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Startup Pitch Deck 101: What You Need to Have in Your Pitch Deck

December 11, 2018

12 Min Read
Startup Pitch deck
Reading Time: 12 minutes

Once you’ve turned your big idea into a business, and started working to make this business profitable, the next big thing you should do is to seek funding.

How do you seek funding?

With a successful Startup Pitch deck!

What is a Pitch Deck?

A pitch deck is a set of slides that the startup founders typically use in presentations to convince potential investors about their startup business idea. It is important that your pitch deck is convincing and persuasive. But, your pitch deck doesn’t need to be difficult, and there are lots of benefits in doing this work, while you’re still getting started.

To help you create a pitch deck for startup in the correct way, we have developed this simple guide that lays out the process of building your startup pitch deck easily.

Why You Need a Pitch Deck for Startup?

You might be skimming over this and wondering whether you even need a pitch deck for startup. What if you’re not looking for investment just yet? Do you still need a startup pitch deck?

The answer is YES! A startup pitch deck is not just for investors. There are lots of reasons to spend some time going through the exercise – and thinking involved while preparing a pitch deck for startup – in a way that tells your story.

For example;

a. A Pitch Deck Clarifies Your Thinking

There have been numerous times when I’ve thought that I had a clear strategy in my head, and it was only when I put it down in words and images that I realized that it wasn’t as solid as I had thought.

Thinking about your startup from an outside perspective helps you find flaws and opportunities in your plan. It also helps you address the areas that you may not have focused on yet. We all have our blind spots that we tend to prioritize. The discipline of putting together a pitch deck forces you to think through all key areas including; finances, sales, human resources, processes, product development, etc.

b. A Pitch Deck Can Help Attract Co-Founders or Partners

You might have a great idea, but are you going to do it alone? If you want to convince a professional person to join you in building your startup, you need to pull out all stops. Quality people usually have lots of options available to them, so anything you can do to impress them is worth the effort!

Even if you already have partners or co-founders in place, preparing a pitch deck will help make sure that you all are on the same page. Plus, it is likely to make your vision more concrete and help you stay motivated – something that you may need during the difficult times.

Guide to Find a Co-founder Who is Right For Your Startup?

c. A Pitch Deck Can Convince the Best Candidates to Work for You

Likewise, the success of your startup will depend greatly on the first employees you hire. If you can’t afford to pay top salaries, your only option is to sell them the dream! Your pitch deck will help you put together the story that can convince them to start working for you, and keep them motivated and working hard.

d. A Pitch Deck Helps Sign Deals

Either you’re selling to enterprises or consumers, or maybe you’re negotiating partnership agreements, you’ll definitely need to convince others that your business is the one they should choose. Once you have a great pitch deck of your startup in hand, there’s a high likelihood that some of the key slides, images or data will end up being a central part of your sales pitch. Obviously, you’ll need to do some customizing for each particular audience, but the core story will already be in place – making your sales process a lot easier.

e. Yes, a Pitch Deck Is Also for Potential Investors

Of course, the original purpose of a pitch deck is to present to investors and convince them to invest in your startup. It’s usually the thing that gives investors the first impressions of your business.

You might not need or want the funding now, but often when you do, you’ll be under a time constraint. It’s better to do the leg-work now and get your pitch deck in order.

Things to Include in Your Startup Pitch Deck

There are many different opinions about what should and shouldn’t go into your startup pitch deck. Our advice to potential startups is to follow the standard format that investors tend to favor.

“Follow the most standard format that investors are expecting to see.”

This will ensure that you cover off all sections and then you can customize different versions of these for other purposes.

Let’s get into the finer details. Here’s what you need to include in your startup pitch deck.

Startup pitch deck

Source:t3n

1) Company Overview

This should be a concise version of your start-up story that tells the viewer the industry you’re operating in; the customer you’re addressing; and the problem you seek to solve. If someone only reads this one page, they should understand the general idea of your startup.

2) Mission / Vision of the Company

Here’s where you want to inspire your audience about the big problem that your startup is going to solve. Show and tell them about how you will grow your business and how it will look in the next five or 10 years’ time. Don’t forget the social impact your business will make on the world to make it a better place (or at least improve things for your customers).

The vision of the business can also be thought of like your elevator pitch. It should be compelling, but concise enough to become a memorable sound-bite that your audience will remember a long time after you finish your presentation.

3) The Team

For many investors, the quality of the team is the most important factor they tend to focus on. Matt Barrie, CEO of Freelancer Limited, has famously said; “An A Grade Team with a B grade idea will always beat a B grade team with an A Grade idea”, and he’s not alone in believing this.

Provide biographies and photos for each of your co-founders, key employees, and any mentors or partners you have. If your team hasn’t previously built successful businesses, find ways to emphasize their persistence, determination, ambition, and creative approaches to problem-solving through other projects or endeavors they’ve been involved with.

4) The Problem

Describe why your startup needs to exist. Paint the picture of someone in your target market experiencing the problem your startup will address. Provide enough details and color to make it seem important and relatable.

