience’s interest.
So, I’ve briefly touched upon the concept of a target market. Now, it’s time to get into more detail.
Every product or service is created with an ideal customer in mind. In this part of your slide deck, you need to provide background information about the market you’re operating in and where you position yourself within it.
These estimations will inform an investor’s decision about whether your startup is worth their money, so don’t gloss over them.
These are the main pieces of information to show an investor how much potential is out there:
What’s the competitive landscape like? How many competitors operate in your niche?
How likely are you to succeed in that landscape?
What is the current spending level in the market?
How much money can be made out of your product or service?
Can your business idea disrupt the market?
How has the industry evolved over time and what’s the current growth potential?
Sure enough, certain investors are only looking to get involved with ventures that have hypergrowth potential. They won’t throw their money at companies operating in small markets. But—
Does larger always mean better when it comes to investments? Not necessarily. Inflating the size of your market might seem tempting, but it’s more important to show that your business can get a decent chunk of the market.
Including data visualizations or animated number arrays can be particularly helpful in presenting complex numbers in a simple manner.
Cannasoft markets an innovative CRM platform designed to serve the needs of the medical cannabis industry. In their pitch deck, they provided an overview of the global cannabis market before moving on to an assessment of the market potential in Israel.
Now that your investor knows what your product or service does and how much money there is to be made, it’s time to show how you’re planning to arrive at these numbers.
What exactly are you going to make money from? What’s your primary revenue model—will you rely on active revenue streams (a one-time fee or subscription to use your product/service), passive income (ad or affiliate revenue), or a mixture of both?
As you describe your pricing strategy, explain how you position your company within the competitive landscape.
Do you offer a premium solution for the high-end market? Or are you planning to undercut your competition with a more affordable product/service? In the case of SaaS companies that have tiered pricing, make sure to cover how different plans compare to each other.
Validating your revenue streams prior to pitching in front of investors will also give you an advantage.
If you have run market tests, you can present ready marketing data to prove that your customers are willing to pay your price. This will alleviate the fear of risk in your potential investors.
Here’s an example of what this slide should look like—a clear overview of the main revenue streams, the company’s market position, and distribution channels.
In order to make your pitch deck more reader-friendly, you can also add a collapsible 'Read more' button, as you can see here:
This next slide aims to further validate your business model. If you already have some early adopters using your product or service, it’s the perfect way of showing potential investors that your business idea works.
It’s one thing to make unbacked promises about how your offer will improve people’s lives. But, being able to show that it actually solves the problems it intends to solve makes your pitch way more forceful.
If you’ve hit any milestones already, now’s the time to do some bragging. These can include the number of sales, profit margin, or your first return customers. Anything to show that month-over-month growth will work to your benefit.
Outline a roadmap of the milestones you’re planning to hit next to show your investors what you’re hoping to achieve with their funding. You can do this in a timeline format, showcasing the main development plans for each period.
Or, as in the case of Cannasoft, you can include a graphic representation that makes it easy for prospects to understand the company’s journey so far and follow what the next step is.
As Steuart Henderson Britt put it, “Doing business without advertising is like winking at a girl in the dark. You know what you are doing but nobody else does.”
One of the main challenges for any startup company is finding and acquiring new customers. A thorough marketing strategy will show that you have a clear understanding of your target market and competitive advantage.
Marketing has evolved beyond recognition. As more and more mediums keep springing up and people use various devices to find information, your potential customers are everywhere.
Choosing the right ways to communicate with them will be one of the most crucial decisions you’re going to make as a business owner:
What marketing channels are you planning to use to acquire new customers?
Why are they optimal for your line of business?
Will you focus on online acquisition (pay-per-click campaigns, content marketing, SEO strategy, link building, social media marketing) or offline acquisition (print ads, events, B2B partnerships)?
What’s your perceived cost of acquisition and expected ROI?
How will your marketing strategy differ from what your competitors are already doing?
You’ll need to address all these questions in your pitch deck. Again, tiered slides are an efficient way to ensure you’re covering all the bases without overloading your audience with information.
I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but there’s a good chance your business idea isn’t new. Unless you’ve invented a special material to build houses on Mars, there is someone out there who had the very same idea before.
But, there’s a reason you’re sitting here learning how to build a winning startup pitch deck, and that’s execution.
Even the most viable business idea will turn to dust without a proper vision and execution. That’s why it’s so important to give an overview of your organizational structure and introduce your key team members.
It takes a special type of person to take a business idea and turn it into a unicorn. When someone wants to invest in your business, they’re also investing in your team’s experience and capabilities to drive the company to success.
Describe your key members’ main achievements and skills that are relevant to your business. What makes them qualified to run a high-growth startup? What do they bring to the table that other companies lack?
Here’s an example of what this slide is supposed to look like. Under each photo, include a bio-style description of a given person listing their main skills and achievements that will be crucial in driving your company’s growth.
Your potential investors will want to see at least 3 years of projections to assess your company’s financial health. These include an income statement, sales forecast, and cash flow forecast.
If you’re a newbie entrepreneur, you may have little idea of what to expect. That’s perfectly normal! Investors want to know if your business is headed in the right direction.
But, they also want to check if you can make reasonable forecasts about sales, revenue, and cash flow.
I can assure you they’ve seen hundreds of hockey stick projections and can see right through them. It’s always better to make cautious predictions and overdeliver than promise the moon and overshoot.
One of the worst mistakes you can make here is sticking a bunch of complicated spreadsheets that are hard to read. Data visualizations will always be more effective in presenting necessary information than strings of numbers.
