Posted on
April 20, 2020
~
min read

Unicorn Pitch Decks You Have to Study before Creating Yours

Maximilian Fleitmann
CEO of BaseTemplates

With these unicorn pitch decks, founders have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. We took a closer look at these unicorn pitch decks and wanted to share our learning with you!

However, these decks may no longer be the best how you should style your presentation today as they mainly come from the 00s. Expectations have changed. Design guidelines have evolved, and investors love to see visually stunning slides.

Yet the slide decks featured below are beautiful examples of how far delivering one great pitch can take you on your journey of being an entrepreneur.

Airbnb Pitch Deck

Raised $600,000 in seed round from Sequoia Capital in 2009

Company Overview:
Airbnb is one of the world's largest marketplaces for listing and finding accommodations of local hosts all around the world. It is estimated to be worth about $38 billion.

Airbnb aims to solve three major problems that come with "standard" traveling.

  • The price of renting Hotel accommodations is too high
  • People staying in Hotels can hardly connect with the culture they are surrounded by
  • Booking accommodation is too complicated


Since the foundation of Airbnb in 2008, it made its service available in more than 191 countries. Until today more than 60million people have used the service in over 34.000 cities.

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • You have to solve problems people can relate to - Airbnb is build for the purpose of solving clear and simple problems investors and many others can relate to.
  • Present simple solutions - Airbnb managed to present their solutions in a simple and comprehensible way.
  • Favorite Slide: 8 - Slide 8 of Airbnb's pitch deck demonstrates the company's scalability, which seems almost endless. Reoccuring events like the Oktoberfest, the Fifa world cup, business conferences, or cultural festivals undermine Airbnb's field of application.
If you want to create a great product, just focus on one person. Make that one person have the most amazing experience ever. - Crian Chesky, Airbnb Co-Founder & CEO

WeWork Pitch Deck

Raised $355 million in Series A from Goldman Sachs, T. Rowe Price and Wellington Management in 2014

Company Overview: WeWork is one of the hottest startups of the last decade. While not merely building workspaces, WeWork is creating places where people come together not just to work but to have a great time.

Adam Neumann and Miguel McKelvey, the founders of WeWork, had one thing in common: they grew up in unique surroundings. While Adam grew up in an Israeli Kibbutz, Miguel grew up in a commune on the American west coast.

Both share the same childhood experiences of communal lunches and activities. No surprise, these experiences have become part of WeWork's business model: Together, one is less alone.

You can already notice in WeWork's pitch deck from 2014 that this company is on the road to success. But who would have thought that a "coworking space" will have a revenue of $1.82 billion in 2018, over 15.000 employees, and continuously growing 100%?

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • Design matters - If you compare the pitch deck of Airbnb with the pitch deck of WeWork, you will notice a significant improvement in pitch deck design. While Airbnb created a pitch deck that was "just" made of bullet points, WeWork chose a more stylistic approach to present their business. Thus you are more likely to find modern fonts, icons with meanings, and staged pictures of their venues in WeWork's pitch deck.
  • Favorite Slide: 10 - Having a value proposition in written form is one thing. Having a value propostion proven by numbers will get you funded.
If your business is the right business, then money will never be an issue. -Adam Neumann, WeWork Co-Founder

LinkedIn

Raised $10 million in Seed B round from Greylock Partnersin 2004

Company Overview: Thanks to Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, we are able to get a look at this "confidential" pitch deck. He decided to open the treasure of LinkedIns successful fundraising in 2004. A time when Facebook was only known by students of Ivy League universities.

Just by looking at the total number of pages of LinkedIn's pitch deck, you can guess that this deck is one of a kind. Filled with an overwhelming amount of information, pie-charts, graphs, quotes, comparisons, and numbers, this pitch deck laid the foundation of a successful $10milion seed B round.

Who is interested in reading a 10.000-word lengthy commentary of Reid Hoffman to this pitch deck can follow this link. (very interesting and lots of useful advice for entrepreneurs!)