5) The Solution

With the scene of the problem now set, explain how your startup will save the day. Think of yourself as a movie director – what happens from the perspective of your troubled customer? How does their situation change with your solution? What difference have you made? Again, make it relatable to your audience.

6) The Market Opportunity

Here’s where you define the size of the market. How many people or businesses are there with this problem that’s not currently being addressed in a satisfactory manner? Is your startup limited to just your state or country, or are their opportunities in other places as well?

Of course, the idea here is to convince your audience that the market opportunity is huge.

7) The Product or Service

What exactly are you planning to sell? Explain what it will look like when it’s delivered to your customers. How will they experience your product? What features and benefits will the product have that can make the lives of your customers more comfortable?

For this section, you’ll usually want to include some visuals to show how your product will look and give your audience an idea of how the features will work.

8) The Target Market

You’ve already described a scenario of someone using your product or service, but now it’s time to get into the details about the types of customers your product is targeting. You should aim to describe your target market in terms of both demographics (eg age, sex, family stage, location, income), and also psychographics (eg personality, interests, values, attitudes, and lifestyle). Think about what defines a certain type of person as a potential customer for your business and aim to define them with as many points as possible.

If your customer base is businesses, then you also need to describe your target market in terms of the types of businesses you’re aiming to serve. For instance, what industry they are operating in, how big is the business, how old is the business (eg startups or established businesses), and what is the business positioning (eg high quality or best value)?

You also need to describe your target buyer within the business. You might want to use the guidelines above, but at a minimum, you should include their position and their department.

9) Technology

If you are offering a ‘technical’ product, you should also provide an outline of the technology behind the product. For software, this will normally include a description of the technology stack and hosting infrastructure. Provide insight into why you’ve made those decisions as well.

10) The Market Competition

Of course, you’re not operating in a vacuum so you also need to demonstrate a good understanding of your competitors. Describe the competitive landscape – is it highly fragmented or dominated by a few major players? List your top competitors and give a brief overview of their strengths and weaknesses. Then explain why there are still opportunities in the market for your startup.

Beware of falling into the trap of saying you have no competitors. Even if you’re creating a brand new category, customers are still using alternatives to solve the same problem now. For example, spreadsheets are a competitor to many new software products.

11) Traction

Apart from the team, if there’s one area of your pitch deck that stands out, then that’s where you describe the traction you’ve already gained. Ideally, this is where you wow your audience with figures about how quickly your startup has won users and/or customers.

Even if you haven’t got actual customers yet, think of a way to show serious interest in your product (eg. “50% of survey respondents said they would order”, or “organic traffic is growing at 10% per month”). You can also include some testimonials from customers or stories about some specific customer journeys that highlight how well your product is doing in the market.

12) Business Model

The business model section is not as complicated as it sounds – it simply describes how the business will make money. For example, will you have a freemium offer for certain users and then charge in tiers for bigger users? Or, maybe you’re charging consulting fees or putting customers onto a retainer for an agreed amount of work.

If you have pricing mapped out, you should include it in your business model slide.

13) The Marketing Plan

Your marketing plan section should describe how you’re planning to get your product in front of your target market. How will they find out about it? What will convince them to try it out? What will ensure that they have a good experience and continue using it?

Most of the times, you must map out the marketing plans in stages. For example, you might start with reaching out to your personal networks and posting in targeted social media groups. Then, you might move to focus on SEO, content marketing, and even paid marketing campaigns. Lastly, when you have reached sustainability, focus on direct marketing.

14) Financials

If you have historical financial records, include a summary of these here. Keep this to a high level as the idea is not to provide too much detail in a pitch deck. Simply include your revenues, gross profits, and net profits, on a month-by-month basis. Then include some notes to explain the main cost items and any unusual fluctuations.

You also need to include some financial projections. You might want to provide some different scenarios here – e.g. conservative, expected, potential. This shows your audience that you have thought through some differences in outcomes and the business is not relying on the incredible growth in order to survive.

If your business has received prior funding, taken on loans, or there is an unusual split of equity, you should also include a balance sheet. For many startup businesses, this can be irrelevant as there are essentially no assets or liabilities, so a simple sentence describing the equity split will suffice.

15) Investment Required and Use of Funds

If you are seeking funding, this is where you put a number on the investment level you require.

Be specific about the investment you require and the equity you are ready to give to the investor in return for the investment.

Depending on your negotiating position, you might also want to specify the number of equity points that investment level will buy and any particular conditions around the arrangement.

You should also provide details of how that funding will be used and the expected financial result at that stage of the business. Include more detailed projections of your expenses needed to grow the business.

Startup Funding: 10 Best Sources and How to Get it!

16) Exit strategy

Of course, investors will also want to know how and when they can expect to see a return on their investment. You need to be specific about your intentions for an exit. Do plan to sell the business? IPO? Or something else?

Include the timelines and a range of forecast returns you expect to receive for your startup.

