How to Write a Killer Startup Pitch Deck?

Writing a first investor pitch deck is an
overwhelming process for many startup founders. You have to calculate your market, figure out your go-to-market strategy and your financials… we get how many founders just get stuck halfway. The first challenge here is- a pitch deck
is a tool to paint a quick and exciting picture of a business opportunity. Sometimes that
idea is not fully formed, or sometimes the founders haven’t had the chance to sit down
and figure out some key business components. As they build their pitch deck they realize that they need to stop and go think about it. The point here is, by solving your pitch deck,
you are solving many strategic decisions about your business. In this video, we are going cover how to answer
these business questions, and how to translate them into writing in the format that investors
expect. Why do I know about this stuff?
Well, my name is Caya. I’m the CEO of a company called Slidebean. We are a DreamIt and 500
Startups accelerator alum and raised venture capital for our business. Our platform is a super-easy presentation
platform, and most of our customers are other startups, so effectively, thousands of decks
and millions of dollars have been raised with our presentations. Without further ado, this is HOW TO WRITE
A KILLER PITCH DECK. Alright, so like I said, with Slidebean, I’ve
worked with hundreds of companies, actually looked at their pitch decks, and helped them
craft better stories for their startups. Pitch decks are company stories. If you think
of a deck as a story, then you can start thinking about a story arc, with plot points, developments,
antagonists, and a climax for the story. For MOST companies, this is a pitch deck outline that translates into a fantastic story-and we’ve used it time and time again. First, the PROBLEM/SOLUTION section. There’s
a major pain point in the world, and now there’s this solution here to break the status quo. This solution is excellent; it looks beautiful,
it saves time, people love it! This is the PRODUCT section. This is the first glimpse that people will get into the product, what it does, how users are finding it essential for their lives, and you are getting repeat use and tons of money and how the business model makes sense for them. The story builds up, and we move into the
GO-TO-MARKET section (very often overlooked). We’ve not only built this awesome product,
but we are rockstars at selling it- and there are tons and tons of customers out there. Large market opportunity. Moving into the COMPETITORS section. Some
companies have tried to do it, they are all doing it wrong. None of them have the insights that we have, none of them have the tech that we have and our TEAM has so much experience in the industry that we’re just set out to win. Excitement at its peak! It’s the climax of the story. And then, right then, here’s how you investor in the room can join this company. And this is the ASK section. You can be a part of this and you can make a shit ton of money and here are the numbers to show it. There you have it, the 15 slides for a killer
deck. While this is my version of a great startup
story, and again, we’ve used it quite a bit of times. I’m not making it up. We actually surveyed the templates and the presentations of some
of the most successful companies out there, and absolutely all of them contain a variation
of these ~15 slides. Investors don’t want a 45-slide deck. They
don’t want a one-pager (well, some of them do). They certainly don’t want a 50-page business
plan. They want a presentation that shows that you and your team have solved all of
these in your heads and that you can put in simple terms and obviously that their money is going to make a difference to get this business to where’s it’s meant to go. Alright, now let’s dig into the slides. The PROBLEM/SOLUTION section.
The problem (or Opportunity) slide should be simple. I believe in slides that just propose 3 or 4 sentences about the status quo. I’ve used Airbnb’s example a bunch of times and I’m going to use it again. This is what Airbnb wrote on their slide. Price is important for travelers. Hotels are bubbles.
There’s no way to book a room with a local or to host a spare room or apartment. These are the actual slides from Airbnb’s 2009 first seed round deck. Our team did some redesigning because the original slides were not great. Notice how each statement is one line long. They are
also undebatable: you don’t want to get into an argument with investors at this point. If you are building a product that a lot of
people will use, then that pain point you’ve identified needs to be so very clear to so
many people. Complex, wordy problem statements reflect problems that might not be evident
to that many users, which could mean you’ll have a harder time convincing them they need what you’ve built. Some industries are more straightforward than
others, of course, but this is a fantastic challenge to start writing your pitch deck: write
your problem statement in 3 sentences. It takes time, don’t expect to get it right the
first time. The solution is well, a slide that addresses
those 3-4 points with, well, solutions. On this slide, I like to talk about the product
in the abstract. Don’t get into features yet; just talk about what it does at its core.
It could be a sentence; it could be three bullet points or three images that connect to the problem statement that you just talked about. One important tip here is to, once again,
avoid tech jargon. Think of benefits instead of features- so instead of saying: ‘fully
responsive editor,’ rephrase it to ‘edit your presentation anywhere, even your phone.’ This is a killer line right here from a real pitch deck:
The Convenience of a cab in NYC + experience of a professional chauffeur. That’s Uber’s
actual solution slide, on their long time ago seed deck. In the PRODUCT Section, it’s time to brag
about the product. Screenshots are good. A 60-second video demo is perfect (no more than
60 seconds, I’d suggest). And then a slide on the benefits. Once again, talk about the
benefit to the user, not developed or fancy features. With the business model, don’t worry too much
about different pricing plans or tiers. Just tell us how the company makes money. Is it a subscription, Saas business? Great, how much per month? Is it based on API requests, great! How much per API request?
And what is the average contract size? How much is one each one of these users worth to you? This is not a pitch to a user; this is a summary
of how the company makes money. Which brings me to arguably the most important
slide, TRACTION. I talk about TRACTION all the time; You need Traction to raise capital.
Here’s Steve Barsh from Dreamit Ventures repeating the same thing. For raising serious institutional capital, if you have no traction is really really difficult. Here’s Elizabeth Yin’s blog,
saying how you need to bootstrap your way to 30% MoM growth. I’m legally obligated to say yes, but it happens very rarely. Investors in 2019 want to see
