How to create a pitch deck

Do you have a great startup idea but need to know how to pitch it?

In this blog post, we explain how to create an effective slide deck for your startup. We cover everything from what to include in your deck to tips on delivering a successful presentation.

Our post will help you present your idea in the best light possible and increase your chances of securing funding from investors.

Read our blog post now and start creating your perfect pitch deck!

This is the ninth in a series of blog posts designed to help startup founders better understand and plan the products they build. If you wish to learn more about market researchdesk research, and competitor analysis, read our previous posts. 

 

TABLE OF CONTENTS

What is a pitch deck?

What is the purpose of a pitch deck?

Problems & solutions. What to include in a pitch deck?

KISS & the "Show–don't tell rule." What makes a solid slide deck?

Documents to include with your pitch deck

The "10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint" and other smart rules for smart pitch decks

Bottom line

What is a pitch deck?

A pitch deck (startup deck/slide deck) is a brief presentation (4-12 slides) of your startup product. It includes product info, your business model, predicted financial results, team description, etc. Slide decks are often presented during demo days*.


*According to the definition of "demo day" by Gil Dibner, it is "any situation where a founder is asked to publicly pitch his or her startup to an audience of investors," be it online or on-stage. A demo day can be organized by anyone: an accelerator, an early-stage investor, an angel group, etc. A founder's goal during a demo day is "pitching a company (1) as an investment opportunity and (2) to investors".

What is the purpose of a pitch deck?

Give investors a brief overview of your business and its potential

You gather and summarize all the information about your startup product or service in your startup deck. You want to be informative and compelling to convince your potential investors that you are the best investment option.

Spark interest in your startup

A slide deck is your bargaining chip. And you either manage to engage your audience with it, or you get lost in the crowd of other startups looking for funding.

Gain funding

Getting money to develop your product is the ultimate goal of your presentation. However, your first goal should be to make venture capitalists want to see and learn more about your idea.

What to include in a pitch deck?

There are no rigid rules regarding what a perfect presentation deck must include, how many slides it should consist of, and in what order they should be arranged. However, there are a few components, key points, such as "Problem" and "Solution," that every solid demo day pitch deck must have.

Below, we'll present a list of 10 elements you should include in your slide deck.

Treat the lists as a guideline, but feel free to add or cut something if you believe it improves your message.

Vision and value proposition

Start strong. The first slide is a good place to state what your product is all about and why it will make a difference.

Treat the slide like a mini elevator pitch.

An elevator pitch is a short, easy-to-understand description of a (product or service) idea. It usually includes information about:

  • who the product is for,
  • what it does,
  • why it is needed.

The name "elevator pitch" comes from the idea that you should be able to deliver a summary of your business in the amount of time it takes to ride an elevator, which is about thirty seconds to two minutes.

Use this 60 or 90 seconds to briefly explain what your product does and what is so special about it (=unique value proposition).

Below:  YouTube. "Vision" slide/Slideshare

YouTube vision pitch deck slide

Problem

The following slide you want to have in your pitch deck is "Problem." Here your task is to describe the problem you can solve with your business idea.

Name the problem, explain who is affected by it, and underline why it's necessary to eliminate it.

You can also mention how and why your competitors fail to address the issue.

Below: Airbnb. "Problem" slide (reproduction)/Slideshare

airbnb problem slide

Solution

"Solution" is one of the most important slides in your deck because here presents your unique idea to investors.

In this slide, you should outline your plan and discuss your product. Demonstrate how your product can tackle the setbacks outlined on the "Problem" slide and show how potential customers use or will use it.

You can include your product MVP or a list of features. This will show your potential investors that you know precisely what you want to do and are ready to develop your product right after you receive the funding.

Below: Airbnb. "Solution" slide (reproduction)/Slideshare

Airbnb solution slide

Target market, opportunities, and trends

When there's a supplier, there also must be a customer. You've already presented your business product; now you need to explain who it will benefit.

