Writing a pitch deck shouldn’t be very tough, yet many founders struggle with it. The confusion seems primarily on the level of detail required and structure of the deck. I hope this post is of some help.
To be sure, this is intended for early-stage startups targeting investors in India. In my experience, decks in the US are quite brief and are largely a peg for the investor-founder conversation. I’ve seen some US investors write fair-sized checks without even looking at a deck (this is anecdotal, so may not be representative). Guy Kawasaki’s 10/20/30 rule of Powerpoint works very well there.
In India, the average investor expectation is of a more detailed document that can work standalone. After having worked with tens of large-check investors and hundreds of small-check investors through Globevestor, I’m quite certain that this is representative. Given that the ecosystem is less mature here, it’s possibly for the best.
With this background, I suggest the following flow of slides for a deck (buildup on an earlier Quora post). Each section should be a single slide, or at max two. Being verbose isn’t advised. Neat slides with enough white-spaces are powerful.
- Elevator pitch: About 20-30 crisp words that describe the venture/ vision. At times phrases like ‘Uber for X’ or ‘OYO for Y’ also work, unless they’re overused already (tip: these two seem to be).
- Problem: What is the problem being solved, for whom? Why don’t current solutions work?
- Solution: What is the solution? Why is it far better than current options?
- Market: Estimated size of the target market. If creating a new market, estimated size in 5-10 years. If successful, can this become really big?
- Milestones: A timeline representing the key milestones till date (historical). To give a sense of the stage the startup is at.
- Business model: How will the solution be delivered? How will money be made while doing it?
- Team: Founders, core team, investors, advisors. Highlight relevant domain/tech/startup experience. Is the team well equipped to build this?
- Traction: How do the key metrics look till date (if any)? Is the startup already delivering big?
- Right to win: Competitive advantage/ differentiator against old & new players. Why will the startup win?
- Plan: Targets for 1 year/ 2 years (whatever is foreseeable). Ideally should at least cover the duration for which your funds are expected to last. Is the team planning to move fast enough and is it practical?
- Fundraise plan: Amount being raised. Commitments till date. How will the funds be used? How much time would they last?
This should make for a compelling story. One could include other slides covering any unique insights, core beliefs, media coverage, and references to read up, only if they add a lot of value to the message.
I’ve helped write decks for some Globevestor portfolio companies in the past few months using the above scheme. Tabulating data on the pre and post response rates from investors on those, it seems a well presented story does make a huge difference.
[Edit 1: In the morning, a friend emailed me a recent CB Insights article about pitch decks of 7 unicorns early on in their journey. They validate some of the above – especially the AirBnB deck.]
[Edit 2: Well, CB Insights ended up mentioning this post in their newsletter. So to make life come full circle, here’s a link to their newsletter archive.]