built products, early signs of revenue, and customer excitement. That is the way to stand
out. It’s not so much about the story it’s about how the company proves that it can make money. If, of course, you have a considerable, beautiful multi-million dollar startup exit in your background, well, you are probably not watching this video and you probably don’t need my help to raise money. If you don’t have Traction, get it and
then come back. Next up, the Go-To-Market plan. Most of the
companies I talk to don’t have this solved. An excellent go-to-market plan should have,
A layout of how your customer acquisition process looks, whether it is outbound sales or inbound marketing.
A rollout plan or timeline on your critical team hires, what they will do, and what your
budget is to bring customers in. Your expected unit economics: how much is
your average customer acquisition cost going to be, and how long will it take you to recover
it based on your business model. Which, of course, translates into how much money the company needs to raise. The length of your sales cycle. Knowing the answers to these questions before
your product even launches is hard, not to say impossible. But once again, translates to the importance of
TRACTION before you work on this. But really, if you are raising money to grow
the company, then this slide is absolutely fundamental. Prove to the investor that you
know how you are going to spend their money. These tactics might fail. They will fail. You will probably
need to pivot and adjustment soon- but the point here is showing that you and your team
have a plan, and could come up with another one if/when this one fails. Now that we’ve talked about HOW you are going
to get to market, we should talk about the Market Size. I’m going to quote Steve again so that you
don’t have to hear it from me: Top-down market estimates don’t work. 1% of a trillion-dollar market is an irrelevant number to an investor. It’s about how many customers you are going to get. First big mistake we see people make: they say “oh, if I could just get 1-2% of the market it’s a huge total addressable market” Absolutely not. You can not do a top-down estimate. You got to come bottoms up. Next thing people do: say “OK, I’ll do a bottoms-up”. The first example they say is: “wait a second, look how big the problem is” The total addressable market, they say, look at the impact. For instance, a very unfortunate problem in the US today is the opioid crisis. They’ll tell us “the opioid crisis is a $100B problem.” Right, that’s the size of the problem. It’s not the size of the market. You can’t define the size of your market being the size of the problem. Alright, so bottom-up market estimates or approaches. The point of this slide is showing how much money could this company make. Take your time to do a little
research, prove to yourself that this is a $100MM business opportunity. We can also help
with that. The point is investors want to make sure that the business opportunity that they are investing in is large enough to make up for their money. Now that we’ve covered the business opportunity
let’s confirm that there are no obstacles in the way. Let’s call them antagonists. I like 2-axis charts for competitor comparison,
as long as you can differentiate yourself with these two axes. Our product 2-axis slide
looks something like this: Automation vs. no-automation, and beautiful design vs. bad
design. That’s where we stand apart, and it’s easy to lay it out with two variables. Most businesses are more complex and will
require a grid. This grid lets you, talk about your advantages much more clearly, and stand
apart with specific features and without having to ‘oversimplify’ it to just two variables. If you are a tech startup, the competitive
advantages slide is where you get to brag about your stack. Maybe you have a few patents
under your name, perhaps you’ve built something nobody can easily replicate, this is the place
to add it. Which also brings us to our team. This slide
should answer the question, WHY ARE YOU THE TEAM TO DO IT? and WHY CAN’T ANYONE ELSE CATCH
UP TO YOU? Ideally, you should have years of industry insight that give you a unique
perspective on the problem that few others will be able to see. In this slide, BTW, I recommend talking only
about your founders and/or core team members. 2-4 people tops. People who are passionate
about this and who are getting their hands dirty with the actual business operation. I rarely recommend mentioning advisors. In
my experience, advisors typically allocate 1-2 hours per month to the companies their
advising, which, to me, is not really enough time to truly impact the business.
I’ve been asked to advise various businesses, and what I always tell them is,
I’m running my gig, so don’t have time to get my hands dirty and get involved the way
I would want to, even if I’m excited about your business.
If you give me the half percent or 1% stock and your business succeeds, I’ll end up being
a very expensive advisor to you compared to the time that I could really dedicate. You are better off booking some office hours
from me and picking my brain from time to time. I’ll leave a link to that in the description. Finally, financials. Investors will expect
to see some projections on how you expect the company to grow in the next five years.
EVERYONE knows these are not going to be exact, but they want to see what your expectations
are. If you believe the company can grow from $0 to $1B in annual revenue in 5 years, maybe you are a little bit too optimistic not to say out of your mind. Red flag. If, after year five, it’s only at $1MM in revenue, then perhaps the opportunity
is not large enough, or you are not ambitious enough for their expectations. Remember, seed stage, and venture capital
investors expect you to 10x the valuation of the business within 5-7 years- that’s the
only way in which the math works for them. Go check out our video on equity and convertible notes for some more ideas on how this works. Which brings us to the ask: where you should
talk about how much money you are raising, and a simple breakdown of how you plan to
use it. Categories should be something like Growth/Marketing, Product Development, and
Operations. For a company with a built product, this growth/expansion budget should be a big
chunk of that pie. Now that is a pitch deck story. As a final note, these are not rules, more
like guidelines. Go ahead and break them. I, for example, like to kick off with Traction
on slide two if the business model is simple and the company is doing well. It helps capture
attention early on. If you have multiple products, then you have to come up with numerous Problem/Solution combinations for each one of them. So you can always come up with a challenge on how to reorganize those slides. I’ve created a pitch deck template with these
slides, which you can download and edit on Slidebean. Anyone signing up with the link
below will get three free months on any of our plans. Also, once again, go to
to find out other ways in which we can help you with your slides. Thank you for watching. See you next week.

