How to Create a Pitch Deck that Gets you Funded
Pitch Deck Tips for Startups
When you have a brilliant idea, it’s important to know how to present it in the best possible way. The first step is to create a pitch deck that will get investors excited about your business and want to give you money.
In this post, we’ll walk through the process of how early stage startups can create an effective pitch deck.
What is a Pitch Deck?
A pitch deck, or slide deck, is a brief presentation that provides an overview of your startup, your product, your target market and your market size.
Pitch decks are often used when a startup is looking to secure funding from angel investors or venture capitalists. (Check out our article on when should a startup seek funding.)
Pitch decks are also used for business plan competitions, pitching your business idea at a job interview, presenting to potential partners or customers, introducing your business idea to family members or friends, or any situation where you need to “pitch” your company.
Most important, pitch decks should include information about your startup, your team, the problem your business solves, and how you plan to make money.
What Questions Should a Pitch Deck Answer?
When pitching investors in order to raise money for your business, it’s important not just to tell people about what you’re trying to do, but also convince them that they should invest their time in hearing more.
There are certain fundamental questions you’ll want to answer. But you also need to have a clear and concise presentation that’s easy to follow.
Here are some key questions that a good pitch deck will address:
1. What is your core idea?
Your core idea is the foundation of your pitch deck. Without a strong, well-defined concept, you won’t be able to convince investors that your business is worth their time or money. Spend time developing a clear and concise overview of your business model.
2. What are the key features of your product/service?
Your pitch deck should highlight the key features of your product or service. Startups disrupt industries and provide novel solutions for problems. Be sure to include a problem slide and explain how your startup solves that problem or need. You can tell a story as well about how you came upon the problem.
3. Who are your target customers?
Explain who you’re going to reach and how. Who is your target market? What is their age, gender and occupation? How will they use your product or service? What’s your marketing and sales strategy?
4. How does it work/what are the features of the business model?
Many founders go into complex and unnecessary detail; others don’t say enough in their pitch decks. Both of these scenarios leave investors scratching their heads, or worse, shaking them.
Present your business model in a clear, concise manner.
Investors want to understand your product and the problem it will solve, how you”ll make money, what your costs are and what’s the potential for growth.
Simple yet succinct is key.
5. What is your competitive landscape?
Include a competition slide, where you explain who your competitors are, and how you’ll differentiate yourself from them. What’s your unique selling proposition (USP) and some of your competitive advantages?
Sometimes startup founders don’t think they have competition, because their product or service is disrupting an industry.
Take note: those business models that your startup is disrupting are still your competition. In many cases, they are much more flush with cash than your startup is.
An established company can expand and create a competitive product once you go to market and squeeze you out of the picture, so you’ll want to show your investors that you’re prepared.
6. What is the financial outlook for this business?
Having a rapid growth strategy is ideal, but it’s also important to present a realistic financial outlook for your business to investors. They want to know you have a good business sense and a revenue model that works.
How much money do you need to get started and how much will you need in the future? What are your estimated costs and where will that money come from? Investors want to see numbers that make sense and a solid plan for growth.
7. How much money will it cost to start up your company?
How much money do you have? What are your growth projections for the next few years? Have you thought about your go to market strategy?
Here’s a tip to help you get your financials in order:
Start by creating a table of contents that outlines the order of your slides, and then start with the information that you know potential investors will ask about—the key metrics for your business. These are typically revenue projections (or at least estimated value), projected growth rates, customer acquisition costs, number of employees needed to achieve those goals, and conversion rates.
8. How will you make money from your product or service?
Explain how you plan to make a profit. Investors want to know that you have a solid plan for generating revenue and making money. If you can’t show them that, they will be hesitant to invest in your company.
9. Who is on your team and how will each contribute to the business’s success?
Investors want to know that you have a capable and experienced team that can help take the company to the next level.
When assembling your slide deck, be sure to highlight the strengths of your team with a team slide. The team slide should feature short bios on your key members, including their education, experience and relative accomplishments.
You can also include testimonials from previous employers or clients to demonstrate that you have a proven track record.
Pitch Deck Fundamentals
Key points to help you stand out with investors:
- When you’re creating a pitch deck, your initial goal should be to create an ideal version tailored to the specific investors or audience that you’re targeting.
- Focus on what the investor wants and give it to them in a manner that’s easy to digest.
- Create a framework with thoroughly relevant content – every piece should have data-driven research from a top tier source to make it impossible for them to say no
- Your pitch deck should be well organized and easy to follow. Make sure that each slide contains only one idea, and use clear and concise language throughout.
- Include graphs, charts and images, items that can help explain your business concept visually. Use strong visuals that are on point.
- Your slide deck should be around 15-20 slides long, not including your cover slide.
- All of the information in your investment pitch deck should be accurate and up to date. Investors will do their own research on your company, so you don’t want them to find any inaccuracies in your presentation.
