How to Make a Winning Pitch Deck for Startup Fundraising
Raising capital is one of the most crucial steps in getting your startup off the ground.
Convincing investors that your business is worth financing is not only about planning and persuasion; it’s also about presentation.
It pays to come prepared with an impressive pitch deck for your fundraising meeting. A great pitch deck gets potential investors excited about your idea and engages them in a conversation about your business.
Here’s the ultimate guide to creating a winning investor pitch deck for your startup.
The Ultimate Pitch Deck Guide:
What is a pitch deck?
A pitch deck is a presentation that provides a brief but comprehensive overview of your business. It should introduce your products and services and the fundamentals of your business plan. It should also highlight high-level financial projections and present your proposed funding needs.
What is the purpose of a pitch deck?
Contrary to what you might expect, the purpose of a pitch deck is not to immediately get an investor to invest in your company. With hundreds of millions of startups created globally every year, it’s rare to land an investment deal after a single meeting.
So, while a solid pitch deck is critical to winning investments, the fundamental goal of the pitch deck is to get to the next step—a follow-up meeting and a request for more information.
What to include in your pitch deck
Every business is different. Consequently, pitch decks can also vary depending on the company or the audience.
Some will say elevator pitches of 5 to 6 slides are better, while others claim the magic number lies between 10 to 20 slides per deck.
There aren’t any rules set in stone. But a good general rule of thumb is to keep your presentation deck short.
You don’t want your audience to be saturated with information, or worse, bored, with your 30-slide presentation.
Remember, a short but compelling presentation is always a winner.
Investors look for key slides in a successful presentation. Here are 10 of the essential slides you need to have in a winning pitch deck:
1. Introduction: who you are and what makes you unique
You need to start somewhere. So it makes sense to start with who you are.
This is the very first slide in your pitch deck. So think of this as an impression-building slide that sets the scene for the rest of your presentation.
The introduction slide is where you introduce yourself and your business idea.
According to experts, “the first 60 seconds of your pitch are the most crucial.”
Give the investors a snapshot of your vision for your business:
- What you do
- What unique value do you bring to people
- Why the investors should care to listen
The shorter this section is, the better. You want the focus to be on the business concept, not yourself.
Pro Tip: Pay attention to your company’s branding in this slide. Elements such as your company logo, colors, fonts, and icons set the overall mood for your presentation. And do the little things. Consider adding, in smaller font size, a line stating the purpose of the presentation. For example, you can add as a footnote the subheadline, “An Investor Presentation for Future Builds VC.” This signals to your investors that you have taken the effort and time to customize your pitch deck for them.
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2. The problem
The problem slide is where you start telling your story. This is your opportunity to show why your business exists.
Explain the problem. Illustrate how your target customers are affected by it:
- Why is it a problem?
- Is the problem important and worth solving?
- Who has that problem?
Then show if and how the problem is currently being addressed:
- How is it being solved now?
- And more importantly, how can you solve it better?
To make this slide even more compelling, use an image.
Use this slide to show the investors that there is a huge need or a common painful problem that you have a solution for and that doing so can generate revenue.
The more you show the problem is real and relatable, the more your investors will understand your business concept and goals.
Pro-Tip: In this slide, you can also showcase a more in-depth understanding of your target market by presenting the following:
- TAM (Total Addressable/Available Market). This is the total market for your product, which refers to the maximum revenue a business can generate in a specific target market, regardless of the competition. This figure allows you to estimate, objectively, how big is the largest potential market?
- SAM (Serviceable Available Market). This illustrates the portion of the TAM that your product and service can realistically target.
- SOM (Service Obtainable Market). This shows a subset of your SAM that you will realistically capture or how many will use your product or service. This is commonly referred to as your “market share” or the target market to which you will initially sell your products.
3. The market and the opportunity
This is the section of the pitch deck where you identify and provide a profile of your ideal customers and then illustrate how many of them there are. Here, you need to present:
- The state of the current market – what is the total market size?
- How is it likely to grow?
