Financial statements are vital to investors. But how do investors use financial statements? Before your meeting, learn what they want to see and why.
May 3, 2021
As a three-time entrepreneur, co-founder and CEO, and angel investor, I’ve seen first-hand what it takes to build a venture capital pitch deck that actually earns startups the investment they need.
A compelling startup pitch deck can be the start of a productive founder-investor relationship, but a vague or over-complicated deck can cause you to miss out on funding opportunities.
Below are my tips for how to create a concise and impactful seed round VC pitch deck for your startup, plus eleven examples to refer to when you’re building a deck to raise money for your business.
If there’s one key piece of advice to keep in mind as you create your pitch, it’s this: Present your story in the simplest form possible. When it comes to building your pitch deck, shorter is better—you should be able to fit the key information onto 10 to 12 slides with simple fonts and supporting visuals.
Most businesses that achieve impressive seed round investment use the following outline in their venture capital fundraising decks, although the number of slides it takes to cover each section may vary depending on your industry—for example, some businesses may need two slides to explain their product, whereas others will only need one slide.
The start of your venture capital pitch deck is critical. If you don’t make an impression in the first few minutes, the rest of your slides are unlikely to bring your presentation back on track. Front-load your slide deck with the information potential investors need to quickly understand the value of your company.
At pre-seed and seed stages, venture capitalists are primarily investing in the founders and their story, so you need to convince them of your entrepreneurial spirit and conviction in your business idea. Start the deck with a team slide—briefly introduce the startup’s founding team, their relevant experience and qualifications, and highlight anything that gives your team a competitive advantage. You may also include advisors to your business, their background, and role at your startup. This allows you to establish some context and credibility for who you are and why you’re worth listening to before you dive into explaining your business.
Begin the VC deck by explaining the problem your startup is addressing. Many founders spend as little time as possible on the problem section, but this is your opportunity to demonstrate why your solution is necessary. I recommend devoting more time to this section.
To emphasize that the problem you’re addressing desperately needs to be solved, show the worst-case scenario if it isn’t solved, the pain people do or will experience as a result, and why the current solution isn’t effective.
Describe your solution, why it works, and how it benefits customers. The simplest ways to solve a problem are often the most powerful, so keep your solution as straightforward as possible: If you can’t explain it in under 30 seconds, you’ll likely confuse investors rather than convince them.
If you’re still in the process of building the product, explain your vision for how it will work when complete. Alternatively, if you already have a version of your product in development, show how it’s performing thus far, user engagement, and early traction in the marketplace. Key metrics might include usage, churn and growth metrics, NPS scores, referral rates, or other milestones relevant to your product/industry. Consider walking investors through a demo of your product or sharing screenshots or mockups of how it will look if it’s still being built.
Your startup’s maximum potential annual revenue can make the difference as to whether VC firms consider it worth their investment, so make it clear if your solution is addressing a global problem or catering to a multi billion-dollar market. Demonstrate why the problem you’re addressing has substantial market size and business potential by outlining:
Explain to investors what makes your solution unique and how this opportunity is different from anything else on the market. Depending on your solution, this might include talking about:
Tell investors how you’re going to monetize your solution and why this model makes sense for your market. Stick to explaining your main revenue stream rather than detailing plans for possible future expansion. In the next section, you’ll reveal how you expect the financial results to look based on this revenue model.
At the seed stage, you only need to present high-level financials, but this information is vital to share your vision for the business’s future and prove that it can be profitable. Provide projections for the value of revenues and the numbers of customers or users you expect to gain. Because each fundraising round usually covers the next 18 to 24 months, your projections should include predictions for at least the next three or four years.
The purpose of your pitch deck is to raise funds, so always tell potential investors how much money you’re looking for. To provide some context on your request, explain why you’re looking for this amount and outline any previous rounds the startup has raised. You also need to show how you will put the money to use: Share some key goals you plan to achieve in a given timeframe with this investment—for example, hiring a specific number of employees in the next 12 months.
Your exit strategy is a crucial part of Series A or Series B funding round proposals, but you can also include this at the seed stage to show you’re working towards a long-term return for investors. Let them know your preferred exit strategy (most likely an IPO or acquisition) and projected exit date. Consider suggesting companies who may be interested in buying your business or mentioning similar startups who have been acquired recently as proof of your strategy.
To conclude your venture capital pitch deck, you can summarize the key takeaways of your pitch. However, it’s important to note that the end of the investor presentation is far less impactful than the beginning, so focus on telling the story of your business in the first few minutes rather than tying your pitch together in the final slide.
Remember that your completed pitch deck isn’t one-size-fits-all. In general, you should only pitch your startup to VC investors relevant to your market and with expertise in your area. For example, a VC fund specializing in hospitality is unlikely to be interested in a SaaS business because it has a low chance of adding value. Even within your industry, each group of investors to whom you present will have different interests and backgrounds, so take time to personalize your VC deck before every meeting.
Although you will need to customize your venture capital pitch deck to your business’s market and product, plenty of slide deck examples and templates are available as a starting point for the design and structure. Here are six of the best pitch decks:
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