I have enclosed here a Dropbox link to a freely downloadable PowerPoint template (will do a KeyNote also for you hipsters) I have laid out actual slides (around a fake company idea of rocket launching software 🚀) , but more importantly there are NOTES for each slide (see under the slide) that detail the key questions you need to ask yourself upon completing each slide. Below is the real substance and purpose of each slide and the questions you will need to ask yourself on each slide to kick-ass and raise funding — and just keep in mind …“It’s not about the Deck”
THE DECK SLIDES
1.) SLIDE 1: The Big Vision Statement (That Grabs Everybody)
Quick Note: It is incredibly hard, painful and stressful to successfully build a business — yes 95% fail, yes it will forever change you, yes LOTS of people do not make it personally through this meat-grinder, yes it takes a good amount of obsessiveness/insanity…the entire process becomes intensely more difficult if your vision is not a BIG, HUGE, INNOVATIVE game-changer of a vision. In my experience it’s impossible for this VISION statement TO BE TOO AMBITIOUS OR GRAND. Aim High.
- Key Point: Incremental improvement is not a “Big Vision”.
QUESTION: Does this vision paint a powerful picture of a “changed-world” describing the outcome in 4–5-years if everything goes amazingly great?
QUESTION: Is this a wholly unique position in the market Vs. existing companies today (meaning, “nobody occupies this spot in the market today”)
QUESTION: Does this Big Vision statement make half the people who hear it laugh and half the people say “Cool!”
QUESTION: Does this Big Vision statement speak to the HEAD and to the HEART? (ideally)
2.) SLIDE 2 : The Team & Advisors
On one slide, 3 FOUNDERS & ideally 4–5 ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS
Bio’s of team should list relevant past-companies (names of companies), exits (where did you make money for investors, and specific titles/roles from those companies).
- Ideally, in TEAM you cover the 3 CRUCIAL LEGS OF THE STOOL in terms of team capability > PRODUCT (VP Product), TECHNOLOGY (VP Engineering/CTO), SALES/BD (the CEO typically). Realistically, in the earliest days you may not have all 3 legs of the stool. Have at least 2 covered or fundraising even at this earliest point becomes super hard.
- Your Advisory Board is one of the single most valuable assets as a Pre-Seed/Seed-Stage company, credibility by association, sector viability, and investment experience at early-stage are the assets you get out of the advisory board. Advisors are like the deep-roots that can help the tree weather the storms that are sure to come. Many, Many times in my past, my advisory board members provided critical introductions or help that resulted in profound impact
- Advisors should include 1–2 sector experts (same sector) from known companies (viability/validation), 2–3 Silicon Valley known angels/advisors whose names are known for making great investments and who other investors like to follow in investments.
QUESTION: Does your team and their experience establish instant credibility for having a viable perspective/view around this VISION?
QUESTION: Does your Advisory Board establish instant credibility around “sector expertise” and instant credibility for “investors/angels who have backed massively successful companies”?
QUESTION: If I only had one slide, the TEAM SLIDE, to show to potential investors, would my current slide get it done? ( at the earliest stages, angles are primarily backing the team, they know the concept may change)
3.) SLIDE 3: The Market & Problem
Has to be a BIG-ASS top-level market of $20B+, today’s specific market may only be an entry-level/small part of that market, but if so, then speak to the larger market that opens up or activates if the VISION is fulfilled (should be suggested in the VISION statement)
AMATEUR MISTAKE: Often times, entrepreneurs who are attacking a very specific product category reference a market that is 3–6 levels above them [example: I make axes and the global timber industry is $20B, therefore our opportunity is a $20B market opportunity…..]
The Problem must be a quantifiably real/tangible problem and not a personal opinion on “what could be better”
Ideally at the earliest stage, you have direct feedback/input or even validation from a market incumbent that this problem is super real.
(Example: Prospective client who says “this is a huge fucking problem and costs us this much money each year, if we had a tech that did ___ we would pay millions for it.”)
Even better: You run a small test/simulation that shows just how major the demand for this kind of solution would be if only the product exists. [landing page demand test]
QUESTION: Have I presented 3rd party data, or testimony from a real market participant/prospective customer that has externally validated that this is a real problem and opportunity? (i.e. NOT JUST MY OPINION AS THE FOUNDER)
4.) SLIDE 4: The Opportunity
Should be “To own the market you are defining” via a unique/innovative value proposition combined with a GTM. When somebody reads this it should be the the “what” and the “how” that will bring huge success
QUESTION: Does this opportunity sound like a HUGE untapped, currently unoccupied role in the market with multi billion dollar potential?
QUESTION: Have I described an opportunity that the TEAM listed above can credibly execute on?
