30/04/2021 - 14:00

What pitch decks teach us about business

30/04/2021 - 14:00


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It’s instructive for businesses to examine how their own startup ‘teaser deck’ may look.

What pitch decks teach us about business
Make your pitch perfect, to small groups and large. Photo: Stockphoto

If you were to start your business again – right now – would you be doing all the things you currently do? It’s a question every business owner should be asking themselves, regularly.

Startups get the chance to create a business out of thin air.

It’s exciting, but not without its challenges. Trying to disrupt an existing market and take on incumbents is hard.

However, the Achilles heel of existing businesses is the ways they do business right now.

Startups set out to take these on, reinventing business models and revenue streams, and customer relationships.

If and when a startup pitches for money from investors, they usually have a ‘slide deck’ on hand.

They can whip it out in coffee shops, talk to it in a boardroom setting or email it beforehand to those who may be interested.

The first slide deck startups use when approaching investors and venture capital companies for money is the 10-slide ‘teaser’ or ‘intro’ deck.

The purpose of this deck is not to win investment necessarily, but to get through to the next round, where they can wheel in a longer, in-depth pitch presentation.

Ten slides, that’s it

The 10-slide intro deck will usually be emailed to the potential investor beforehand, in PDF format to keep the file size down and ensure all fonts and graphics are consistent.

This deck will be previewed in about a minute by the potential investor.

VCs can see more than a thousand of these a year, so they will scan it quickly, stopping on anything that jumps out. Golden rule: only have one message and no more than 20 words per slide.

The slides should look professional and tell a story. The deck really is a test: does it captivate the reader?

Does it have understandable, believable logic?

Three most important slides

Not every 10-slide intro deck will be the same, but each one should have the following three slides, and they have to pack a punch:

• Ambition – this slide captures what that startup does; simple, strong and global.

• Team – it’s the team that will either win (or lose); it’s the team the investors are investing in, so the team has to be impressive.

• Traction – numbers, even if small, are better than adjectives; the deck should show growth of users, dollars, or some kind of early validation.

Other slides

The first slide – company name and logo and a one liner – has to make an instant impression.

Next up, there needs to be a clear description of the customer problem being solved, how the startup solves it, why customers will pay (value) and why this team will be the one to pull this off.

A business model slide will show how the business will make money, the size of the first market segment, the total global opportunity and how the business scales. Scalability is what most VCs and investors look for.

There will also be an ‘ask‘ slide – explaining how much they are looking for, and what it will enable them to do.

There should also be a ‘why now?‘ slide. The intent here is: the train is leaving the station, get on it now, or miss out.

The 10 slides

The titles here describe each page’s purpose, they are not to be written as headings. Rather, let the page tell the story, in 10 bite-sized sections.

They are: opening, ambition, problem, solution, business model, why you/team, why now, the ask, use of funds/milestones, closing/why now. If you are thinking about investing in startups, or have attended pitch nights, look out for these elements. If the startup can explain them well, you could be looking at an investment opportunity.

If you are running your own business, how would your own ‘teaser deck’ look? It might be an interesting exercise to run.

• Charlie Gunningham is founder and principal of Damburst, a digital strategy advisory business.


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