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Build a winning investor pitch deck with Forum's General Partner, Jonah Midanik

Jonah Midanik
Jul 25, 2023
#
min read

In the competitive startup landscape, a powerful pitch deck can make all the difference when it comes to securing venture capital funding. However, crafting a pitch deck that not only stands out but also resonates with potential investors is easier said than done. In this article, we delve into 10 key tips that can help founders build an effective pitch deck that can raise capital. We will explore everything from creating a captivating title slide, leading with your strengths, to communicating the problem you're solving and the value your solution brings. We'll also discuss how to showcase traction, properly frame competition, and present your startup's vision

1. Master the art of anticipation with your title slide

The title slide is your pitch deck's first impression. While it's crucial to keep it professional and eye-catching, try not to spill all the beans here. Your goal should be to pique curiosity rather than satisfy it.

Venture Capitalists (VCs) look through countless decks, usually spending an average of two minutes per deck. Therefore, maintaining intrigue is crucial. Avoid jamming everything into the title slide; instead, control your narrative arc, maintaining a balance between suspense and clarity.

2. Lead with your strengths

Each startup has a unique edge, be it an impressive founding team, innovative technology, or a list of high-profile customers. Make sure to highlight your startup's unique strength early on in your pitch deck:

  • Your team is wildly impressive and credentialed
  • You’ve lived this problem before so you know the problem intimately and you’re uniquely positioned to solve it. 
  • You have an awesome list of customers. 

These aspects make your company stand out and help VCs quickly understand why you're uniquely qualified to execute your plan.

3. Master the art of bragging

While humility is a commendable trait, your pitch deck isn't the place for it. Venture is not a place for small dreams and humility. You're not just pitching your product or solution but yourself as well. Make sure to present your accomplishments, skills, and qualifications compellingly. Remember, this is your chance to convince VCs that you're capable of transforming your vision into a reality.

4. Present a solution to a real, significant problem

VCs are on the hunt for the next big thing, the next billion-dollar business. You need to show that you're solving a significant, tangible problem—one that resonates with your audience. 

Venture is the art of the big. Our job is to try to find unicorns, and billion-dollar businesses that are solving big problems that are very concerning for the people that have them.

Instead of focusing on the tool or product, highlight the potential impact: How will it increase revenue? How will it cut costs? How will it save time? Make sure to clarify the severity of the problem you're tackling, the cost of ignoring it, and the benefits of your solution.

5. Craft a compelling vision

Your vision is the essence of your company. It tells why your company exists and what it aims to achieve in the long run. Keep it simple, clear, and ambitious. It should resonate with your audience and paint a picture of a bright future. Remember the visions of companies like Google or WeWork; they were simple, yet profoundly ambitious.

  • WeWork - “We're changing the way humans work”- Co-working has been around for hundreds of years. But the founder repackaged it as this, genre-bending generation-defining new concept called co-working
  • Google - “We organize the world's information” - Their product line is big, but they have a definable vision that can be applicable no matter what the product is. 

The packaging and the bigness of your dreams are going to be huge definers of whether or not you raise capital

A well-crafted vision is versatile—it applies to your company today and when it's a big business. And don't forget the "mom rule": If you can't explain your vision to your mom, it's probably not simple enough.

6. Communicate Value Clearly

There are two significant forms of value in business: increasing revenue and reducing costs. However, there's a third, often overlooked, form of value—mitigating Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD). These are the existential risks that your product is solving. Clearly articulate how your product or service brings these values to your customers.

7. The Team Slide

The Team slide is one of the most important slides in your presentation. It highlights the deep domain expertise you have and communicates why your team -- above anyone else-- is uniquely qualified to be building this product. VCs invest in people as much as they invest in the product you're building, so crafting a strong, succinct team slide is essential. Make sure to highlight:

  • Your credentials (i.e. PhD, or Masters in the subject)
  • Relevant work experience across your team (i.e. ex-Google, ex-Amazon, 2X founder, etc.)
  • Diverse skillsets across your team (i.e. engineering, product, sales, etc.)

8. Showcase your Traction

Traction is a strong indicator that there's market demand for your product or service. Even if you're pre-revenue, there are other ways to demonstrate traction, such as: 

  • Beta user feedback
  • Number of people piloting your product
  • Letters of intent
  • Strategic partnerships. 

These proof points show that your startup has market appetite, strengthening your credibility. If you can't show that there's any market validation of what you're doing, it's going to be difficult to convince an investor unless they're an expert in your field.

9. Emphasize your large TAM

VCs are interested in large Total Addressable Markets (TAMs). Clearly demonstrate how your vision aligns with a $5 billion market opportunity. This shows the VCs that there's significant potential for high returns on their investment.

10. Reframe the competition slide

The competition slide can often feel like a challenge. Instead of focusing on how you outperform competitors, talk about how you're creating a new market, a blue ocean where your startup is the first and only player. This doesn't mean you should ignore the competition, but at the initial stages, it's more important to focus on your startup's potential to carve out a unique space in the market.

11. KISS - Keep it stupid simple

VCs may not be experts in your field. Keep your explanations simple and digestible. You should be able to answer two fundamental questions in simple language: Why? And why now? Why is this the right time to build this technology or product where others have failed? 

Again, this is the first meeting. So VCs will ask to see a demo eventually, but getting into product details isn’t needed in the initial pitch deck. 

This includes avoiding product screenshots

Screenshots can make your deck cluttered and aren't usually helpful. They rarely offer clear insight into the product's functionalities and often appear similar to those of other startups. Instead, focus on explaining how your product works, what problem it solves, and its unique value proposition.

In conclusion, keep in mind that while these tips can help you create a compelling pitch deck, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Tailor your deck to your audience, your startup, and your vision. Remember, the purpose of the pitch deck isn't just to secure funding but also to get genuine, constructive feedback from VCs, which can help you refine your business model and strategy. Be prepared to iterate and improve your deck based on the feedback you receive.

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