Say who your ideal customer is. Name the market you're targeting (be careful not to overestimate its size, though).

Go through all the opportunities and market gaps you see and how your product will use them. Reference current trends and predictions to justify your choices.

Below: Revolut. "Market" slide/Slideshare

revolut market size slide

Business model & financials

In the "Business model" slide, you must clarify how you will make money with your product. Show you have a financial plan, financial projections, and a revenue model. Answer the questions:

  • Who pays me?
  • What are my gross margins?
  • What is my predicted revenue?
  • What are my expenses?
  • What are my channels of distribution?

Haven't decided on the business side of your startup yet? Check out our previous article, where we explained how to create a solid business model.

Below: Revolut. "Business" slide/Slideshare

revolut business model

Traction

"Traction" is the slide where you discuss the progress and achievements you've already made and share positive feedback you received. Your goal here is to show that your product has already gained momentum and is worth investing in.

If there are any sales figures or early customer testimonials you can show off, do it here.

Have none of the above mentioned? Don't worry. Use this slide to present your milestones and the next steps you're about to take to generate traction.

Below: Intercom. "Traction" slide/Slideshare

intercom traction slide

Marketing and sales strategy

Use this slide to lay out your marketing and sales strategy. Explain what form your sales process will take and how you will reach out to your target audience. How are you planning to market your product? What are your sales forecasts and sales channels?

Below: Revolut. "Marketing" slide/Slideshare

revolut marketing slide

Team

A team slide is a great place to develop a deeper relationship between you and your potential investors.

Give your deck a human touch by presenting photos of the people contributing to your business.

With this slide, you want to prove that you and your team are the right people to create a product that will sell. How can you do this? You can, for example, describe their experience. Have their worked in the industry or participated in building any startups in the past? Perfect.

Below: Crunchbase. "Team" slide for Series C pitch deck/Slideshare

crunchbase team slide

Competition

Here we go back to talking about your competitive landscape. In this slide, your task is to show how your startup stacks up against your competitors.

Here you should:

  • Explain how your product and its pricing fit into the market,
  • Compare your business idea to your competitor's products,
  • Indicate key differentiators between you and your competition,
  • Lift the veil of secrecy surrounding your secret sauce—some unique quality or feature regarded that will be the chief factor in the success of your startup.

A clever rhetorical trick would be to talk about past competitors who didn't adapt to the changing world and went bankrupt, and then show that you understand why this happened and how the solution. Check how Zuora did this (slides 8—20).

 

Use of funding

Finally, ask for funding. Be specific: say how much money you need and why. Explain how you're going to distribute the financial support. If you have already managed to get buy-in from other investors, mention them here.

Below: Intercom. "Use of funding" slide/Slideshare

intercom use of funding slide

What makes a solid slide deck?

We've covered the topics you need to discuss in your pitch deck. Now let's go into detail on how to make this information attractive and functional.

KISS

KISS, an acronym for "Keep it simple, stupid!" is a design principle noted by the U.S. Navy in 1960. According to this philosophy, most systems work best if they are kept simple rather than made complicated; therefore, designers should strive for simplicity and avoid unnecessary complexity whenever possible.

Scrolling through pitch deck slides of Airbnb, Dropbox, or Tinder above, you've probably already noticed how minimalistic they can be. In conclusion, you should make your pitch deck as short and straightforward as possible.

To achieve this:

  1. Use as few words as possible. Your pitch deck is not a school essay, so don't bloviate.
  2. Explain your ideas in a way that even a 7-year-old can understand them. Venture capitalists aren't kids, but describing your products in simple words will do you no harm. The less complicated a business idea is, the easier it is to remember.
  3. Keep your text and visuals clean. Don't clutter your slides with graphics, icons, different font sizes, etc. You want your presentation to be neat, concise, and to the point.

We've talked about the importance of making your pitch deck uncomplicated. Now let's discuss how long your presentation and investor pitch should be.

