My colleague at 500 Startups pinged me last night with a pitch deck from one of our portfolio companies gearing up to raise a post-seed round.
Gawd it was TERRIBLE. And embarrassing because they are one of our companies.
Unfortunately, their deck was representative of what I see in about 99% of email pitch decks I receive.
What was wrong?
I couldn’t understand the key components of this business in < 10 seconds.
The disconnect between entrepreneurs and investors around pitch decks is that entrepreneurs often think that investors will spend a few minutes looking at their decks. In reality, I’ll spend 10 seconds, at best, on an email deck because all I want to know is whether I should schedule a meeting.
This is why I say over and over: you need multiple pitch decks. You’re selling different things at different stages of the fundraising process (e.g., selling the idea of just doing a pitch meeting with an investor vs selling the opportunity to move forward and invest in your company).
All I really want to know in 10 seconds can be summarized like this:
- Team: what are the notable accomplishments and domain expertise of the founders?
- Problem: what is the big problem you’re solving?
- Solution: how are you solving it? If you’re in a competitive space, how is it differentiated and 10x better than alternatives?
- Traction: what are the key performance indicators and how do they track over time? Please don’t include 10 KPIs – the definition of “key” is just that. Only 1 or 2 key indicators are important. This could be your monthly revenue. It could be DAUs. It could be number of email subscribers. Or whatever. Be selective here. Also, be sure to own up to your traction. A lot of early teams try to hide it. I always ask what the traction is even if it’s not included in the deck before taking a meeting. There is no reason to leave it out.
- Market: I personally care less about this in an email deck because I know I will need to think and digest what the “true market” is only after taking a meeting. However, other VCs see this as very important in qualifying whether or not to take a meeting. When you do market sizing, make sure to show visually what niche you’re starting in and what the peripheral larger markets are.
That’s it. Simple text. Big font. Black font with white backgrounds makes for faster reading. Bullet points and not paragraphs also make readability better. If a bullet point is too difficult, show it graphically.
After you create an email deck, the best way to test whether you’ve done a good job is to show it to someone – anyone – who knows nothing about your business for 10 seconds. Then, have him/her rattle off information about the five points above and see what was missed. If he/she cannot do this exercise well, you know that you need to go back to the drawing board.
You have just 10 seconds to get an investor meeting – make your email deck count.