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • Always know your investors - Reid opened his pitch deck with the business model slide to show how the company plans to generate revenue. This was the top concern of investors in 2004. Nowadays, investors are still interested in how you want to generate income, but other factors like the Team became more and more critical.
  • Address the problems quickly - Before you start writing your pitch deck, you have to think about what problems could discourage your potential investors in investing in you and your idea. Address these problems quickly. Otherwise, your investors will think about that one problem he has with your business for the complete length of your pitch- which is no good.

Foursquare

Raised $1.35 million in Series A from an undisclosed angel investor in 2009

Company Overview: Foursquare is an application that shows you the world's best places.

How? Imagine walking through London without really knowing where the exciting places, stores, bakeries, parking zones, or book stores are. Foursquare will send a push notification to your phone, showing you recommendations of residents to what places you should go.

In 2009 Foursquares Founders Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadura were looking for an investment and created a pitch deck that laid the foundation of a company with a post-money valuation beyond $1 billion in 2019.

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • Always create a well structures pitch deck - Foursquares pitch deck lacks of structure. This usually was a no-go in 2009 and still is a no-go almost a decade later. We do not know why Crowly and Selvadura decided to not follow a simple problem-solution-structure. However, we recommend to create a template that is well structured and easy to follow.
  • Create mockups of your apps - If you want investors to invest in your app, you have to include at least one slide that looks like Foursquares third slide. Create a device mockup that shows how your app looks. The mockup gives your investor a more accurate and detailed view of what you want them to invest in.

Buzzfeed

Raised $3.5 million in Series A from Hearst Ventures in 2008

Company Overview: Buzzfeed is the place of quizzes and "10 words you have never heard before"-articles. Viral journalism made BuzzFeed already reach 2.5 million page views back in 2008 when clickbait wasn't even a word.

Now Buzzfeed has a valuation of $1.5 billion, reaches more than 150 million page views a month, and generates a little more than $300 million in revenue in 2019.

Although its foundation was in 2006, we want to have a look at Buzzfeed's pitch deck Jonah Peretti, John S. Johnson, and Kenneth Lerer created in 2008.
(We are sorry for the low quality of the deck, but 4k wasnt around 14 years ago)

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • Think big - My favorite slide, No. 19, accurately proves what type of entrepreneur is loved by investors. It is an entrepreneur who knows what investors want to hear. It is all about the money. Due to this, Buzzfeed's pitch deck presents the founder's belief in their business's scalability and revenue-opportunities. Always be aware of your potential, think big, and be confident about it.
  • Predict new trends and execute them - Buzzfeed pitched about how content can create revenue. You have to understand that back in 2008, writing content was only for "hip bloggers." 12 Years later, everybody knows that content is king, and whoever wants to earn money on the internet is lost without unique content. If you see an upcoming trend, a change in people's behavior or something similar: go for it!

Tinder

$50 million raised in 2014 from the secondary market

Company Overview: Not many words are needed to introduce Tinder:
Swipe, Match, Date.

With Facebook introducing the relationship status on users' profiles, the foundation of online dating finding its way into our lives was laid.

More and more dating-apps found their way onto our smartphones, but none of them was and still is, so successful as Tinder.

Justin Mateen and Sean Rad managed growing Tinder so fast, that it already had over 4000 swipes per second in 2014!

Today, more than 58 million users are registered on Tinder, generating revenue well over $800 million in 2018.

The pitch deck we have a look at was created in 2012 and laid the foundation of a $50 million fundraising in 2014.

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • Always build a story aroung your pitch -We have seen a lot of pitch decks, but not many of them tell such a brilliant story to explain their business. This is one of the best takeaways: Create a story to your pitch deck that is easy to follow. We a whole section about this topic in our eBook! Have a look and learn how you can tell a great story.
  • Your pitch deck will change over time - Tinders proposed revenue model proved to be completely unrealistic. Have a look at slide No. 9, and you won't find only one of the bullet points in today's version of the app.This is an important takeaway! Always change and adapt to your customer's needs. You can include your learnings in your next version of your pitch deck. Due to this, investors notice that you can adapt your business model to the market.

Buffer (no unicorn, but great!)

Raised $500.000 seed funding from angel investors in 2011

Company Overview: Buffer recognized how social media would change our lives. Joel Gascoigne, the founder of "buffer," predicted that not only most of us would soon use social media daily, but companies too.