How long should a pitch deck be?

It is recommended that slide decks should be relatively short. Most sources indicate the range of 10 to 15 slides per pitch deck. The number of slides suggested by our startup consultant Wojtek is 4-12.

However, bear in mind that the numbers mentioned above are nothing more than rough guidelines.

Remember: we live in the social media era, and we live fast. The average attention span on Facebook for video content is 2 seconds. An average VC will spend 3 minutes and 44 seconds looking through a typical seed pitch deck. For a successful pitch deck, the time is even shorter—about 2 minutes.

Conclusion?

Your pitch deck should be designed to be easily read or looked through in 2 to 3 minutes. So it doesn't matter whether you have 7 dense, information-packed slides or a 25-slide long deck with 3 words on each slide. Just make sure VCs and angel investors can scan it quickly.

How long should your pitch presentation be? Is there any time limit?

I'll go back to this question below, but once you've been given a chance to present your pitch deck, ensure it's under 20 minutes.

youtube title slide pitch deck

Use storytelling

Make your slide deck appeal to your investors by engaging them with your story.

You can tell tales about your customers—how they use and rely on your product, any hindrances or issues they face that need solutions, and how your product will improve their quality of life.

There are ready-to-go formulas that will help you structure the story you want to tell with your slide deck. I'll discuss two of them: the PAS formula and the before-after formula.

PAS stands for Problem-Agitate-Solution:

  1. You identify the "Problem."
  2. With "Agitate," you add emotions to the "Problem" and explain it even more.
  3. You come up with a "Solution."

On the other hand, the before-after formula consists of two elements. You describe the current situation of the target audience of your product and name all the difficulties they need to face. Next, you introduce your solution (product) and describe how their situation changed after they started to use it.

Still not sure if storytelling is for you? You shouldn't be, because it isn't that hard. Look, you could start like this: Sandy is a 35-years-old mother of two. She works full-time and has to take care of her children and house. She has no time to... So we've created... that can help her... in no time.

Check how Tinder (or back then: Matchbox) managed to get buy-in from investors by introducing them to Max—a guy who spotted a girl at the party but was too shy to go over and say "hello":

 

Show–don't tell

The main cinema rule states clearly: "Show–don't tell." It's more effortless to process information when presented in a graphic form. Your investors are no exception, so make sure you use visuals to convey your idea better.

Replace text-heavy slides with easy-to-comprehend graphs, charts, and timelines. Emphasize numbers and statistics to prove you haven't made up the information.

If you doubt your artistic skills and using PowerPoint or Google Slides is too much for you, try a pitch deck template from Visme and Canva.

You want your presentation to look cool but remember: the form should follow the content, not the other way around. If your deck looks incredible, yet the information inside could be more inspiring and convincing, it won't get you far.

Below. Dropbox. If you're saying "Storage is a mess"—show it./Slideshare

dropbox show dont tell

The language of benefits

When talking about your product, concentrate on its benefits, not features.

Features on their own are just features. You must show your investors how they can make a difference for your target users.

Using the language of benefits regarding product features will help you at least twice, first with the "Solution" slide, where you explain how your business idea will solve the existing problem. Secondly, with the "Use of funding," you'll have to give reasons why a feature is necessary for the overall success of your product and why you need money for it.

Make sure your deck is a stand-alone

Your pitch deck will undoubtedly present itself better with your comments, but it has to do the job independently. Make sure the information inside it is self-explanatory and understandable.

Update your pitch deck

You will probably have to send out tons of slide decks (the average founder contacted 58 investors during their seed round, to be precise), so ensure you update them as you develop your product and enhance your presentation.

To create a powerful presentation, you must work iteratively. The sad truth is the first version will be dissed or ignored, so don't feel discouraged. Instead, show your deck to people you know and ask for advice.

You can build your pitch deck or have an expert do it. If you feel uncomfortable doing it on your own, ask Wojtek for help.

