Reviewing pitch decks is one of my favorite ways to help founders and entrepreneurs convincing investors of investing in their company- or at least have a talk with them.
The experience I have gained by reviewing dozens of decks has helped me to build better products for Basetemplates, offer better services for entrepreneurs and understand the problems founders have during their fundraising process better.
With this blog post, I will share the most important takeaways from reviewing pitch decks. By doing so, I hope to help as many founders as possible with their creation of a stunning, on-point pitch deck.
Why investors won't even bother reading your pitch deck
If you force me to suggest how many founders fail to tell a story with their pitch deck, I would say 8 out of 10.
You may wonder why this is. In my opinion, it is because building a pitch deck is for most founders a necessary evil they need to create while trying to reach certain stages during their business careers.
However, a pitch deck is not something that is built quickly, or easily. Founders need to approach the task of building a deck seriously and with the intent to knock investors off their stool.
By doing so, you need to nail the content- and the design of the pitch deck.
To nail the content of the deck you need to be aware of how to structure a great story. And you now may wonder if I tell you the structure; yes I will!
The first thing you will read of a good story is its title. If the title is not appealing to you, you have zero interest or motivation in starting to read the story. The same goes for many pitch decks I have reviewed. Their titles slides had no interesting title, no claim that raises my attention, and did not set the tone for the next slides to come.
So if you want to create a great title slide to start your story right you need:
- Select a title that makes a statement
- Undermine the title with a catchy claim that leaves some question marks above the investors' heads
- DO NOT USE STOCK PHOTOS
Imagine you want to read a book. You go to the bookstore (or Amazon) and read through the titles of the books in front of you. Guess how many books will remain placed on the shelf and will never find their way into your hands.
The same goes for pitch decks that will pop up in an investors' inbox. You just can not imagine how many pitch decks an average-known investor receives a day. You can imagine that if your deck does not stand out in that inbox, it is likely to be ignored and not even opened.
If you were able to drag the investors' attention, it is now your task to keep him interested in reading your deck until the very last slide. To do so, you need to keep the story going.
Let's stay with the book example. After reading the title of the book you skew it and read the blurb, which' goal is to drag you into the story of the book so you choose to buy it.
In our case, the problem slide is our blurb, which comes right after the title slide. You now really want to start the story by stating the main problem you want to address with your startup/idea.
I highly recommend you state your problem within one sentence. If you can not boil it down to one sentence, how do you imagine will your customers be able to understand the problem you are solving for them quickly? A customer won't give you much time to convince him or her of being the one who has the right solution for his exact problem. Neither do investors have enough nerves left to read a five sentence long problem slide.
It is said that you have something between 7 and 10 seconds to convince investors of a certain statement you are making. But, if the investor needs the 7 to 10 seconds to think about what exactly the problem is you are trying to solve he will click the x-button on the top right corner (for Mac users: top-left corner ) in no time and you will be forgotten within a minute.
This is so important and I can not stress it enough: Boil. it. down. Let's do a task. Think about what Blinkist founder Holger Steim might have written on the problem slide. Really, take a second before reading on!
Are you done? I can imagine it was something like: "95% of the time reading a Book is wasted time". And now try to imagine what an investor's reaction would be after he/she has read this statement. It would certainly not be something like: "Ah, hell no. This is insane, I will not read on". I guess it was something like: "How dare he is to make such a statement. Why would he ever come up with such a bold claim? Let me see how he solves the problem of wasting so much time."
And if you haven't done it yet: Open a notepad and only close it, if you were able to find a one-sentence-problem statement that fits your idea best.
Now that you have a highly curious investor reading your deck, you knock his socks off.
He is interested in what you are doing. He understands the problem you are solving, it is now time to get the story started. It is time to present your solution.
Your solution is the product you are building or want to build in the future. It does not necessarily need to be revolutionary or something brand new. It is more important that it really solves the problem to 100% you stated the slide before.
Often, founders tend to overdramatize this part of their deck. They stuff this slide with testimonials and claims to undermine the product they have built. But this is not the right place to do so. It is time to fully reveal what you are working on.
If it is a SaaS: present screenshots. If it is a physical product: present pictures. Teach your investors why your product is the right one that solves the problem AND is the right one to invest in.
Your solution can be seen as the hero of a great story. The hero is always charismatic, admirable, and strong. There is, at first sight, no doubt that he will save everyone involved and is the right person to root for.
Give your potential investor the feeling of missing out, if he decides to not invest. In modern language, this is called FOMO- Fear of missing out. If you can create FOMO with your problem and solution slide, then you have already won.
Now that your investor knows about what you are trying to achieve, he wants to know who are the people behind the product and how much money he can make by investing in your and your startup.
This part of the deck is like a mating dance. You already have a dancing partner who is willing to dance, now you have to convince him of being the right one to mate with. (Yes, this is getting a little weird right now- but I am in deep love with this topic.)
To do so, you need to present him/her a proper market and team slide. The goal of the market slide is to give insights into, yes- this is obvious but many founders fail to do so-, the market you are moving in. Now you have to do a lot of research to present the TAM, TOM, TIM, TUM, SOM, SIM, SAM and PIM POM PAM. Nah, I am just kidding. You only need the TAM, SAM and SOM. (I really do not like these abbreviations, especially in conversations. People standing by without having the startup-knowledge always have this certain look on their faces when you start talking like a berlin-tech-food-healthcare-founder that freshly graduated from college and having read "Lean Startup" for the 5th time).
And when I say that you have to do the research, you should do the research. While reviewing decks I have often seen Phantasie numbers being placed on this slide. Within a couple of seconds, an investor will lose all the trust in the founder he was successfully gaining while reading the last couple of slides.
If you can not come up with the right number, ask someone who can help your, or simply do not include this slide.
However, if you were able to show the real numbers and your Serviceable Obtainable Market is big enough, chances are good that an investor will get in contact with you.
And for the case that he is still interested in your pitch deck at this point, he will most likely want to know who you are and how much money you need.
The biggest mistakes founders do on the Team slide is to stuff way too many information on this slide. Remember, the pitch deck is a tool to present your idea and yourself briefly. Give just enough information to keep the investor interested. Therefore he does not need to know when you left primary school or how many startup contests you have participated in over the last two years. Instead- give three slices of information about yourself and your team that show the investors why you are the right people to build an amazing product and an amazing company. All the other details you really want to tell your investor about Tom, who was just able to write the main code of your product within two weeks, can be told in one of the meetings that will be scheduled after the investor has finished reading the deck.
One last thing, many founders fail to nail, is to ask for the right amount of money. I have seen tech startups that asked for 200k and wanted to create a 12-month runway with this money, which is simply impossible. They just failed to do the necessary research about how much four great full-time developers cost. So my advice is: If you ask for a certain amount of money, you need to present how the funds will be spent. And if you do not know how much a go-to-market marketing strategy costs, try to ask someone who might know.
As already said, investors see hundreds of pitch decks each month and they immediately recognize if someone has not put in the work to present the right numbers.
So take the creation of your pitch deck seriously. It is not just another presentation in science class you already held several times before. You are now asking for money from successful businessmen and businesswomen. Put in the work.