5.) SLIDE 5: The Product (What Specifically)
What is the actual product people are using….”An Android and IOS App that does this…” A SaaS based enterprise application that does this
Amateur Mistake: In many, many pitches — the presenter gets 15–20 minutes into the pitch and investors STILL HAVE NO IDEA WHAT THE PRODUCT ACTUALLY IS, as early as possible provide the explicit description of what the product actually is (not theoretical, metaphorical, touchy-feely — what are people using that you created?)
Amateur Mistake: The “3-Minute Rule”, If we are 3-minutes into the pitch and I still have no idea what your actual product is….( an app, a robot, enterprise application, a nuclear reactor) to be clear….”the thing a human will use”…
QUESTION: Have I made it 100% clear as to what my product actually is?
QUESTION: Ideally, have I shown some visuals, a demo, graphics or simulations as to what the product will look like to help people visualize the solution?
QUESTION: Does The product align with what I’ve described as the market problem and VISION above?
6.) SLIDE 6: Technology & Unique IP
Ideally, you have developed some level of unique/defensible technology to solve this problem, even if you didn’t invent Cold Fusion, there should be some unique assembly/combination or application of technology or data that has not been deployed before. (Uniquely yours)
Even if it’s not purely new technology, you could be assembling or configuring existing technologies in a unique way or apply it to your market in a unique way.
RED FLAG: Purely off-the-shelf or commoditized technology being used in commonly applied manner is not a solid foundation for a business. The technology and how you apply it is an opportunity to innovate, differentiate and create defensive moats around your business.
QUESTION: Do I clearly describe the unique technology at the heart of my business, which provides a competitive edge, differentiation and opportunity for us as a company?
QUESTION: Does the technology/IP description align with the VISION, PRODUCT, and OPPORTUNITY slides?
7.) SLIDE 7: Traction
Traction means VALIDATION, MOMENTUM and most importantly will show me your ability to execute in advance of funding, ideally you have elements of all of this.
Amateur Mistake: Never show a deck that says, “We haven’t built anything yet, but once we get funding we will…” Traction is your chance to impress potential investors with what you’ve accomplished without any of their money.
*Note, in this slide you get to DEFINE how investors should measure your success (the dashboard)….choose wisely
Pro-Tip: At Pre-Seed and Seed level, MAKE SURE these metrics are ones that you can absolutely engineer and produce, not “Lightning-in-a-Bottle”. If you link these early traction metrics to concepts that are only generated “if everything goes perfectly” then this could be painful.
At Pre-Seed… concepts like team recruiting, product development, MVP with feedback, customer advisory council, strategic partner LOI’s, acceptance into accelerators etc can all be used as MOMENTUM, but nothing wins as definitively as a growing list of actual CUSTOMERS who are using the product (TRACTION)
The important difference between TRACTION and MOMENTUM is, TRACTION validates somebody wants and will pay for your product, MOMENTUM is positive forward progress in the pursuit of TRACTION.
You can only ever RAISE MONEY ON MOMENTUM at a minimum, but with TRACTION you can raise funding much more quickly and effectively.
Examples of Traction & Momentum
Momentum > Kick-ass team members joined, advisory board members on-board, new angel investors have committed
Momentum > Techcrunch did an article on how cool we are and I have 1MM followers on my Medium Blog about Flux Capacitors
Traction > We set-up a single landing page to collect pre-orders for the product and got 1200 orders
Traction > We signed on 4 enterprise customers who are paying us $500/month as BETA customers
QUESTION: Does this slide make it clear that “The train is leaving the station and fast”, in other words, the company is executing aggressively on its plan and more and more people are getting involved (customers/investors/advisors) every month
QUESTION: Do the traction elements I have presented here credibly reinforce and support the VISION, PROBLEM and OPPORTUNITY I have outlined above — and serve as proof of those statements?
QUESTION: Do I have actual traction, or am I just raising on momentum?
- Pro-Tip: There will be a time when you need to raise funding and you may not have actual traction to report of …this is when momentum plays a key role ands your ability to “engineer” momentum may be important.
SLIDE 8: The Business Model:
The key here is a simple model for how money is made. Ideally this is a simply diagram or funnel that lays out revenue sources & drivers — and suggests what future sources of revenue will/could be created as well. Less is more, but answer the obvious questions that would arise based on that model.
Pro-Tip: JUST FYI….there are only 4–6 business models IN THE WORLD, just be clear which one you are utilizing
QUESTION: Have I been concise and 100% clear on my business model, and does that business model make sense based on what I described in the VISION, MARKET, and OPPORTUNITY slides?
9.) SLIDE 9: The Go-To-Market Plan (GTM):
Generally, the sales and marketing of a new product/technology can be the most expensive element to a business in the earliest stages (and possibly the most off-putting to many investors) — if you want to kick-ass on this slide, combine a creative and unique market entry-point which is low-cost and scrappy (partners, referrals, channel, B2B2C) that ideally you can show glimmers of today.
