Pitching is a complex art form. Not only do you have to persuade investors to fund your idea through storytelling, but you also need to provide them clear, organized, and entertaining visuals. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to show you how to create an effective investor pitch deck that perfectly articulates your startup’s story.
Working closely with dozens of early-stage startups every year, Future Founders has seen what it takes for a company to make an impression on an investor. In some scenarios, your pitch deck can make or break a deal, so it’s imperative you include all the necessary parts. It’s also important to note that an investor pitch can range anywhere from 3-15 minutes in length, and anything shorter would be considered an elevator pitch.
So before you get to building your deck, make sure you have a clear understanding of how much time the investors have allotted for your pitch AND how much time you have to answer any questions they ask after the pitch itself. To get started, let’s first think about your story.
A promising return is always a good incentive for an investor to back a new startup, but there’s nothing more powerful than a memorable story. Your pitch must have a narrative that is compelling, credible, and concise. There’s a million ways to tell a story. In a business setting, you need to ensure that your story is relatable and empathetic without being too removed from the problem you’re solving.
“As the founder, it’s really your job to be able to sell the dream, mission, and vision of your company. It’s what gets people to believe in you and believe in your company.” – Bailey Paxton, Founder of AgileCare Solutions
Paxton is one of the many successful entrepreneurs that has gone through the year-long Future Founder Fellowship program. Having pitched to multiple VCs in the past, Paxton shared with us some comprehensive objectives and goals you should aim for when creating a pitch deck.
Now that you understand the importance of storytelling, you can create a deck that will be remembered by investors and VCs. Let’s start with an overview of what topics and slides to include.
Every pitch deck will look a little different depending on the industry and length. Generally, every deck will follow a certain structure that begins with you telling your story and ends with you asking for an investment. Below, we’ve listed the most common slides in an order that will allow you to weave bits and pieces of your story throughout your pitch. Some additional slides can also be added to further detail certain aspects of your business.
Key Slides (In Order)
Now, what exactly goes on each slide?
What to Include on the Title Slide:
Brand name and logo. Simple as that.
Title Slide Story:
By starting the slideshow with just your name and your logo, you leave the VCs curious right away. In some cases, your value proposition slide can be doubled as your title slide, however, starting with just your name and your logo can embed your brand in the investor’s head without them even knowing what your product is yet.
What to Include on the Value Proposition Slide:
A value proposition is a one-sentence description of your business. Some people call this your motto or your slogan, depending on how much information you want to get across.
The purpose of this statement is to highlight the value of your product for customers in the simplest way possible. This can be done by making a comparison to a pre-existing (usually well-known) company, or by making a promise of value that will be delivered.
Value Proposition Slide Story:
At this point, the investor is forming their own picture of what your product is. By giving them a quick glimpse into what you offer customers, you can easily segue into the story that sparked the idea in the first place.
What to Include on the Problem Slide:
What problem have you identified that is actually worth solving? What gap are you filling in the market? You must introduce a problem that investors can relate to or empathize with, even if they aren’t your exact target customer.
Don’t include too much information on your slide either. Theoretically, you should only have one problem statement. If there are two problems you’ve identified, find a way to word your statement so you address both without making them seem separated. You need to come off focused to investors. Having an investor relate to your problem is one of the best ways to get them on board.
Problem Slide Story:
Your problem is where your story really begins. Many founders will detail a time in their lives when they themselves experienced the exact problem they want to solve. This method is effective because it provides the investor with both a clear image of the problem and a reason why you want to solve it.
What to Include on the Solution Slide:
Time to shine. Here’s where you introduce the amazing idea that you came up with that solves the problem. Explain how your solution alleviates the pain for a person experiencing that problem. Be as specific as possible. There’s probably 100 or more people that have come up with the same solution, you just need to prove to the investor that yours does it well and can be scaled.
But don’t get carried away explaining every situation where your solution can be used. You want to be clear and concise so the investor doesn’t get confused what problem you’re actually trying to solve.
Solution Slide Story:
How did you come up with the solution? What DIY project, science experiment, or accident led you to your discovery? From identifying the problem to coming up with your solution, you’re basically giving the investor a play-by-play of your entrepreneurial journey.
What to Include on the Target Market Slide:
The target market slide is where you start to introduce the investor’s role in your journey. Investors want to fund a product or service that is easily scalable. You need to clearly identify who your target customer is and how you plan to reach them. Customer Discovery is a great tool for market research, so you can truly understand your customer’s wants and needs without any bias involved.
It’s also important to address the market size. How many customers can you reach currently vs. how many can you reach in 5 years with X amount of money? What data or research do you have to support these claims. The TAM, SAM, and SOM approach can be very helpful here as well.
Target Market Slide Story:
For your story, you can create a Buyer or Customer Persona that you can reference. This is a profile of your ideal customer which can show to an investor that you know exactly who you want to sell to.
