What should go into an in-person pitch deck?

I’ve previously written about the importance of having multiple decks.  So, last week I talked about what I like to see in an email deck.  This week, I’m going to address in-person decks.

There are a lot of great resources that other people have written on what should go into an in-person decks.  For example: Here and here.  So, I’m just going to quickly gloss over the basics and do a deeper dive into some of the nuances that are less discussed.

Originally posted by theweekmagazine

Your in-person deck is a bit tricky because you should be able to use it as a good overview (for a first meeting) but also a deeper dive (for an all-partner meeting or a later in-depth mtg).  Ultimately, you will need to be able to close people with this deck.

The basics

Here are the basics that you’ll need to cover (not in this order per se):

  • Problem
  • Solution / your product
  • Team
  • Traction
  • Unit economics & Customer acq channels
  • Business model
  • Market Size
  • Competition / Alternatives / Differentiation

Well-designed slides do not need to look pretty, but they do need to be

  • Concise
  • Easy-to-read
  • Digestible content / easily understandable / simple

In addition, you should create an appendix slide for each point you want to make.  Although you might only create 6-10 basic slides, it’s possible you may have anywhere from 0 to A LOT of slides in your appendix.  Different investors will want to focus on different things; some investors may want to talk more in depth about product while others may want to dive into your customer acquisition details.  So, it’s unlikely you will cover most of your appendix slides.

Nuances you should consider

Different investors have different styles, but I personally think you should think of each slide as a building block.  Investors have REALLY POOR ATTENTION SPANS, so you should order your slides based on your strengths.  For example, if you think your best foot forward is your team, lead with that block.  If it’s your unit metrics, lead with that.  Then craft a story that goes through this order.  It’s important to start out by wowing your prospective investor for as long as you can, otherwise you will be quickly dismissed within the first minute.

Originally posted by dontmesswiththeleprechaun

Additionally, many of the nuances I mentioned in my previous post on email decks also apply to the in-person deck:


As I mention here, the problem slide is often the most poorly articulated by entrepreneurs.  Think deeply about what specific problem you are solving.  When you start taking meetings with investors, you’ll likely change this slide a LOT either because the problem doesn’t feel big, meaty, and important, is too vague, or is too confusing. Don’t be afraid to change this slide a lot.  Part of the reason you need to do so many investor meetings is to be able to iterate on your specific messaging.

Solution / your product

Your solution slide will likely change, too, if you end up changing your problem slide a lot.  Let me give you an example: several of our newer portfolio companies are both marketplaces and SaaS workflow tools.  This is a growing trend.  How you explain your product matters a lot because if you say you’re building a marketplace and a SaaS tool, it feels really unfocused and distracting.  However, it could make perfect sense for your business to have a slew of workflow SaaS tools for your marketplace customers because it may create stickiness for the marketplace.  Alternatively, it could make sense for your business to have a marketplace for your SaaS customers because it creates lead-gen for them, which retains their subscriptions.  But you need to position this correctly.  When one of our marketplace-SaaS companies first started pitching their business, they started positioning this as a marketplace with workflow tools. It turned out that there were a lot of alternative marketplaces, so this didn’t resonate with investors – it felt like too crowded of a space – there were too many marketplaces doing something similar.  However, when they flipped it around and positioned it as a SaaS tool that helped with lead gen, they started getting a lot of investor traction.  This product positioning matters a lot, so be aware of the feedback you’re receiving and change your messaging accordingly.

Team / Traction / Unit Metrics / Market Size

I’d recommend checking out my other post on email decks where I mention some things to consider for these slides

Business Model

Most teams I encounter make this slide way too complicated.  If you have multiple revenue streams, please just list your primary revenue model.  In fact, most focused businesses will only have 1 revenue stream, but there are exceptions (see above regarding new SaaS-marketplace models).  Keep things simple.  Generally speaking, most investors are not the sharpest crayons in the box and also don’t have time to think deeply about your business until you are further along in the process.


You’re going to have a lot of competitors or alternatives.  If you say that you have zero competition, it suggests that you either are naive or are lying.  Even if you are running the next Twitter, which does not have a direct competitor, the alternative activity to tweeting on the toilet is reading a magazine on the toilet or posting FB status messages.  Every company has a competitor or alternative.

Originally posted by welele

In addition, you’ll want to think deeply about which primary competitor you want to say you are going up against.  Ideally that competitor is big (suggesting a big market) but also an old dinosaur company that you can run circles around.  When I see entrepreneurs list other startups as competitors, my immediate reaction is that there is no market.  On the flip side, if you end up listing a big competitor that moves fast, such as Google, a lot of investors will get scared.  I see a lot of entrepreneurs try to create some sort of McKinsey-esque matrix slide of competitors, and that’s fine.  Again, simpler is better, so I personally like it when companies say this is the one major company (or alternative activity) that I am up against and this is how I will beat them.  Obviously, startups have many competitors and alternatives flanking them on multiple sides, but it helps me to understand how you think if you pick just one competitor or alternative so that we can do a deep dive on how you plan to beat them.  The last caveat here is that obviously whatever you end up picking must make sense!

Editing your deck

As you start to take meetings, you’ll start to hear common questions and concerns.  As these come up, it’s worth creating a slide for these issues.  If the concern or question is only brought up once, put this slide in your appendix, but if you’ve heard it multiple times, it needs to be addressed upfront in your story.

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