I’m very open about helping founders whenever possible. This means I often get asked to provide feedback on pitch decks.
More often than not, the version I get is in fact a ‘pitch’ deck – a slide deck that would be used for a presentation. The issue is that it usually has no context for me without the person presenting it in person.
Sometimes I’ll get a deck where all the slides are basically just images and graphics with a single problem statement and some slide titles. How can I provide feedback on that?
What concerns me is the thought of the founder emailing that to a potential investor or VC fund, and then wondering why they never got a response.
I recently helped the team at Stone & Chalk put together a comprehensive 42-page Capital Raising Guide for Startups. In it we cover terminology, funding structures, what kinds of documents you need to prepare and what your pitch deck should look like.
You need two versions of your pitch deck, one that many people (including myself) call the ‘investor deck’ and one that is your actual pitch deck. In reality, it doesn’t matter what you call them, as long as you have different versions and understand which to use.
So what’s the difference?
Think of this version as what you use when pitching on stage or to an audience/ It never goes without you. The goal of this deck is to help sell you and your vision, to get the audience (even if it’s just two people in a boardroom) excited about what you’re doing and want to get involved in it.
- It supports your in-person presentation
- It tells a story. The story of your vision, in very simple terms
- It’s very visual, often slides can have just an image
- Focuses on the problem, and your USP or differentiation
- Introduces the market opportunity, team, and future plans
- Slides should contain only basic info, with images and graphics to support rather than long lines of text on any slide
- For a broad audience, who probably have no prior knowledge of you and your business
The point is that you want the people you’re pitching to focused on you, not trying to decipher complicated slides. So regardless of whether it’s one or 1000 people in the audience, if you’re doing it in person, keep it simple and visual.
Think of this version as a teaser. Like a trailer for a movie you watch before deciding if you want to see the movie in full or not. It’s what you send (usually via email) ahead of time, either before the meeting or to secure the meeting itself.
You know who you’re sending it to, so you’ll know how much, if any prior knowledge of this topic they’ll have and can adjust accordingly.
- It can be read by itself, with no additional context or explaining needed
- Talks about your vision but in more business terms
- Generally brief, 10-15 slides max
- Slides will contain more information and short paragraphs of text are acceptable
- Introduces the problem and covers the key value proposition
- Focuses on the market opportunity and advantage of the startup
- Focuses on the team and their relevant qualifications
- Often covers the go-to-market strategy in more detail
Consider this very typical scenario: You meet a potential investor, perhaps at an event, and give them your 30 second elevator pitch. They sound interested enough to say “Sounds alright, why don’t you send me your pitch deck?”.
So what’s your next action? To email that document to them. While they (the investor) generally call it your ‘pitch deck’, what they are really asking for is a brief PDF document they can read to decide if they want to take things any further.
Therefore you need to understand that the document you send is trying to achieve one goal, and only one: pique their interest enough to arrange a meeting.
Once you’ve got the meeting and you’re ready to sell your team, your vision and your business, that’s when the actual pitch deck comes into play. It supports your presentation without intruding, leaving you as the star of the show.
Having both of these documents prepared in advance, and knowing which to use at different points in the investor-courting process is an indispensable piece of startup wisdom that too many founders learn too late.
- Cheryl Mack is Head of Community at Stone & Chalk