What to Include on the Revenue Model Slide:
If numbers aren’t your forte, don’t be worried. For the revenue model slide, it’s most important that you can show to investors that you know how you’ll make money. Know how much it costs to make your product and how much you plan on selling it for. Thinking about your target market, who exactly is your customer base. Are they other businesses or are they real people?
Revenue Model Slide Story:
This slide will showcase your knowledge of your own product. You can’t pitch a solution if you don’t know how to make it or how much it costs to make it. If you can make an investor believe that you see true value in your selling price, they’ll be more interested in hopping on board.
What to Include on the Traction Slide:
It’s time to make some promises. What traction have you already seen – big or small – that validates the need for your product. What predictions have you made for your product further down the line? Will you be selling to hundreds, thousands, or millions?
Traction Slide Story:
Using a real customer’s review or journey with your product can be a great way to weave in your story on the traction slide. You want to make sure everything you say actually happened, and that your goals moving forward are actually attainable.
What to Include on the Marketing Strategy Slide:
Your marketing strategy will show to the investors how you plan on generating interest and sales in your product. No matter what stage of your startup journey you’re at, you need to have a plan to get customers attention. Highlight any branding, channels, or sales tactics you have in mind to win over customers. How is your strategy unique to other companies?
Marketing Strategy Slide Story:
Referring back to the target market slide is a great way to continue the story of your pitch deck. Remind the investors of exactly who and how many customers you plan on reaching with your marketing strategy.
What to Include on the Competition Slide:
Even if you’re certain you’re the first person to come up with your product, you’re still going to have competition one way or another. Your potential customers are already using alternative solutions to solve the problem you’ve identified, so you’re going to have to convince them to try your product.
Showing the investors a competitive landscape is a great way to visualize how your product differs. What key advantages does your product have over the current options for customers?
Competition Slide Story:
If there are one or two major competitors, you can single out their key disadvantages and provide how your product fills in any gaps. You never want to bash another company during your pitch, so spend most of the time talking about how your product provides a new and more addressable solution.
What to Include on the Team Slide:
The team slide is the best place to brag. What makes you and the other key individuals in your business the perfect team to solve this problem and build a successful business? Make sure you highlight each person’s background and how they contribute to the business.
If there are any positions you’re still looking to fill (investors/mentors/board members included), detail why you need those people and how they will benefit the company in the long run.
Team Slide Story:
How did you meet the other individuals on your team? Find a way to showcase the chemistry and collaboration with a short anecdote or example of a breakthrough you and that person had.
What to Include on the Financials Slide:
Here’s where numbers really make or break a business. Investors want to be sure that your business isn’t going to bankrupt their pockets. Displaying charts of your sales forecast, income statement, and cash flow statement for the coming years is a great way to exhibit your company’s potential.
Investors tend to push back the most on your financial slide. Be realistic with any projections you make and memorize your numbers.
Financials Slide Story:
Listing off numbers doesn’t always make for a great story, but it’s important to do so here to validate the need for your product. If you believe your product is a billion-dollar idea, here’s the chance to tease that confidence (toned down with the facts).
What to Include on the Investment Slide:
Finally, it’s time to make your request. The entire purpose of a pitch deck is to get investors to fund your business. Be clear and concise with your ask. Exactly how much money do you need (not want), what will it be used for, and what’s in it for the investor.
If ownership is more important to you than the money, make that clear on your investment slide. Investors want to know exactly what their role is if they get involved in your business. What goals have you set that you need their help with?
If you already have some investors on board, now is when you should be talking about those other investors and why they chose to invest.
Investment Slide Story:
The story here is to be convincing. If you already have any investments prior to this current pitch – big or little – include that and explain why they chose to invest in your company. End your pitch with confidence, and simply ask the investors if they want to be a part of your startup’s journey to success.
Investors will want to know how you’ll plan to leave the business once you’re done with it. If they’re putting money in, they will expect some type of return. Your exit strategy will outline exactly how you’ll successfully leave the company. This could be a buyout, an IPO, or even passing the reins to the next generation. Sometimes your exit strategy will be included on your financial, traction, or investment slide – but it doesn’t hurt to give its own if you believe it’s an important part of your business’ journey.
For some businesses, having partnerships can be critical to their success. If your business requires a certain distribution method or form of intellectual property licensing, a key strategic partnership should be detailed in your pitch deck.
Similar to key strategic partnerships, any important legal documents like a patent that distinguish/protect your product from others should be mentioned in your deck.
If not included on your “solution” slide, a prototype or demo of your product can be physically presented to give the investors a better idea of what you’re selling. Technically, this isn’t a slide, but they take up time and energy, so make sure you weigh what’s most important during your presentation.
The last part of a perfect pitch deck is being prepared for any questions. Adam Hoffman, founder of CheckTheQ, participated in the 2018 Future Founders Fellowship. Hoffman shared with us what he thinks are the most important questions you should prepare for when pitching to investors:
If you have answers to these questions ready without hesitation, investors will be impressed by your readiness and confidence. And once they run out of questions, you can go ahead and ask the last one: Are you in or are you out?
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