When raising money, most founders start by creating a pitch deck. Investors see countless versions of these pitch decks every day. Between cold emails, warm introductions, founders I know and incubators I help, I personally get ten to twenty a day.
Every single one of these businesses is unique. Yet most of their decks look and sound the same.
With titles like “The Problem” “The Opportunity” “Market Size” and “Team” these decks aren’t differentiated. Even the charts look similar from deck to deck.
The reason they all seem the same? They followed the popular standard pitch deck format.
I don’t blame founders for this common mistake. Do a quick search for “pitch deck templates” and you’ll see tons of decks from famous companies who successfully raised money years ago.
Recently, pitch deck related keywords have been increasing in popularity on Google.
You can even find articles from venture capital firms with pitch deck templates and fundraising advice. But don’t forget, investors have to do their own marketing too. Even I used to follow this template when evaluating pitch decks:
— Hiten Shah (@hnshah) August 5, 2011
But that was back in 2011.
A lot has changed since then. It’s now easier than ever to build a product and get early traction. This means that investors get bombarded with pitches from companies who have a product with a bit of traction or none yet.
What hasn’t changed is that today’s investors still want to invest in great businesses and the teams behind them.
Investors who invest in startups are in it for the long haul. They aren’t putting in money so they can take it out in a few months or a year. They are investing in a company’s potential because they believe in its future growth.
The pitch deck is your chance to explain why your business will grow and succeed in the future. It’s your chance to show how what you’ve created today will have more value tomorrow.
If you’ve already made a deck using a template, don’t worry. Here are five ways to take a pitch deck made using a template and make it work for your business.
- Write Clear Titles: The titles of each of your slides should reflect the key message in the slide. For example, instead of simply saying “The Market” you should say something specific about the market your company is in, like “The addressable market in the US alone is over $50 billion.” These types of titles draw your reader in and hammer home your key point.
- Show Your Experimentation Mindset: Don’t shy away from talking about the experiments you’ve run and what you’ve learned from them. Demonstrating a history of experimentation shows investors that you are capable of learning and iterating your business model to grow your company. In your deck, show how your learnings translated into meaningful progress for your company, like happy customers or the development of new features.
- Define Your Customers: Include at least one slide about your customers and users. Clearly define the types of customers you have or will be targeting, and if you have any testimonials or reviews from customers or early users add them to your deck. This will give investors context on the market opportunity and the problem your company is solving. Confidence and praise from customers shows that the hard work you’ve put in to your business is translating into passionate users – or better yet, revenue.
- Make Sure It Looks Great: Your deck should be aesthetically pleasing so people want to read it! You can hire a designer to do this or use an easy hack such as simply using the color-scheme and design from your website or product. Let the deck reflect your company’s personality and make sure that the branding across your site, product and deck is cohesive and aligned.
- Paint A Picture Of The Future: In so many pitch decks, the future growth of a company is an afterthought. Yet the story you’re building is all about your future. Make sure that you spend enough time talking about where you’re headed. Including forecasts alone is not enough. You should actually explain how you are going to get to the revenue numbers you include in your deck. For example, consider adding a timeline that shows when you’ll be launching new features or products, or expanding to new geographies or customers. The future section is where you close investors, so make sure it’s robust enough.
Pitch deck templates can be a great starting point to put facts about your startup on paper. The above tips are great if you’ve started with a pitch deck template and want to make it less formulaic.
But the best pitches aren’t based on pitch deck templates. Instead they are designed to share your story and future growth potential in a genuine way. This storytelling approach helps you pitch with more confidence since what you’re doing is sharing your own unique story with investors.
My business partner and I have helped hundreds of startups raise money from all kinds of investors and through that process we’ve reviewed and iterated upon countless decks. We’re now building free software to help you get feedback on your pitch deck and share it with investors. Sign up for early access and be one of the first people to use the product!