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15 thoughts on “How to Write a Killer Startup Pitch Deck?

  1. Hi there. We love your videos. In fact we have applied somenof them in our venture. Is there a chance to make a 5 mins video conference with you to see if you could be interested in partner up with us? I am from Aguascalientes, Mx.
    Thank you!

  2. If you’re just doing something quick and don’t mind a really basic set of slides, go with PowerPoint. When you’re ready to take that next step and need “wow” slides, Slidebean is a no brainer! When you really have something worth presenting, this platform will really make a difference for you ☺️🙌🏽🥇. Oh, and happy Halloween 🎃!

  3. 5:33 “that’s BOOBER…” if you check the subtitles. Well done Caya, well done! 😂😭🙌🏽🥇👏🏽😅

  4. Caya, one thing I think that makes you such an inspirational leader is that, even though you are running a successful company, you genuinely care about other startups and helping them succeed. Your videos are very insightful, and I am so grateful that you are willing to share your knowledge with us. Thank you for that.

  5. Hey Caya, just a quick question.

    How to decide on the percentage of shares to be given to the seed funder?

  6. 7:05: "If you don't have traction, go get it and then come back." <– the most anguishing yet inspiring line you've ever uttered!

    That could be a video in itself–maybe a better version of this:

  7. Hello Caya, I have a question,
    How do companies decide fees percentage or subscription fee? For example: How did Slidebean land on $96 for starter and $228 for the subscription. Why not $100 and $250 respectively. I am trying to understand how companies finalize these magic numbers.

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