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Pitch deck for a startup presentation: core slides and their design

Friday, February 26, 2021

The fundraising world lives by its own rules and etiquette. Every now and then potential investors are asked to show various documents from One Pager to Cap Table. Among them is a pitch deck, in other words, the very PowerPoint presentation that we learned to make back in school. But the slides flashing behind your back have a special magic in this case as they can strongly influence the decision to invest in your project. Let’s find out what slides a pitch deck must include and how to compose it!

Startup Jedi

We talk to startups and investors, you get the value.

Pitch and pitch deck — what are these?

Investors are constantly getting to know dozens and hundreds of projects, and the typical format for presenting a startup today is pitch and pitch decks. Pitch is an oral presentation that usually takes a few minutes, the same speech that you will rehearse in front of the mirror counting every second. Pitch deck refers to the visual part of your presentation. These are slides with a short overview of everything you have to say that accompany your presentation, and sometimes turn into an independent tool.

Raising funds is a long process, and pitches are the first stage of it, when the main task is to stand out among other presentations, to interest investors and have a more detailed discussion with them.

Playing fast and loose with the pitch deck and just typing keywords on a gray background is a big mistake that can ruin the whole experience. To begin with, there are pitch decks that you only send by mail, and not present, which means that all slides should be clear without additional explanation. There are also accompanying presentations that complement your pitch, and therefore work for your visual image.

During the long process of fundraising, you will change your pitch deck many times depending on whether you have a speech for 3, 5 or 15 minutes, whether you are doing it as part of a competition or a personal meeting with an investor. But the basis of the presentation should always follow the template and answer all the most important questions that a potential investor is interested in. This will help you present the project in a structured and clear manner, will be the basis for your pitch and will save your presentation if you get confused in front of the audience.

So what slides are a must for any pitch deck?


Pitch deck for a startup presentation: core slides and their design

Pitch deck structure

  • Intro

Let’s start with a warm-up. You literally need to introduce yourself in one sentence and say what kind of project you represent.

  • Problem

The startup is meant to solve a specific problem. It doesn’t have to be global, the main thing is to focus on the most pressing issues of your potential customers, and clearly identify how your product will be useful and why they will buy it. Airbnb’s pitch deck, for example, said: “Hotels leave you out of touch with the city and its culture, and there is no easy way to book a room with locals or become a host.”

Tell your audience how this problem was solved earlier, as well as how you identified the problem. Let’s say you conducted a study among schoolchildren and students and found out that they suffer without ready-made lunch boxes, or your doctor mom keeps repeating how many people a vision screening application would help.

  • Solution

The solution to the problem is your product and now you need to clearly and accurately present it. How will your service solve the problem and make someone’s life better? Why now? A sense of urgency, if any, is a good bargaining chip. How can your idea be scaled? And all this must be placed on one slide with a minimum number of letters so that it is easy to understand. Imagine writing an app description in the App Store: a couple of lines, but you need to explain the idea and convince the user to buy your product.

Avoid overconfident we-are-unique-pioneers kind of claims. Perhaps 10 more founders are currently developing a similar idea. But you must prove that only your approach will lead to success.

  • Business model

Yes, it’s important that your startup makes the world a better place but that’s not enough. Any investor wants to make sure you have a clear idea of ​​how to monetize a product. SaaS, one-time sale, subscription, freemium — define your business model and pricing method. How will you attract customers and what sales channels will you use? This is not the time to avoid talking about money, so you can go down to the most mundane details with no hesitation: what’s the unit price, what is the markup, who pays.

If you have multiple ways or hypotheses for monetization and have little time to pitch, do not try to cover everything at once, highlight the most effective method, but be prepared to elaborate on the rest when answering questions.

  • Market

This is one of the most controversial slides in presentations. His first problem is exaggerating the scale of the market, which undermines your credibility in the eyes of the investor straightaway. The second is the lack of data and statements that are not supported by specific data.

Investors, as a rule, are inclined towards the long term, expecting to get a tenfold or more profit in 5–7 years. Therefore, they need to make sure that the market allows the startup to grow, that is, it is either already big enough or has potential.

There are 2 ways to do market research: top-down or bottom-up. In the first case, you will most likely need third-party research from reputable companies to estimate the total market size. Here it is worth indicating the TAM (Total Addressable Market, the total volume of the target market), SAM (Serviceable Available Market — available market size) and SOM ( Serviceable Obtainable Market, realistically achievable market size). The bottom-up approach adds together all the key variables in your business model for each source of income, and the easiest way to calculate them is to multiply the estimated product price by the total number of potential buyers.

Understand the market share you can count on. Don’t be confused by even single-digit numbers. In certain cases, even a small percentage can guarantee success.

  • Competitors

Bold statements about having no competitors will not help the cause. Even if you don’t see direct competition yet, it’s better to mention indirect competitors as examples than nothing.

The slide should include a short description or title of your competitors. And most importantly, the advantage that makes you competitive. Try to quantify your strengths. It is more efficient to say “40% faster” than “much faster” or “2 times less expensive” than “much cheaper.”

In terms of competition, graph slides are especially popular. For example, two axes “price” and “quality” or a comparison of characteristics in a table where a startup usually gets all the pluses and the rest of the companies are full of minuses. They are easy to read, but be careful with such images, because the characteristics of the company must be considered in conjunction with trends, specifics of the industry and its future. The investor wants to see a clear and holistic understanding of the market situation, and not a subjectively optimistic graph. Sometimes it is more beneficial to focus on what makes you different from the rest and why this feature will definitely work.