Startup Pitch Deck Preparation Hints

In addition to the guidelines mentioned above, also check your pitch deck to ensure that:

  • You include appropriate images and graphics to help communicate your message clearly.
  • Have someone with an eye for design do some edits to ensure it presents your business in a professional light. Obviously, fonts, colors, and all styles should be consistent throughout the deck and also with your brand.
  • If possible, pair your pitch deck with an actual in-person demonstration of your product. Show your audience what it’s really like.
  • Include a confidentiality statement as a footer on each page. For example; “Confidential and Proprietary. Copyright (c) by [Name of Company]. All Rights Reserved.”
  • If you are sending your pitch deck ahead of time, convert it to a PDF file format and send it as an email. Asking potential investors to download it from Dropbox or Google Drive is not showing them appropriate respect.
  • When planning your meeting to present your pitch deck, ensure that you allow plenty of time for questions and follow-up discussions. This is often where the real magic happens.

Avoid These Mistakes While Making a Startup Pitch Deck

While keeping all of the above points in focus, also beware of the following traps:

  • Don’t make your pitch deck too long. Even though your startup is fascinating, everyone has a limited attention span. Your pitch deck should not be more than 25 slides – and shorter is even better.
  • And no, this doesn’t mean using a small font and cramming more onto each page. Do the hard work of condensing your messages.
  • Don’t go overboard with detailed financials (or details of any section). If required, you can add these as an appendix section that you can send in the email, or more likely, addressed this part in a follow-up meeting.
  • Ensure you don’t use industry-specific jargon that your audience may not understand.
  • Don’t underestimate or dismiss your competitors. This is a sure sign of naivety.

Best Startup Pitch Deck Examples for Success

So that’s all well and good, but what does a startup pitch deck actually look like? Glad you asked! Here are the five best startup pitch deck examples that have clearly worked before.

  • Startup Pitch Deck Example 1: Facebook’s Original Pitch Deck


Facebook Pitch Deck from startuphome

A powerful story that does a great job of demonstrating the traction that Facebook already had by this stage. Their concise yet compelling description of the market on slide 13 is something to admire. Plus, they do a great job of convincing the audience with quotes from the press scattered throughout the presentation.

  • Startup Pitch Deck Example 2: AirBnB’s Original Pitch Deck


AirBnB Pitch Deck from Malcolm Lewis

Throughout this pitch deck, AirBnB utilized visuals in an extremely effective manner. There are not many words on each page, yet the reader is clear about the message.

  • Startup Pitch Deck Example 3: LinkedIn’s Pitch Deck for its Series B Round


Linkedin Series B Pitch Deck from Joseph Hsieh

This was created in 2004 so it’s interesting to see how it’s dated, but it also shows an incredibly strong deck. The vision described on slide 9 is extremely compelling, and the traction demonstrated on slide 11 is enough to convince most investors to go ahead.

  • Startup Pitch Deck Example 4: SEOMoz Pitch Deck


Moz Pitch Deck from Alexander Jarvis

Although this pitch deck has got some detail, it is like watching a movie. Their creative use of the little cartoon character helps the viewer know where they’re up to and tells the story of Moz.

  • Startup Pitch Deck Example 5: We Work Pitch Deck


WeWork Series D Pitch Deck ($355M Raised) from startuphome

Here is a recent example of a fantastic pitch deck. This one is data-heavy but each slide uses a descriptive headline and clean graphics to allow the viewer to just skim and get a high-level view, or to take more time and delve into the details.

This template is a great example of how stylish, clear graphics can enhance your pitch deck and make it a pleasure to view.

Tips to Create a Pitch Deck for Startups

1. Tell a Story

Craft your pitch deck so that it flows like a story as you read through it. Each slide should stand alone to present one aspect of the business, but together, the messages should flow to take your audience on a journey. By the end of this journey, your pitch deck should excite them to know more about your business and how they can be a part of it.

2. Keep it Simple

You probably have a lot to explain about your business but remember that your pitch deck is not the place for details. The job of the pitch deck is to get you to the next meeting – so keep your message strong, but simple. Make your points and then be open to providing more detailed information for subsequent meetings.

3. What’s in it for them

Remember to emphasize the benefits your potential investor (or partner, employee, co-founder) is likely to get if they get involved with your business. Finish strongly with a good story that explains the equity arrangements and likely returns.

Remember!

A best startup pitch deck is worth the effort it takes to develop. Once you are done with it, you’ll see that you can use the slides in different scenarios. Start developing your pitch deck today – enroll the support of your colleagues and make it a team effort.

Good luck!

Disclaimer: This is a guest post by Fiona Adler, Founder of Actioned – a new team productivity tool. She likes to write about entrepreneurship at DO THE THINGS

Related Articles:
Startup Funding Stages: Seed to IPO Explained for Beginners
Find a Co-founder Who is Right For Your Startup

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Fiona Adler

Fiona Adler writes about entrepreneurship at DoTheThings.com and is the founder of Actioned.com - a new team productivity tool. With an MBA, multiple business successes, and a family living in a foreign country, she enjoys pushing the envelope to get the most out of life and loves helping others do the same.

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