Pro-Tip: Certain-death is to say “our GTM is to buy ads on Adwords, FB, Instagram”… anybody can buy ads, if that is your strategy for getting customers…it’s going to be really hard to raise money .
IMPORTANT: If you describe a unique GTM strategy (which you should) you likely will need to be able to validate that strategy (meaning you can show this works now), real data, evidence, traction — even on the smallest level.
QUESTION: Have I presented a creative non-obvious GTM strategy that provides access to a huge number of customers but also enables me to do this initially in a scrappy low-cost manner?
QUESTION: If I have done the above, then have I presented data, results on some early validation of this GTM strategy so that it is not simply hypothetical?
10.) SLIDE 10: The Roadmap (36–48 Month Snapshot)
I call this the ROADMAP slide but for many this is the FINANCIALS or NUMBERS slide, it’s a visual short-hand that I have learned depicts precisely what investors need to see to establish credibility around RUNWAY, COSTS, OPERATIONS and EXPECTED REVENUE.
Early stage investors need a sense of the runway generated by this financing and any assumptions around additional financing. This simple visual model depicting ROADMAP should include revenue, drivers in your traction concepts as well as total costs, typically the major categories are [customers, revenues, headcount, key product launches, financing, total expense]
Pro-Tip: Investors can quickly identify issues in your assumptions on this slide for example: costs don’t match headcount, revenues grow too rapidly (unrealistic), subsequent financing mis-timed, product launches don’t match financing milestones (traction), customer # doesn’t match revenue, customer # exceeds anticipated costs to support, etc
QUESTION: In one succinct slide is it clear what amount of funding is needed in the company to get to very specific milestones in product delivery, revenue, output and profitability for the company?
QUESTION: Does this slide make it 100% clear how much cumulative costs will be incurred and financing required before reaching key milestones?
QUESTION: Can I (verbally) describe the key cost drivers in our business, can I (verbally) describe the key revenue drivers?
11.) SLIDE 11: Competitive Landscape Analysis (CLA)
For some reason people often neglect to really think through their CLA, this slide more than any… conveys your credibility in and perspective on the market you’re attacking. It also reflects the viability/uniqueness of your approach (GTM) and the scale of the opportunity. This slide is where you walk-the-walk of your unique “secret about the market” that only you know, how you have depicted the market opportunity and your unique entry point. It is also the ammunition smart investors will use to do their own research around what you are doing relative to others.
ULTRA Pro-Tip: The absolute most successful pitches I have ever given and have been given as an investor…are when the presenter takes the opportunity with this slide to credibly deliver a “total education on who is doing what in this sector” and how they all differentiate or attempt to differentiate themselves. There is no better method to engage potential investors than to provide the with an “insider’s view on the overall market and who is doing what and why.”
Pro-Tip: You should assume that when you present companies on your CLA slide, that some investors in the room know the companies you have listed well and have likely been pitched on these companies in the past.
You MUST know in-depth about every single incumbent and start-up who are attacking this same market sector….CERTAIN DEATH is when an investor says “Have you heard of Company X?” — this is short-hand for “there is another company attacking this problem and I assume your not aware of them.” The way to successfully address this is to describe your understanding of what CompanyX is doing.. and how you are meaningfully different from CompanyX .
RED FLAG: Whatever you do, DO NOT BE DISMISSIVE OF OTHER COMPANIES in the sector, lay out the logic for how/why you are approaching the market differently and let that logic speak for you.
Pro-Tip: What is positioning? Positioning is where you get to DEFINE WHO YOUR COMPANY is… relative to all others in the sector, in one simple slide you get to define what makes you different from the others and what “really-matters” in the sector. By definition, that means you are communicating what will matter and what won’t matter in the future
QUESTION: Have I credibly included everybody in my specific and broader sector?
QUESTION: In my X-Axis, Y-Axis positioning, have I credibly defined what we do differently relative to everybody else and why that is valuable as it relates back to my VISION, OPPORTUNITY and GTM strategy?
RED FLAG: Don’t leave out any key participants, BE AWARE of larger incumbents who are already exploring your category with small/internal efforts, BE AWARE of any/all companies who tried your model in the past (and are dead and buried).
12.) SLIDE 12: The Ask
Simple straight-forward ask with logical structure for where you are today.
Example 1: “We are raising a $1.5MM pre-seed round on a SAFE with a $5MM valuation Cap and a 20% discount (great structure for pre-seed)”
Example 2: “We are raising a $3MM Priced Seed-Round (you don’t get to define pre-money valuation of terms here, so it’s an open-ended ask focused on the targeted raise amount)”
Pro-Tip: When you make “The Ask”, you also need to take the opportunity to communicate momentum. Example “6 commitments already with more than 30% of the round spoken for”