I tell my clients that a pitch deck is like a first date. The goal of a first date is to get the second date. This means you want to give enough information to hook the investors. The best outcome of a first pitch is to have the investors walk away from the meeting wanting to learn more about you. Many founders fall into the trap of thinking that getting a meeting with a big VC means this is the one shot and they need to cram as much information as they can into their pitch. Just as you wouldn’t read off your resume on a first date, no investor wants to hear a Wikipedia-esque rundown of a startup. It may be impressive, but it’s still boring.
My guidelines for a pitch deck are exactly that – guidelines. But overall, following this layout will answer the big questions for investors while leaving them wanting more.
First and foremost, keep your pitch deck to 12-15 pages. Everyone has a limit to their attention span. I’ve found that for investors in a pitch meeting, that’s about 12-15 slides. Beyond that, you start to see people around the table start to check their phones, look out the window, etc.
1. Pain Point – What is the unmet need that your company can solve? Every successful company identifies a pain point and proposes a way to fix it.
2. Your solution/the product/the service – Explain the core of your company in an easy to understand, succinct way.
3. The Market (could include competition) – Who else is doing the same thing?
4. Why you & why now – And why is your solution better than everyone else? Why are you the best person for this?
5. Revenue/Business Model – How are you going to make money?
6. Timeline/Milestones – How long will it take for you to be successful, and how will you measure success?
7. Financials – What are your expenses? How much money have you raised? How much do you have in the bank right now?
8. The Ask – How much do you need? And how long will that money last?
9. Founder Bios/Team – Who are the key people?
One slide per topic should be enough. Depending on your company or your industry, you might need an extra page on some of these items which will get you to the 12-15 slide goal. Beyond that, other options for slides that can be included where appropriate include ones on competition, vision for 5-10 years down the line, traction, marketing/sales strategy, exit strategy, partnerships, demos/screenshots, other documentation (patents, etc).