In the first instalment of our Founder Series, we covered how to know when you’re ready to seek investment. Once it’s time to start fundraising, you’re going to need a killer pitch deck to capture the interest of potential investors. A strong, visually appealing pitch deck can be the difference between being funded or politely shown the door. But how do you know what to include? And what’s the best way to put it all together?
Make it Simple, Make it Clear
While you’ve spent months if not years inside the business, this is probably your audience’s first introduction to the idea. Lead with a strong, punchy statement that boils your vision down to its core essence. Aim for no more than a Tweet-length sentence that encapsulates why you’re here and your company’s overarching mission.
The exact order of what to include next differs depending on who you ask, but there are a handful of essential elements all potential investors will be expecting to see. Be sure to outline the urgent problem you’re looking to solve in clear terms (the “why now?”). Follow up with your solution (the “why this?”), detailing exactly how you plan to meet this pressing need.
Investors will want to know more about the market you’re in, so give them an overview of who you’re targeting, competitors already in the space, and what competitive advantages you have (what do you do that they don’t?). If you can expand upon the product (possibly via a demo or prototype), demonstrate traction (pick one key metric that showcases consistent growth), and back it all up with solid data (a simple business model, key financials), you’ll be on your way.
Make it Personal
Don’t forget to provide a bit of background about yourself and the key members of your team (relevant experience, significant accomplishments). Backers will be investing in you as much as the idea, so make sure to leave them feeling confident you’ll be able to execute your vision.
Remember you’re not just presenting information; you’re telling a story. If you can demonstrate a clear value proposition while also connecting emotionally with your audience, you stand a far better chance of keeping them engaged through to question time. Perhaps there’s a personal story to how you came about the idea? Injecting a bit of your personality into proceedings will enliven the presentation and help you stick in the mind of the listener. Leverage your existing contacts to act as a test audience to help you refine your pitch and be open to changing your approach in response to feedback.
Give Them the Trailer, Not the Movie
Venture capitalist and best-selling author of “The Art of the Start”, Guy Kawasaki, preaches something called the ‘10/20/30 rule’. Simply, that presentations should consist of ten slides, last no more than twenty minutes, and contain no font smaller than thirty points. While this is by no means a rigid rule (the average pitch deck runs 38 slides), it’s an easy way of quantifying that “less is more”.
Keep things brief, don’t clutter up your slides with too much text, and stick to the highlights. If your audience wants more detail they can ask for it during the Q&A, find it in the appendix after (always prepare supplementary documents that offer a more detailed overview that you can leave behind if requested), or discuss it at your next meeting. Your goal when pitching to an audience for the first time isn’t to get funded – it’s to get to that next meeting.
By clearly outlining your vision, giving a broad overview of everything investors want to see, keeping it brief, making it personal, making it visual, and practicing until it’s perfect, your pitch deck will be in excellent shape. For inspiration, here’s AirBnB’s original pitch deck, along with templates prepared by Peter Thiel and Google.
We’ll be back next month with another edition in our Founder Series, exploring how and where to find VC’s, and the challenges of fundraising in New Zealand.