  • Team

It is seemingly the simplest presentation slide, which, however, greatly influences the result. How you present your team can lead an investor to three different conclusions. Positive, when the investor believes that you have a unique team that will make any product a success, they are ready to invest in you, even if the project is weaker than others. Neutral, when the composition of the team is neither an obstacle nor the decisive factor, the investor is ready for a deal based on other factors. And negative when the sponsor doubts that your team will do it, even if they like the idea.

If you have 10 or more people in your team, you don’t need to talk about everyone. Indicate the total number and describe the professional background of key employees, especially those of interest to the investor: founders, executive and technical directors, marketing director.

Specific achievement in sales or product development is valued more than university degrees or winning some competitions, so if you have a rewarding experience, focus on it. It is important that the project participants complement each other and the composition of the team is not homogeneous. As cliche as it may sound, the desire to work, team cohesion, competent distribution of responsibilities and an entrepreneurial spirit are very important. And if you have any significant advantage, a skill that distinguishes you favorably, or access to exceptional resources, then be sure to mention them.

  • What’s already there and development dynamics

By this point, you have already told about the project and how you want to bring it to life. Now is the time to prove that this is more than a dream. This slide depends on what stage of development your business is at. If you already have achievements, then tell us about them in detail: sales volume, number of customers, monthly growth. Describe how long the main points of development will take: the idea, prototyping and first sales, that is, show your traction.

In addition, a development plan is important for a startup at any stage. Create a very thoughtful and transparent Roadmap for a year or even several years in advance. This strategic document is important both for the team itself in order to agree on a common development vision, and for the investor who will be able to assess how realistic and ambitious your goals are. You can design a Roadmap in a classic way by putting your achievement points on the time axis.

  • What are you looking for?

Clarity should accompany you to the end of the pitch deck. Common phrases like “looking for funds for product development” or even worse “how much can you give?” spoil the whole experience. You must go to the presentation with a clear understanding of how much money you need and why. Make it clear where exactly the investments will go. Is it office rent, search for new specialists or advertising campaigns for specific market segments? Show that you can predict your cash flow. If you already have investors it’s time to mention them too.

  • Final

Your entire pitch-deck was aimed not only at making a potential investor interested in your idea, but also at encouraging them to invest in it. To do so you should briefly and concisely say the phrase that will not only be remembered, but will also become a vector of further cooperation with you at the end of the presentation. So take some time and come up with your Call-To-Action — a simple, short and dynamic call for an investor to invest!


Pitch deck for a startup presentation: core slides and their design

How to design a pitch deck

  • Let it be beautiful

A designer pitch deck will not guarantee you investments, but boring templates are also unlikely to help raise them. There’re plenty of free templates that will delight the investor’s eye. Here are just a few examples of where to find them.

French site Peetch offers free templates that correspond to the standard pitch deck structure. You’ll find slides with ready-made Roadmap graph templates or those for showing your competitors. The Japanese The Power of PowerPoint has very stylish templates and advanced editing options. There are also ready-made pitch deck layouts for mobile applications, that you can find at Selfone.

  • Fewer letters, bigger font

A text-written slide is old-fashioned, hard to read, and it kills the visual image. Beautiful templates, high-quality pictures, graphics and a minimum amount of text are the best way to present information.

  • Easy-to-read data

It is also better not to overload your graphs and tables. Only show the most important information on the slides.

  • Contacts

Do not forget to include your contacts on the last slide so that interested investors can easily find you if they wish.

  • Your own style

If your startup already has its own corporate identity, make sure to arrange your presentation in accordance with the selected color scheme.

  • Someone else’s experience

Thousands of people before you have already created pitch decks in the hope of raising funding. There are many presentations of companies that have already become giants on the Internet. Look at different pitch decks and slide designs for inspiration, imagine yourself as an investor, and analyse what you don’t like about them.


Pitch deck for a startup presentation: core slides and their design

Golden rules of pitch deck

  • Don’t read

There is a basic rule of thumb in how to reconcile your pitch and pitch deck: never read text from slides. The presentation and your speech should complement each other.

  • Add stories to your pitch deck

Presentations tend to be replete with graphs, important data and catchy messages, in other words, specifics. You can shake up your pitch with stories, some tricks in order to attract attention and present the basic information more interestingly.

  • Reherse

Before speaking, especially if you’re tight on time, practice your speech and how it fits in with the visual presentation. Count how many seconds you can spend on each slide so that half of the pitch deck is not lost as there is no time left for it. Clarity during presentation and expressive speech (which is also worth working on) is an important part of success. By the way, at least for the sake of the experience of performing in front of the public, you should not neglect various startup competitions.

  • Foresee possible questions

Think for yourself and read about the most common questions investors ask. Think about answers to them so as not to panic and get confused, and if any of your slides can help to explain something more clearly, return to them. Be prepared for tricky questions about your hypotheses: all of them must have reasonable, numerical evidence.

  • Don’t go to extremes

Some startups want to talk so much about their idea that they overload the audience with information and the people listening to it simply cannot perceive it anymore. Others, on the contrary, believe that at this initial stage it is too early to say and predict something, leaving the public with no clear image. Try to choose an option in which the investor will extract all the necessary information from the pitch, but will not have time to get tired of you.


Advice for the future

Raising investment is not selling the company, nor is it a competition of who will get across what conditions. It is a complex process of building long-term relationships with an investor that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to both parties. It’s about your dreams of a large company and the investor’s desire to increase your capital. Consider this when preparing for your product presentation.

26 Feb 2021


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