Know Who You’re Pitching
Why You Should Tailor Your Pitch Deck to Individual Investors
Are you pitching an angel investor, venture capitalists or someone else, like a friend or family member?
Professional investors have a greater ability to identify what works and what doesn’t (in their experience) and may be more likely to eliminate anything they feel has holes or isn’t likely to be of value.
It doesn’t mean they’re always right. It just means through experience, they’ve developed a bit of a nose for this kind of thing.
The more you know about who you’re pitching, the more you can get ahead of this issue and answer some of their questions for them.
For instance, let’s take “Shark Tank” – if you were pitching in a private room individually to Kevin, Laurie or Mark, you would likely pitch them all somewhat differently. Because you know what’s important to them. And you’ve heard them, each episode, bring up their individual concerns.
This is the same idea you can employ when using your pitch deck to pitch investors.
Creating an Engaging Pitch Deck
When you’re looking to raise money, you want to make sure potential investors are engaged. One key way is to use images and videos to help tell your story.
Getting a little more creative with your presentation can also help. When it compliments your business model, a little creativity goes a long way and can make for a winning pitch.
Take ManPacks for example. This underwear company for men created a fun, creative startup pitch deck in line with their business model and met their full funding goals during an angel round.
Practice Makes Perfect, Even with Pitch Decks
Get feedback on your pitch deck from friends and family.
If you’re giving an in-person presentation (more on this later), make sure that you practice your pitch before presenting it to investors.
Practicing your pitch will help ensure that you’re confident about your business, and yourself, which will come across in your presentation.
Use your friends and family as a test audience.
Always be yourself. Just like in all other aspects of life, people (including investors) want to see the authentic you.
What Do Investors Look for in a Pitch Deck?
The first thing that potential investors look at in an investor pitch deck is the overall idea, i.e. the problem and the solution that your startup is going to solve. They want to know that you’ve identified a real problem and have a viable solution.
Next, they examine your team. They want to ensure that you have the right team in place to execute on your vision. This includes having a CEO with experience in running a company and a technical co-founder, if you’re building a technology company.
They also want to see traction. This could be in the form of users, sales, or partnerships.
Without some level of traction, it will be difficult to convince investors to invest in your company. A traction slide in your deck can help to present this information.
Lastly, potential funders look at your company valuation, how many investors you have already and what debt the company has.
Most investors aren’t interested in investing in a company that is highly overvalued, but they also don’t want to undervalue your startup either.
A good thing to consider when thinking about the value of your business is what type of revenue you can bring investors on an annual basis compared with how much money they are willing to invest.
Getting Started with Your Pitch Deck
It’s normal to be a little overwhelmed when creating your first pitch deck. But having your own pitch deck can help you get more prepared, not only for pitching your business idea and raising money, but for scaling your business as well.
A pitch deck gives you insight into your business, and allows you to strategize and foresee potential issues.
If you sit down to work on your pitch deck, and you still find yourself drawing a blank, consider hiring an agency to help you. Many agencies have experience creating and designing pitch decks, which can help your startup look more professional.
If you don’t have the budget to hire an agency to create your pitch deck for you, then another option is to find a startup pitch deck template online.
A pitch deck template gives you the basic outline of slides to follow, along with the ability to add and remove images. Sites like Canva, Slidebean, and Beautiful AI can provide you with a pitch deck template.
As part of your research, you’ll want to look at a variety of pitch deck examples – of both successful pitch decks and business models that failed.
Some of the best pitch decks:
- Airbnb Pitch Deck
- Uber Pitch Deck
- Facebook Pitch Deck
- Mattermark Pitch Deck
- WeWork Pitch Deck
- Peloton Pitch Deck
- Buffer Pitch Deck
- Intercom Pitch Deck
- YouTube Pitch Deck
- Mint Pitch Deck
It’s a good idea to also find pitch decks of companies that failed in your industry. See if you can pinpoint issues from their pitch deck. Use this information to guide you in your process.
Your pitch deck will continue to evolve as your own startup evolves, and with each round of funding, it’s common to revamp your pitch deck.
Identifying Potential Problems with Your Pitch Deck
- First, take a close look at your business model, target market, product or service, and competitive landscape.
- Make sure that your assumptions about each of these areas are correct and supported by evidence. If not, then you need to fix them before presenting your pitch deck to investors.
- Another common mistake is overestimating the size of the potential market for your product or service. Be realistic in assessing how many people would be interested in what you’re selling and how much money they would be willing to spend on it. Have research to back up your claims.
- Don’t forget to include a detailed cost analysis showing how you will achieve profitability.
- Remember that your own pitch deck should be visually appealing as well as informative, so use graphs, charts and images whenever possible. Stick to a simple font and make sure the text is easy to read.
- If you can, get someone else to proofread your pitch deck before you send it out. Typos and grammatical mistakes can make you look unprofessional and can cost you investment dollars.