- Your projected growth
This is one of the most crucial slides in your pitch deck. You need to provide viable data for your investors to understand the total market size.
But, be wary of defining your market as “as large as possible.” Rather than showing a huge opportunity, it can backfire and instead signal to investors that you do not understand nor can you clearly define your target market.
Investors will want to see that you have a particular and reachable market. Remember, the more specific you are, the more realistic your pitch will be.
Pro-Tip: Instead of sharing your findings or numbers, illustrate your point with more impactful visual aids with data visualizations such as graphs and bar/pie charts. Visuals present data in a more appealing format, making complex concepts such as figures or ratios easier to understand and digest.
4. The solution
Here, you get to explain and, more importantly, show:
- How your product or service works
- How customers use your product
- How does it address the problems that you outlined
Make sure to discuss features and highlight the benefits.
That said, avoid presenting a laundry list of features. The human brain’s short-term memory can only hold 7 (plus 2 or minus 2) items at a time.
Choose only the top 3-4 features of your product or service.
One common mistake that startups make is that they can become too focused on their product instead of its benefits to its users. Keep your pitch deck focused on your customers and what value your product or service can bring them.
To demo or not to demo?
When pitching business concepts, showing is almost always more powerful than telling. So to help you further illustrate your solution in action, you can perform a live demo, show videos, or create an infographic animation. But be sure you have internet access if you need to access the demo live. Otherwise, you’ll struggle to run the demo properly.
5. Business and revenue model
This slide aims to show how the business will make money. Here, you should include information on pricing, marketing strategy or how you will attract and retain customers, customer numbers, and what they are spending.
- What will it cost to make or operate your product or service? (Raw materials, design, manufacturing, labor, etc.)
- What will it cost to sell your product service? (Marketing, acquisition cost, distribution, delivering a service, and processing the sale)
- How and how much will the customer pay? (Pricing strategy, payment methods, etc.)
You must be able to flesh out the details here. Take a look at a few examples in our guides on how to start a consulting business and how to start a real estate business.
Pro-Tip: Reference the competition to illustrate how your pricing and revenue model is positioned in the rest of the market. Are you a premium or luxury brand with a high-price offering? Or are you more of a budget brand with lower-priced offerings that will undercut the current competition’s pricing?
This slide shows the investors what your business has achieved so far. So if you already have sales or a database of customers using your product or service, illustrate those in this slide.
Investors would be more likely to part with their money if they see that your business and revenue model has had a real-world run.
There is less risk in the investor’s mind when there is validation and social proof.
Pro-Tip: If possible, add a product or company roadmap where you can outline your company milestones.
- What primary goals have you completed so far?
- What are your next milestones?
- Show a projected timeline for goal completion.
Here you get to introduce the minds behind the idea. The goal is to demonstrate that your startup has addressed or identified the necessary skills to build, manage, and scale the business.
- Why are you and your management team the right people to run and grow this company?
- What value does each person bring to the business?
- What experience do you have that others don’t?
Highlight the critical team members, their successes at other companies, and the critical expertise they bring to the table.
Showing that the management team has the necessary experience in the industry your business operates in can clinch the win for some investors.
Note that if there are roles or skill sets missing in the team, be transparent enough to articulate the key positions you still need to fill.
And if you already have current investors or a board of directors in place, mention and include them in your presentation.
Pro-Tip: Don’t use stock photos to represent the team. Use actual images instead, as this is one decisive way of building trust and genuinely connecting with your audience. Also, during the actual presentation, use the members accompanying you – don’t let them sit quietly without some role. Otherwise, the investors will wonder why they are present at the meeting.
The financial slide is one of the most crucial slides in your deck. Thus, the information you put here must be factual and correct and match your business plan’s financials.
More importantly, you as a presenter should demonstrate that you understand the numbers and figures you have provided.
If any part of the presentation needs practice, it’s this section. If you answer questions about financial details incorrectly, you could put off a potential investor from backing your startup company.
