Get Backed: 10 Building Blocks for the Perfect Startup Pitch

By | 2016-12-01T19:13:44+00:00 March 22nd, 2016|Startup Culture|

The startup pitch, also called a pitch deck, has become the most important tool for startups seeking to raise money from angels and venture capitalists online or offline. Forget writing the 25+ page business plan. Investors recognize that you’re going to morph your business model and marketing messages to remain agile. Your time is better spent on perfecting your product or service and finding early adopter customers than on constantly revising a business plan.

However, your pitch deck does need to cover everything that goes into a business plan. The format is different and making revisions is less time consuming, but the thought process that goes into both are the same.

I just finished reading Get Backed: Craft Your Story, Build the Perfect Pitch Deck, and Launch the Venture of Your Dreams by Evan Baehr and Evan Loomis. It’s an accessible and comprehensive book providing practical, actionable information. Best all all, it provides real-life examples of decks from startups that went on to raise lots of money. Companies from a wide array of industries share their pitch decks, including Contactually, Freight Farm, Hinge, Man Crates, SOLS Systems and TreeHouse.

Baehr and Loomis summarize the pitch deck with these 10 basic building blocks

  • Overview
  • Opportunity
  • Problem
  • Solution
  • Traction
  • Customer or Market
  • Competition
  • Business Model
  • Team
  • Use of Funds

You should also have other slides, such as milestones, product roadmap and sales funnel, at the ready for investors who show interest.

Two versions of your deck are recommended: the one you use when presenting and the other to leave behind. And remember: don’t use a lot of words on slides in the presentation pitch deck. You want people focused on you, not focused on reading your slides. In the leave-behind, you can add text to explain the slides.

Key points to remember when putting the pitch deck together

  • Investors want a substantial ROI, so you need to be doing something big, bold and even audacious. Communicate that vision clearly and communicate that your team has the skills and drive to succeed. Avoid sounding like a solution in search of a problem; you must solve a serious, existing problem. Angels and VCs don’t fund companies that provide nice-to-have products and services. They must believe the target market can’t live without you.
  • Demonstrate a deep understanding of the market. Provide evidence that the market wants your product. That evidence could be that you’ve reached and even exceeded your goal in a rewards-based crowdfunding campaign, or that you have pilot customers who are providing feedback on an early version of the product/service.
  • What’s your business model and what metrics will drive success? Communicate the important numbers and assumptions behind your financials. When do you break even? What’s your burn rate? How will you use the money you’re raising?

Tips to design the pitch deck

The pitch deck is a marketing document. It needs to be inviting, cleanly designed, easy to understand and compelling. Details like type size and font matter. You want your slides to be readable. Choose images that grab attention and engage. But even with a great deck, you won’t get a penny if you don’t show your passion and tell a great story. If you can’t get the audience charged about your plan, it’s over.

“Stories explain, captivate, disturb and inspire,” write Baehr and Loomis. So create a passionate, narrative story arc for the pitch deck. Doing so will move you beyond just perfecting your pitch deck. It’ll provide sample scripts and techniques to secure meetings with investors, and create a must-read for anyone raising equity financing.

Geri Stengel is president of Ventureneer, a marketing research company targeting small business. Geri is a regular Forbes contributor, consultant, Kauffman facilitator and the author of Forget the Glass Ceiling: Building Your Business Without One.