Pitch Deck - what should a startup show to investors?

Even though there is a lot of content on the internet about how to create a presentation for investors, we still receive documents without some relevant information and I want to take this chance to summarize some important topics with regards pitch decks for investors.

The investors deck, or pitch deck, should have the information based on the type of funding you are looking for. A document for pre-seed and seed funding is more informative, it should focus on a clear message about your team and your idea, and it is usually designed for angels (up to $200k) or super-angels ($200-500K).

If you are going for a Series-A round, then you are expected to have enough data that proved your premises, a successful MVP and its results, a solid plan to justify the funds needed, and it is usually designed to catch the attention private equity and venture capital firms ($500k-2M). It is a more dense document that I will detail on another post.

Let’s focus today on the first pitch deck for pre-seed or seed investors. Definitions may change based on academia or geographic ecosystems, but I like to guide entrepreneurs on the following classifications: Pre-seed Round means you are raising funds to create the MVP, and Seed Round means you are raising funds to launch an MVP for market testing. Investors in startups at this stage are definitely not expecting detailed (and realistic) P&L or growth strategy plan for international markets, they are desperately focus on finding scalable ideas originated by a superb and hard-working team. So, do not waste time in creating magical spreadsheets that will mean nothing in 3 months, but focus on the message that will not change, or only improve, such as your premises and teams.

The structure I recommend has only 4 categories:

1. Company

a. Name - as obvious as it sounds, some first slides do not bring the startup name; repeat it until your investors cannot forget it

b. Sector – it is nice to see a figure about the industry your startup would fit it, and the conclusions about your role in this industry (will you optimize, restructure, or rebuild it?)

c. Pains & Needs – detail the pains as you probably exercised during your Lean Startup preparation, and put any data you have to prove your customer needs to have that pain relieved asap

d. Value Proposition – close this section with a value proposition, a clear and concise message of what your startup intend to do

2. Team

a. Let your investors fall in love with your trajectory of hard work and achievements.

i. Photos: make sure they are professional, not necessarily like a TV Host, but professional

ii. Academic achievements: yes, they count

iii. Learned lessons: a series entrepreneur has failures, do not hide, but show what you learned from them and how they made you more prepared for this new challenge

iv. Put a hobbie: investors still invest in human beings, and they want to see you like one

3. Market

a. Customer segments: detail the customer segments for your product or service and the target segment. Make sure it is more visual than text

b. Market size: if you used a pyramidal approach, I recommend to detail it. If you are using reports from consulting firms, do not forget to highlight the source to give credibility to the numbers. In case your product or service cannot serve the entire market, highlight what is the market you can serve

c. Barriers to entry: for me, this is the most important point. Show how you can protect your company from competition and big players

d. Competitors: list all the major competitors and substitutes in a table and highlight why your startup is different, and based on what characteristics you will gain market share

e. Innovation: you can incorporate in the competitors tab what really makes you different than the others

4. Finance

a. Forecasted P&L: detailed the expenses for your project for the next two years, quarterly-based. Do not overload the slide with numbers and make it simple. Group some P&L lines to make it easy to read

b. Investment vs. Results: if you received any investment before, show what you received, how you employed the money (with dates) and the outcome

c. MVP Results: if you are at a seed round and had some strategic sales concluded, show the first sales results of your MVP or any data that will prove the commercial aspect of your product or service. At this level, show what you expect to sell within the first two years

d. Funds needed: add the description of what is needed and how you intend to spend this money, including dates. I recommend to use Quarter-based objectives so it can be visual-friendly.

Make a visual presentation for your pitch (more graphs and figures than text) and a more detailed one with texts to send via email after the face-to-face presentation, along with a "thanks for your time" message.

I hope it helps, and get in touch in case you believe we can improve together, as I am always eager to learn.

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