Essential data to cover in this section include:
- Sales targets and achievements
- Customer numbers
- Income statement (profit and loss statement)
- Cash flow forecast (at least three years)
- Updated or current balance sheet
Pro-Tip: Avoid using spreadsheets when presenting figures. Instead, translate these into graphs, charts, or infographics.
Investors are veteran strategists. They will want to know about your rivals, how stiff the competitive landscape is, and how your business can stand out among the rest. So be sure to summarize your competitive analysis.
They will also want to know if any future technologies would disrupt your target market and how you intend to respond to those changes.
On the flip side, this is also your chance to exhibit your expertise and in-depth knowledge about your chosen industry.
Pro-Tip: Use a comparative infographic of your product or service with your key competitor. This helps illustrate your product or service’s distinction and edge.
10. Investment ask
Finally, you’ve come to the conclusion of your presentation. It’s also the most challenging part of the process: it’s time to ask for the money.
First, you must declare the actual amount you need to raise. Explain why you need that amount of money and how you plan to use the money.
It is vital for investors to know how their money is being spent, why, and how it will help you grow your business.
Quick presentation tips to make your pitch successful
1. Keep it short and simple
And according to veteran venture capitalist and entrepreneur Reid Hoffman, a “classic partner in a VC firm is exposed to 5,000 pitches in a single year.”
You don’t want to bore your audience with excruciating details. So make sure that your slides are short but punchy and straightforward.
Make sure to leave time for follow-up questions and discussion about your pitch. Your main pitch should ideally cover about ⅓ of your meeting time, while you leave the rest for demos and questions.
2. Skip the bullet points
Bullet points don’t help tell a story. They can also undermine the impact of the narrative you are trying to present because the audience is already reading them instead of listening to you.
Instead, use large fonts for statements and limit the number of words on each slide. Let your storytelling do the rest.
3. Tell a story
Don’t just focus on the facts. Add some humanity to your business proposal by making the idea relatable.
The more you can tell stories that investors can relate to, the more likely they will be excited by your startup company’s offering.
4. Present the latest version
Fundraising can span weeks, months, or even years. So make sure that your deck is up-to-date with your numbers, roadmap progress, and management team composition. There’s nothing more off-putting than an out-of-date pitch deck.
5. Save and send your pitch deck in PDF
Most, if not all, investors will always ask for a copy of your slides ahead of your presentation. Send them a PDF file instead of a Powerpoint or a Keynote file if they ask you. A PDF has more flexible compatibility across operating systems and devices, ensuring that your pitch deck layout (fonts, colors, spacing) will stay how you designed it.
Pitch deck designing Do’s and Don’ts
1. Use only what’s necessary
Avoid cluttering your slides with too many design elements. Use only visuals that you need. Do not add unnecessary icons or graphics. Make sure every design element serves a purpose.
2. Use only clean and legible fonts.
Avoid fonts that are too fancy or stylistic, making words challenging to read. Instead, use legible and aesthetically clean fonts such as Helvetica, Poppins, Georgia, Montserrat, etc. As a general rule, your font size should be no less than 24 points. Make sure the font size is no less than 24 points. And use only 2-3 fonts. Using more fonts will clutter your presentation and will look less professional.
3. Pick a visually impactful color scheme
Take the time to choose the colors for your presentation. Colors have a psychological impact on your audience. Take time to learn about color psychology before deciding on your color scheme.
4. Don’t neglect your pitch deck copy
Keep your copy simple, concise, and punchy. You can start by writing your pitch deck copy without noting the word count. Once you are finished, go back to edit and prune your copy. Remove flowering adjectives and fluff statements. Use simple terms instead of too technical jargon. Try limiting each slide to 6 to 8 lines.
You can use the 5 x 5 x 5 rule on writing pitch deck copy:
- Five lines of text per slide with
- Five words per line and placing only
- Five lines of text-heavy slides in a row
A strong investor pitch deck can help you raise the funding you need to launch and scale your startup. But you need to tell a compelling and exciting story and address the essential information investors expect to see in a pitch deck.