- Finally, be prepared to answer any questions that investors may have about your business. They’ll want to know how you plan to succeed in the face of competition and what makes your offering unique and valuable. Make sure you have a clear explanation for each element of your pitch deck.
By taking the time to identify potential problems with your pitch deck, you can avoid making costly mistakes and increase your chances of getting funded.
Different Types of Pitch Decks
Common Pitch Deck Templates and When to Use Them
There are a few different types of pitch deck templates that you can use.
The most common type of pitch deck template is the standard slide deck, which contains between 10 and 20 slides. This is best for presenting to potential investors or partners. If you need to create a presentation for an upcoming meeting, conference, or pitch competition, this type of deck may also be a good choice.
Another common template is the slideshow-style pitch, which includes between 5 and 10 slides that combine images with text. This is a great option if you’re planning to give your presentation live online via video chat or webinar instead of in person. It allows people to view slides as they listen to your presentation.
A more compact version of the above is the slideshow deck that includes 5 or less slides. This is great for explaining complex topics to investors and partners in person (or on video) through an engaging talk. This pitch deck example can be especially effective if you want to lead off with some fun or eye-catching slides to engage your audience.
Delivering Your In-Person Pitch Presentation to Investors
In addition to having a great deck, when pitching directly to an investor, you’ll need to be prepared to answer some questions off the cuff.
That includes questions about yourself, your product or service, and the potential investment opportunity, as well as anything else that may come up during the pitch presentation.
If you’re not the best at impromptu situations like this, make sure you practice. Practicing will make you feel more comfortable and prepared when you get in front of an individual investor or a group in the future.
If there’s a question asked during your presentation that was answered within the document, but wasn’t covered by one of the team members, address the investor’s concerns with honest, direct answers.
Stay confident and positive throughout the presentation. Investors will be more likely to invest in your company if you believe in yourself.
Use Stories in Your Pitch Presentation
Everyone loves a good story. Stories connect people to one another. They also help connect people to products and services.
This goes for potential investors too. A good story will help capture the investor’s attention and make them more engaged in what you’re saying and help create a connection to your product or service.
A common story startup founders tell is how or when they discovered the problem the startup is looking to solve. Your story should always relate to the product or service at hand. In other words, don’t ramble about your wedding day, unless your product or service is specifically connected to your wedding day.
Avoid Over-explaining Parts of Your Presentation
When pitching investors in person, be sure not to spend too much time on any one slide of your deck or investors may get bored.
You do want to make sure your presentation, like your pitch deck, is clear, concise, and easy for people to understand right away. If you’ve prepared properly, you’ll know this is the case and you won’t need to spend time over-explaining. If an investor has questions or is unclear on something, they’ll ask you about it.
Remember, developing a great pitch presentation takes time and practice, just like developing a great pitch deck does.
Leverage Your Team
Another thing to keep in mind when pitching investors is that investors are not just looking for a good idea, they’re also interested in the team behind the company.
They want to know that not only you, but your team as well, has the skills and experience necessary to make your business successful. Be sure to talk about your team and what they bring to the table.
Common Questions from Investors
By now, you should have an idea of the common questions you’ll get from investors. They will likely ask you about your business model, how you plan to make money, and why now is a good time to invest in your company.
They may even challenge you on some of your own ideas and strategies. If this happens, remain confident.
It’s your job to convince them that you know what you’re doing, and that yours is the next startup they don’t just want to invest in, but need to invest in.
What to do if Your Pitch Deck Fails to Get Funding?
Yes, it’s unfortunate. But it does happen. You need to be prepared that you may not get funding.
There can be many reasons a startup doesn’t get funded, even when you followed all the pointers, even when you practiced day and night.
If you know that you have a great idea, don’t give up. There are still several things you can do to improve your chances of getting funded in the future.
One common reason early stage startups don’t get funding is simply because they’re early. Many investors aren’t willing to take a risk if the startup hasn’t yet gotten off the ground.
Many founders get frustrated when investor interest is low in their early stages. Remember, there are always alternatives to angel investors and venture capitalists – one of those is crowdfunding platforms. Or maybe you want to attend an accelerator, where you can get some mentorship and help in developing your ideas and pitch deck further.
If you know the problem lies specifically within your pitch deck, go back to the drawing board and make changes to your pitch deck based on what didn’t work last time around. For example, if it turns out that your pitch deck was too long, try and cut down the number of slides to reduce its length.
Be meticulous even with minor things.
You may also want to look beyond friends and family and have someone else (perhaps another startup founder) look over your pitch deck for you. They may spot mistakes or things that you’ve missed that could make all the difference between getting funded and not getting funded.
If you follow these tips, your pitch deck should be in much better shape and you’ll have a higher chance of raising the money you need to take your startup to the next level.
For more tips and advice on how to create a successful pitch deck, be sure to check out our Pitch Please Podcast: The Do’s and Dont’s of Pitching Your Startup. In this podcast, we discuss the traditional pitch deck formula and the ten slides that every successful pitch should include.