Your pitch deck, slide deck or investment deck is the most important tool to get a meeting with an investor. It’s the startup executive summary, which is normally created in Powerpoint or Keynote.
Buffer famously shared their pitch deck on how they raised $500,000. That was nearly 4 years ago so I wanted to give back to the community by sharing our pitch decks that were used to raise over $1,000,000.
Pitch Deck Content
Our pitch deck went through 23 iterations for this investment round as I kept making changes based on investor feedback. Generally your pitch deck should always be changing as your startup evolves.
When creating our deck, we had to convey both sides of our marketplace (buyers and creatives). We followed the format of:
- Opportunity – What big market changes are happening? Why is now the time for your startup matters?
- Problem (demand) – The problem companies have, our demand-side customer.
- Problem (supply) – The problem creatives have, our supply-side customer.
- Solution – How we solve this.
- Solution – A bit more detail on our solution.
- Stats – Supply-side, giving validation of why we matter.
- Stats – Demand-side, our current focus.
- Business model – Simply how we will monetize.
- Route to market – High-level growth plans, more detail given in the appendix.
- Team – Some validation on why we are the team that can pull this off.
- Appendix – more specific details on financials, projections, competition and route to market.
The overall flow is introduction, problem, solution and then validation. You validate the proposition through traction (data, deals, awards or previous investment), your team, the details in your business model and the route to market. Different investors will focus in on different areas. Sneaky tip: you can track how long the investor dwells on a page using DocSend to indicate their interests.
Pitch Deck Design
The first thing I worried about when designing our deck was the content then the style and quality. I felt is was very important to have a well designed deck to make sure we stand out. Luckily I knew just the place to find them – full disclosure, I’m CEO of Twine where you can hire creative freelancers.
Startup investment world is so competitive now, you need to set yourself apart. Though the idea and execution are the most important parts, design still matters. Daniel Eckler, founder of Mylo puts it nicely:
“Compare it to wearing a tie and pressed button up to a job interview: it won’t get you the job, but it will prevent you from having to dig yourself out of the hole a wrinkled tee and cargo shorts would have created.”
Airbnb, MixPanel and Dwolla all had great deck design which helped set them apart. What particularly helped them succeed was that all their decks had a minimal style, with a low amount of text, that was highly visual.
Without further ado, this was the final deck we used.
This isn’t our full deck, I removed 5 sensitive slides in the Appendix: Financials, Projections, and Marketing Strategy. These slides were more detail heavy but still followed the design style.
I won’t list all 23 drafts, but here are our 1st and 12th iterations which gives you an idea of the process. And yes, we used these live with real investors. Just remember to target friendlier or safer targets first.
You can see the design was worked on early in the process but the copy changed a lot. The opportunity slides were completely different because we were still trying to understand where we fit into the wider market and what really resonates with investors. Also, the first iteration was far more text heavy.
In our 12th draft, we reduced the opportunity slides from 2 to 1, changed the traction slides and improved the route to market slide. I still felt the beginning of the deck was weak, which is the most important part. We were too focused on the incumbents in the industry rather than the mega-trends of freelancing and content marketing. Also, our proposition for supply and demand made the 12th draft confusing. Who were were we solving problems for? What were their problems?
We’ve raised $1,100,000 at the time of writing, which by no means make me an expert, but hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes.