Startup Pitch Deck

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Fundraising is an important part of any startup’s journey. I come across hundreds of startup pitches each year. A bunch of them really stand out, many more not so, and I felt it would be helpful to have a framework for creating a good pitch deck. This is not to say that this is the be-all and end-all of it, but following this framework should have you covered for most fundraising pitches. It is recommended to make tweaks as and when necessary. While this is a generic template, I am writing it for early stage startups (seed / series A) in India and SE Asia based on my experience so far.

Before we move into the various sections and technicalities of a pitch deck, I would like you to take a step back to think about an arguably more important aspect – your story. Storytelling is a big part of your pitch. All aspects of a pitch must be tied together by YOUR STORY. It is very important that founder articulate their background and story well including how and why they started this journey and their vision.

It is also worthwhile to note that clumsy pitch decks full of all types of information are good for none. Each slide must be concise and include points / neat representation of data. Cover everything else in the Appendix (or verbally during the pitch, if needed). Don’t make the deck too long as well, a 10-15 slides deck is all that is needed.

Here is a great article from the YC library on how to design a better pitch deck I personally recommend following flow for a good pitch deck (each point below = one slide)

  • Company name
    • In the initial days of a startup, the company name is a matter of pride for most founders and is a great way to attach themselves (and early employees) to the idea behind the name. In most cases, there is an interesting story behind how you ended up with the name for your startup. Start easy, start light and take your potential investors through this. 
  • Vision
    • Some founders or investors may also classify (call) it as “problem statement”. The vision behind your startup is much more important than the product or solution, especially in the early stages of the journey. It can be something very simple or basic. How few words you are able to best articulate this reflects your understanding of the vision.
  • Team
    • This is probably the most important slide. Please show why your founding team is the best to tackle the current problem? A good team has members with core competencies, complimentary skill sets, and deep understanding and experience of the industry or problem.
  • Existing solutions
    • Take us through what are the existing solutions in the market. You should be able to articulate why the current solutions and alternatives are not the best fit. Try to cite instances or quote examples that the investor can easily relate to.
  • Your solution
    • Building upon your deck, you should be able to summarize and describe your solution in a few lines. There is another slide dedicated to your product and its technicalities. Mention how your solution solves the pain points or improves upon existing solutions and also why this is the best time to launch it (why now?).
  • Industry / Vertical / TAM / SAM
    • This is probably second most important slide after Team slide. Always go after big markets. TAM is the Total Addressable Market for your solution and product given the vision at hand. SAM, which is a subset of TAM, meanwhile gives a much more realistic understanding of how big the market is at least in the near future. SAM is the Serviceable Addressable Market and takes into consideration not the entire market but only those who realistically might use your services basis geography, income, and other factors. Both TAM and SAM are projected in terms of revenues annually. This way a founder or investor can understand how big the business can be if company captures x % of TAM or SAM.
  • Competition
    • Please mention all existing players and their respective standing in the market. It is ok if your solution is NOT in the top right corner. Mention differences in business models. I have seen many founders skip this slide. It is just better to mention competition in your pitch deck rather than omitting it.
  • Product
    • If you are only a founding team and just starting, discuss how product will work. Otherwise take investors through product demo / videos etc. Show how your product works and the entire flow, while also calling how/where it solves the pain point. In case you are in a pre-product stage, a prototype should do. Ensure your communication is in layman’s terms to make it as easy as possible to understand. 
  • Customer testimony
    • Nothing like it if you could list a few customer testimonials from your customer base about what they liked about your product, covering various use cases and scenarios.
  • Current Scale
    • Let your potential investor know your current scale. Show numbers like revenue, users, employees, cash burn and other key KPI (ARR/MRR, DAU/MAU, retention, NPS, traffic etc). 
  • Funding Ask
    • Best represented in a pie chart (or table), break down how much funds you are looking to raise in this round, at what allocation, and also how they would be distributed for various activities like hiring, marketing etc. If you are not sure about round size, present all these in % terms.
  • Projections
    • In this slide, project your key metric and KPI by next funding round. How big the business would be, growth in KPIs, employees etc. Please note that in most cases these projections will not pan out as market conditions are always evolving and none of us have a crystal ball but it will help the investors understand how the founders think and plan on running the business. 

Lastly, it is always helpful to look at examples and here is great collection of pitch decks of startups across industries –

Acknowledgement: I’d like to thank Bharat Nittala ( twitter @ bharat1445 ) for helping me in this article.

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