Include basic charts about your sales, customers, profits, and expenses. Keep more complex financials in an external file in case an investor requests more information after viewing your startup pitch deck.
Storydoc offers a variety of solutions for data visualization. With an extensive library of interactive charts and an option to use tailor-made templates, static slide decks are a relic of the past!
Cannasoft provides the perfect example of what the financials section of a pitch deck should look like. It includes forecasted revenues and projected market growth for the next 5 years.
It’s easy to lose your prospects’ attention with too many complicated numbers. But, by presenting all the information in an interactive table, they make it easy to follow and understand.
Sometimes, entrepreneurs get so wrapped up in crafting the perfect pitch deck that they forget about the key final element: how much money they need to bring their vision to life.
If a VC is to invest in your startup, they’re gonna want to know how you’re going to spend their money. Will you spend the majority of it on product development, expanding your team, or commercializing your offer?
Explain why their funds are essential to scale your business and back up your numbers with hard data.
Aside from the allocation, you should include a breakdown of the milestones you’re hoping to achieve with the funding. This will build trust with investors and help them understand how their capital will create value.
In addition to the data below, you can include a percentage breakdown of each category.
One thing that immediately screams “unprofessional” to a potential investor is inconsistent pitch deck design that doesn’t align with your company branding.
Hopping between different font sizes and colors shows that you didn’t put much effort into preparing your pitch presentation. If you make that first impression, how do you convince an investor your business idea is well-thought-out?
Thankfully, we do all the heavy lifting for you by pulling branding information from your website. This way, you can focus on providing value with the contents of your pitch deck!
Speaking of which, you should always try to tell a story with your pitch deck. Babak Nivi, the co-founder of AngelList said: “Investors invest in stories, not businesses.” Our brains love good storytelling, which is particularly important when dealing with people who hear several pitches a day.
Your pitch deck should never be product-centric—it doesn’t matter what your solution can do as much as what it can do for your audience.
Many business ideas stem from personal stories or struggles. And, if you did your business research right, there are many people out there who can relate.
So, you need to paint an emotional story with an investor as the main hero. If you connect with them on a personal level, it will be easier for you to show the need for your solution. You can better understand their mindset if you also read investment newsletters.
Think back to your university days. Do you remember how hard it was to listen to the lecturers while trying to read their slides at the same time? If you don’t want important insights to get lost, don’t make the same mistake.
Remember that your pitch deck isn’t your teleprompter. Data visualizations are always more impactful than blocks of text.
Of course, you also need to bear in mind your pitch deck will be shared internally. So, it needs to be meaningful to anyone who receives it as a stand-alone presentation or doesn’t have much knowledge about your industry.
Investors won’t have time to read everything anyway, so it’s better to stick to brief explanations to provide context.
Here's an example of a static presentation:
And here's what it looks like transformed with Storydoc:
If you want to succeed at investing, you need to recognize the importance of time. Angel investors are incredibly busy people that have entrepreneurs coming to them with proposals all the time. The utmost way to show them respect is by not wasting their time or resources.
Don’t provide the information you think investors want to hear. Focus on what’s actually valuable from the investors’ point of view. Save any technical details for follow-up questions.
According to Storydoc research, 80% of people who go through the first three slides will stick through until the very end. Provide a strong hook in the form of an impressive number, shocking statistic, or an excruciating problem statement.
Then, back it up with solid financial and strategic information to show investors you know your stuff and can deliver on your promises.
Building on the last point, don’t underestimate the importance of market research. If you’re a newbie entrepreneur, you can seek help from outside experts and include their input in your pitch deck.
As I mentioned in the Financials part, investors can smell hockey stick projections from a mile away.
Allow yourself room to overdeliver, but make sure you’re building a realistic revenue model with achievable milestones. This will show you’re serious about sustaining your business in the long run.
Saying something like: “I’ll start with a free business model and monetize it later” just won’t cut it for potential investors.
Now, what I’m about to say may sound counterintuitive at first.
When crafting your pitch deck, your main focus should not be on raising funds. Yes, you heard me!
Let’s be honest, no matter how groundbreaking your startup idea is, nobody’s going to throw money at you after viewing your pitch presentation once. The whole idea of a first pitch is to get your foot in the door and secure a second meeting.
Venture capitalists sit through dozens of pitches every week. You need to give them something that will spark their interest enough to invite you to the next step.
Add a hook in the form of impressive numbers or tap into their emotional pain. Then, allow them to arrive at the conclusion that you’re their ideal solution provider.
By now, an investor should be convinced about the value your solution brings to the table and eager to learn more. The worst thing you can do is slap a ‘thank you’ slide on them and close the conversation.
Keep an eye on the end goal. Once an investor closes your deck, it’s game over for you. Make sure you’re on the same page about the next step, be it an email follow-up or booking a time slot for the next meeting right away.
This can be easily achieved with our presentation maker. It provides support for calendar integrations, contact forms, and even live chat widgets, so you can stay in touch on the go! For more information, visit our integrations page.
As the past two years have affected our attention spans, you need a modern-day solution to keep up. Static documents filled with rows of data and walls of text no longer cut it.
This is where Storydoc pitch deck templates come in handy.
We designed our templates with all the best practices in mind. All decks are scroll-based, fully interactive, and optimized for engagement.
So—your deck will leave a lasting impression, whether an investor opens it on desktop or on their phone in-between meetings.
Pick a template from our gallery below and start working on your deck!
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