Craft killer copy

With this little space and time, the text inside your pitch deck must be concise and engaging. Make an effort to craft sexy copy that will draw your investors' attention and be suggestive simultaneously, e.g., "We're the Uber for Pets."

Crunchbase copy slide

CTA

To finish, encourage your potential investors to contact you. End your presentation with a strong Call-To-Action.

Documents to include with your presentation deck

When you manage to make your investors interested in your initial pitch deck, they most likely will want to find out more about your project. The documents they might ask for are:

  • a business plan,
  • technical documentation,
  • target market research.

Business plan

A business plan is a document that outlines the strategy for running a business. It includes key information about a company's goals, strategies, marketing plans, and financial forecasts. You show the investors you've planned everything by introducing them to your business plan.

If you need help with business planning, ask us about our business strategy consulting services.

Technical documentation

In the case of technology-based startups, investors require technical documentation to see how you will build your product. From an investor's point of view, it's essential to know the ins and outs of the technical side of your business idea since most of their funding will be spent on developing your product.

Target market research

One of the biggest reasons startups fail is because of misreading market demand. Hence, your investors need to be sure you're targeting the right market with your product. Consider carrying out market research and UX research to define your customers.

Don't know what motivates your users? Mitigate the risk of addressing the wrong problems with our data-based UX design approach.

Smart rules for smart pitch decks

And lastly, here are some final tips that can help you structure your pitch deck. You don't have to stick to all of them at once, but they may come in handy, at least to some extent. Choose those you like the most and that suit your needs best.

The "10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint"

The idea behind this rule, created by former Apple brand ambassador Guy Kawasaki, is simple. It was initially made for PowerPoint presentations but can be easily implemented into building your slide deck.

10 = Your pitch deck should consist of 10 slides.

20 = Presenting your deck should take you at most 20 minutes.

30 = Minimal point size should be 30.

The magic number 7

The magic number 7 (plus or minus 2) refers to short-term memory capacity. Research indicates that most adults can only store between 5 and 9 items in their short-term memory at any given time, so try not to overwhelm your investors by providing extensive lists of features or benefits.

Instead, focus on delivering the first and last piece of information you deliver is the most meaningful and exciting as these are generally the elements that are best remembered.

The 5/5/5 rule

The 5/5/5 rule says that you should have

  • 5 lines of text per slide,
  • 5 words per one line of text,
  • maximum of 5 text-heavy slides in a row.

The 2/4/8 rule

According to the 2/4/8 rule, you should:

  • Move to the next slide every two minutes.
  • Have 4 bullet points per slide,
  • and have 8 words per 1 bullet point.

The 18 minutes rule

Here we're going back to the question of how long your presentation should be. Before I dwell on the 18 minutes rule by Forbes, let me first summarize what we already know.

  1. Your pitch deck should be designed to be easily read or looked through in 2 to 3 minutes.
  2. Your pitch deck presentation should take you at most 20 minutes, according to the 10/20/30 rule.

If your pitch deck shouldn't be longer than 20 minutes, then how long exactly should it be?

Well, according to the article by Forbes, the perfect time span for a business pitch is 18 minutes. The author motivates the rule by referencing the TED talks format, whose author discovered that 18 minutes is the ideal length to have a discussion without making your audience want to sleep.

Bear in mind the 18 minutes rule is just an option. Below I give you some Quora answers from investors and industry specialists to show that there's no rigid rule to follow. You'll see one of them opts for a 3-minute pitch deck!

how long pitchdeckdemo day presentation pitch deck how long

pitch deck lenght

Bottom line

That's it. You've learned:

  • what pitch decks are and why we create them,
  • what a solid pitch deck should include,
  • how to make the data in your slide deck attractive and compelling,
  • what other document your potential investors might want to see,
  • and what rules can help you structure your deck.

I hope that now you have a better understanding of how to create an impressive pitch deck. 

Good luck with your (demo day) startup pitch decks!

 

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