As a result, marketing expenses on social media were likely to explode, and companies would, due to this, post more content every day.

As a consequence, companies would develop special needs to queue and schedule their social-media postings. Buffer developed a service that is satisfying the companies needs.

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • If you dont fix a problem, follow a trend - Buffer did great in recognizing that we all would use social media daily. Due to this, companies would join the social-media train and start using it as a marketing tool. If there is no problem to fix, look for a trend to pick on!
  • Structure your pitch deck - Buffer's pitch deck is easy to follow. The reason for this is the straightforward structure and bold headlines of their slides. If we are already able to follow these slides, experienced investors are likely to follow the structure as well.

Moz (no unicorn, but also great!)

Raised $18 million in venture capital from Foundry Group and Ignition Partners in 2012

Company Overview: Moz is a well know all-in-one SEO tool (SaaS) based in Seattle.

Moz has was founded by an uncommon duo in 2004: Rand Fishkin and his mother, Gillian Muessig. However, the history of Moz goes back to the year 1981, when Muessig founded a marketing agency that later became Moz.

The company raised $1.1 million in Series A funding from Ignition Partners and Curious Office in September 2007. In 2012, Moz raised $18 million in funding from Foundry Group and Ignition Partners with the pitch deck we are about to have a look at.

Pitch takeaways:

  • If investors already know you, add more details to the pitch - The amount of details in numbers and charts in Moz's pitch deck is a consequence of investors already knowing the company. When you compare the pitch deck of Moz with the pitch deck of Tinder, you can see the difference. With Moz, investors already know your numbers; you have to give them insights to your company they did not have had before to convince the potential investors from your growth-plan.
  • Colors - There is so much information on the slides. If you plan to include such amount as well, you have to use a lot of colors so the pitch deck will not bore your listeners!

    The whole deck reminds me of the weekly "Whiteboard Friday" videos with Rand Fishkin. The branding is excellent and memorable, and the entire narrative is persuasive. While some data visualizations could have been made better, back in 2011, the bar wasn't that high.

AppNexus

No record of investment for this first pitch deck from 2007

Company Overview: AppNexus was acquired for more than $1 billion by AT&T in 2018.

Before that, AppNexus had 12 rounds of investments collecting more than $320 million from investors and second markets.

AppNexus business is not that easy to understand, but I explain it: AppNexus is a cloud-based service that connects marketing companies with their target audience. They optimize and improve digital marketing.

However, the pitch deck we have a look at is kept simple in design and presentation.

Pitch deck takeaways:

  • Show investors how you will make them rich -The deck is not sophisticated – no fancy designs, fonts, or backgrounds. However, it perfectly well describes the concept of the product, how it works, and how investors can benefit from funding this solution. Sure, the design standard back in 2007 was not high, but this was by far the most boring pitch deck I have seen from a unicorn startup.
  • Check you headlines and font-size - It was awkward to see that the headline font-size changed from slide to slide. Always check your pitch deck for consistency in spelling and size!

Snapchat

Raised over $4.9 Billion and is worth about $33 billion!!!

Company Overview: September 2011. Stanford University.

"I wish I could send disappearing photos."

With these words, Reggie Brown got Snapchats ball rolling. What followed was a triumphal march of an app that is worth more than $33 billion today.

There is nothing much to say about Snapchat since everybody uses and knows it.

However, examining the Snapchats pitch deck could bring up some essential points you should think about, including in your future pitch deck.

Pitch deck takeways:

  • Highlighting the key achievements - When you are asking for a "big raise" yet again, you have to clearly communicate why you are worth the money. Snapchat highlighted in details their current revenues + projected growth; along with the user base potential.
  • Be explanative - Even though Snapchat is rather popular, the company goes an extra mile in their business deck to explain how other businesses can benefit from advertising with them and how the whole thing actually works.

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Maximilian Fleitmann
CEO of BaseTemplates

Maximilian Fleitmann is a passionate founder and entrepreneur. For the last 12+ years he has successfully launched several businesses in the areas of education and digitalization. Max purpose is to enable growth and therefore he shares his experience in building startups.

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