Fundraising pitch decks

Two pair of legs shot in frist person view stopped at letter written on boardwalk: passion led us here.

Why the team should be always slide no. 1 on fundraising decks

Looking back on the fundraising decks I saw in the past, they're pretty much standardized in a more or less order like this one: cover, problem, solution, competition, business projection, (traction, proof of concept), timings, team & contact. Is this still the way it should be done?

Team slide first

Times are changing, in many parts of the world the demographics and steady growth of AI challenges the existing entrepreneurial business models and team setup. It's difficult to get a functional team together. I believe we should focus the emphasis on the team, their commitment, problem solving skills, ability to pivot, outside the box thinking, intrinsic resilience, paired with curiosity. Ideas, timing and enough funding are great assets, but the team has to solve the problems and challenges, develop the strategy and drive operations. Teams with a complementary set of skills usually do great, especially if they know each other for some time or had time to bond in the past without compromising on their ability to analytical decision making.

Proof of concept, traction

The traction deck should stay up the front as well, especially if it ships a strong proof of concept set of data. If you don’t have that much traction, you need some credible evidence why one can believe that your company will be the best. Failing on traction a combination of team, team's past track records, current distribution and in best case additional unique assets can make the pitch successful by pointing out a unfair advantage against the competition. If you didn't launched yet, this isn't the way it'll work, obviously. But you can build a narrative with the latter.

The full story

There are many ways to then present the full story of the business. There are some pitfalls to avoid in each area:

  • Team: By this point, you should already introduced the team crisp and short. If the investor is interested, they will want to know about the team, so it’s worth spending a couple of minutes on the founders’ backgrounds, highlighting any special talents or experiences that make them well-suited to building the business.
  • Pain: Be very clear about the problem you are solving. For consumer concepts, talk about user needs; for enterprise ideas, show a detailed understanding of your customer’s pain. If you cannot convince an investor there’s something broke, they will not be interested in a solution.
  • Solution: It’s not possible every time (e.g. for infrastructure software), but whenever you can, a demo is worth a thousand words. Failing that, screenshots and the workflow to bring the solution alive.
  • Market size: If it’s a new market, the best way to tackle this is to explain how many users or customers there are for the product/service, how this number grows over time, and how much each of these users/customers is worth (this last part is a chance to cover pricing/revenue model). If it’s a replacement market, for example where software is automating an existing service, then explain how big the existing market is today and how much you expect your solution to shrink it, through lower prices. One thing not to do is to put up huge numbers from some market study without any details behind them.
  • Competition: Better to identify all the competitors than have the investors discover them afterwards. That way, you can proactively explain how you are different.
  • Financials: It’s easy to lose yourself in the numbers. We suggest keeping it simple and just showing on a timeline how you would spend the money (e.g., headcount) to achieve specific milestones (e.g., launching the service).

Short and crisp, the pitch deck by the numbers

  • Slide 0: Cover
  • Slide 1: Team overview, quick rundown on past track record
  • Slide 2: Company, product, services
  • Slide 3: Track record, proof of concept
  • Slide 4–5: Market, competition, USP (unfair advantage)
  • Slide 6–8: Plans (product, growth, financial metrics) on how to win
  • Slide 9: Next steps and timings
  • Slide 10: The wish list (funding, network, what else?)
  • Slide 11+: Appendix with in depth numbers, analytics down to micro level, extended team information, etc.

An interesting article by Alejandro Cremades deals with the structure of a template for pitch decks by investor Peter Thiel.