MaRS Library How to create a pitch deck for investors
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Your pitch deck:
- Is a key communication tool that helps potential investors decide whether or not to continue evaluating your business opportunity.
- Should cover 10 core areas, with the goal to engage the investors enough that they take another step with you.
- Should follow the 10/20/30 rule and fit with your business plan (but not regurgitate it).
“For an entrepreneur, life’s a pitch!”—Guy Kawasaki
The pitch deck (also known as a slide deck or pitch slide deck ) is the first communication tool to help you raise money with a potential investor. The content of the pitch deck, along with your presentation, can help the investor to determine whether or not to continue evaluating your business opportunity.
Guy Kawasaki’s pitch deck template
This table, from Guy Kawasaki’s The Art of the Start, summarizes the key information that should be included in the initial pitch deck. Remember the “10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint”—10 slides, 20 minutes and no font smaller than 30 point.
|Title||Include your business’s name, your name and title, and contact information.||The investor can read the slide—cut to the chase and summarize what you do (for example, we sell software, we protect the environment). Open simply with, “This is my company and this is what we do.” You want to get investors thinking about the potential for your company and the size of the market.|
|Problem||Explain your investors the pain that you’re alleviating. The goal is to get everyone nodding and buying in.||Avoid looking for a solution that is searching for a problem. Minimize or eliminate citations of consulting studies about the future size of the market.|
|Solution||Describe how you alleviate this pain and the meaning that you make. Ensure that the audience clearly understands what you sell and your value proposition.||This is not the place for an in-depth technical explanation. Provide just the gist of how you fix the pain.|
|Business model||Explain how you make money—who pays you, your channels of distribution and your gross margins.||In general, a unique, untested business model is a scary proposition. If you truly have a revolutionary business model, explain it in terms of familiar ones. This is your opportunity to drop the names of organizations that are already using your product or service.|
|Underlying magic||Describe the technology, secret sauce or magic behind your product or service.||Aim for less text and more diagrams, schematics and flowcharts on this slide. White papers and objective proofs of concepts are helpful here.|
|Marketing and sales||Explain how you will reach your customer and your marketing leverage points.||Convince the audience that you have an effective go-to-market strategy that will not break the bank.|
|Competition||Provide a complete view of the competitive landscape. Too much is better than too little.||Never dismiss your competition. Everyone—customers, investors and employees—wants to hear why you’re good, not why the competition is bad.|
|Management team||Describe the key players on your management team, board of directors and board of advisors, as well as your major investors.||Do not be afraid to show up with less than a perfect team. All startups have holes in their team—what’s truly important is whether you understand that there are holes and you are willing to fix them.|
|Financial projections and key metrics||Provide a three- to five-year forecast containing not only dollars but also key metrics, such as number of customers and conversion rate.||Do a bottom-up forecast. Include long sales cycles and seasonality. Making people understand the underlying assumptions of your forecast is as important as the numbers you’ve fabricated.|
|Current status, accomplishments to date, timeline and use of funds||Explain the current status of your product or service, what the near future looks like and how you’ll use the money you’re trying to raise.||Share the details of your positive momentum and traction. Then use this slide to close with a bias toward action.|
Your pitch deck should fit in with your business plan, but is not simply a regurgitation of the plan. Consider using a whiteboard to scope out the content of the slides rather than jumping right in with PowerPoint or Keynote. Make sure that the content flows well.
The ten slides outlined in the table above provide the core content for any pitch deck. The goal of the first meeting using the pitch deck is to engage the investors sufficiently such that they take the next step with you.
The next step could involve doing further due diligence, referring you to another investor or introducing a strategic partner. If the investor is not willing to invest any further in the opportunity (either within their own firm or by opening their Rolodex to help you), do not expect any additional feedback.
Tips for building a good pitch deck
- Do not include slide after slide about your technology.
- Avoid making statements commonly heard by all investors, such as, “If we get one percent of the total market we will be successful” or “We will have first-mover advantage.”
- The rules of 10/20/30 apply to all aspects of pitching when building your business as an entrepreneur, such as making sales, creating partnerships, hiring employees or convincing suppliers to sell to you.
- Remember, for an entrepreneur, “Life’s a pitch!”
- Guy Kawasaki on the “10/20/30 rule”
- Perfecting Your Pitch
- The Art of the Start
- David S. Rose on how to pitch to a VC
- Garr Reynolds’ presentation tips
- Garr Reynold’s organization and preparation tips
- Rose Tech Ventures’ “Notes from the Pitch Coach”
- TED Talks
Summary: The content of your pitch deck should convey certain core information and follow the
10/20/30 rule—this will help potential investors decide whether or not to continue evaluating your business opportunity.
Kawasaki, G. (2004). The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide for Anyone Starting Anything. Toronto: Penguin Canada.
Kawasaki, G. (2008). Reality Check: The Irreverent Guide to Outsmarting, Outmanaging, and Outmarketing Your Competition. Toronto: Penguin Canada.