Cheat Sheet for Creating an Investor Pitch Deck
An Investor Pitch Deck is a PowerPoint presentation made up of a series of slides, intended to showcase your company. And, if you’re looking to raise money from investors, you are going to need one!
After over 15 years working in finance and investing — from investment banking to private equity — I have read thousands of pitch decks. And, as entrepreneur I’ve sat on the other side of the table, writing my own and raising five rounds of funding for my own startup. While I may not know your product or the company you’re pitching – I do know what it takes to create a successful deck.
- I know that there is no one-size-fits all formula.
- I know some companies prefer informal meetings without deck presentations.
- I know you still must create a deck in order to structure and guide any conversation.
- I know most interested investors will ask for a pitch deck to be sent after a meeting.
And I know that raising capital can be difficult, so it’s crucial to nail your pitch with a captivating, strong, and engaging deck. So, I created a guide to assist you no matter what your stage of business. The slides you choose and the order you place them will depend on the story you have tell. And yes, you are telling a story – there should be intrigue, it should resonate with your audience, and it should be persuasive.
Remember CliffsNotes – those study guides used to explain literature? While some may have chosen to read them in place of the written work, they were intended to make the subject clearer and more palatable. Think of this as my version of CliffsNotes: A Cheat Sheet For Creating An Investor Pitch Deck.
The Big Idea
This is your grand goal and ultimate vision for the company. You should be able to tell potential investors who you are and what you do in one or two sentences. Assume they know nothing about your brand.
A few important things to keep in mind:
- Be clear and compelling.
- Be bold: Don’t undersell your vision. What is the dream? The long-term impact?
- KISS: Keep It Short and Simple.
- Analogies can be helpful (“Uber of X”) – but, make sure your company’s business model is actually similar to the one you’re likening it to.
This is where you need to identify the issue or challenge you’re solving. What is the big opportunity? Why aren’t current solutions working? Who has this problem? Tell the story of your target customer:
- Describe how he/she experiences the problem. You might want to give them a persona. For example, Ashley is an ambitious 25-year-old junior publicist who works long hours and has little time and money, but she loves a home cooked meal.
- Back up the size of the problem with third party validation, showing impactful statistics to further your argument.
This is where you clearly describe what you’re offering and how it solves the problem.
Tell how you address the pain point of your target customer. This is where you want to bring in emotion by using storytelling. How does your customer use your product to better their lives?
- If possible, use visuals here. Showing is better than telling (mock ups, actual pictures, links to demos). Guide potential investors through a first time user experience and highlight 4–5 of the standout features. Make them go wow — but be careful not to overwhelm them with too much detail.
Use this slide to expand on your target market and give investors a better idea of the total size and value of your market. This is where you tell the story of the scope and scale of the problem you are solving.
Be sure to use third party validated sources to account for your numbers. The larger and more reputable a source, the better.
- Examples include: Euromonitor reports, SPINS data, CB Insights
Do not be afraid to include several overlapping markets – each of which would be addressed by different types of marketing.
- For example, if you are selling a vegan ice cream, your target market could be lactose intolerant people who are struggling to find ice cream options.
- The market size is then the number of lactose intolerant people multiplied by the average American ice-cream purchases each year to get the market size.
This is where you want to talk about what you’ve achieved so far.
The goal of this slide is to show proof of concept and validate that some aspect of your business works, helping to allay investors’ fear of risk.
You want to use as many of the following as possible metrics as possible (leading with the strongest) to prove that your solution works to solve the identified problem, by showing what progress you’ve made. If you don’t have any of these things yet, share potential customer survey results or anything else that shows some validation.
- Sales/user growth.
- Logos of actual customers/retailers.
- Sales rank at retailers, industry awards.
- Traffic to site, app downloads.
- Social media reach (Instagram followers, Facebook page likes, email list size, etc).
Every business has competitors. Who are yours?
Show investors that you have a strong understanding of market dynamics by including both current and future competition. And, let investors know how your company is different and why customers will choose you.
- A matrix or marketspace with 4 different quadrants showing how your brand measures against the competition can work well on this slide.
It’s important to note that even if you are creating a new market, you still have competitors. Your future customers are currently using alternative solutions. You just need to need to be clear about what advantages you offer that do not currently exist.
This is where you want to lay out your plan for how you’re going to get customers’ attention and detail the the methods you will use to acquire sales.
- Define the messaging you will use to attract your target market
- Outline the main marketing channels you plan to use (PR, email marketing, social media, etc.) and why this is the best way to reach your target market
- Lay out the estimate for what you will spend and the Customer Acquisition Cost (“CAC”) for each channel
Unit Level Economics
This is the direct revenues and costs associated with your business model expressed on a per unit basis.
Use the following inputs to calculate profitability:
- How much does it cost you to make one product or offer one service?
- How much does it cost to acquire one customer? (You can bring in the “CAC” from the Marketing slide).
- How much will an average customer spend with you over the course of their lifetime? (For example, a makeup company may assume an average customer purchases 6 times before moving on to another brand).
This is where you lay out your economic projections.
Mature companies should have a detailed analysis (sales forecast, profit and loss statement, and cash flow forecast for up to three years.)
If you’re in the early stages, this can be high level, as investors likely won’t overly focus on 5 year projections if you haven’t launched a product yet. Nevertheless, a budget is important – the simple act of writing down your financial framework can give investors an overview of how profitable your business might become.
Things to include:
- Sales and customers
- Revenues and expenses (from production costs to rent and salaries)
- Burn rate (This the amount of money you’re spending each month — above and beyond any revenues you collect)
- Cash in the bank. Compare this to burn rate so investors can see how much time you need to raise money, turn a profit, or go out of business
This slide highlights the key players who run your company.
The team is one of, if not the, most important factor in most investors’ decisions.
- In fact, if your team is particularly strong on paper, you can even lead with this slide or move it up earlier in the deck.
Describe in detail why your team is uniquely qualified.
For each team member, include a picture, their job title and a brief bio focussing on their achievements and distinctive contribution, as well as why their passion makes them particularly well suited to your company.
- If relevant, mention how long the team has known/worked together and in what capacity.
If you have advisors, this is a good place to showcase their involvement.
You don’t need to include a full bio for advisors, but highlight why they will be a valuable addition to your team.
This is the reason you’re here — to get some money! — and this is the slide where you get to ask for it.
So how much money do you want? Give them a number. This can be a range, but not too broad! (i.e., $1.5mm – $2mm). Be sure to explain why you need the amount asked.
And then, tell potential investors how you will use the proceeds.
- What percentage will be spent on new hires? What will be spent on marketing? What will be spent on inventory?
- What do you expect to achieve with the money?
- How long will the money last?
This is the information you would not want to include in the pitch, as it would break up the emotional and concise storytelling; but, it can be useful to offer to potential investors looking for more details.
Some examples of slides you might include here are:
- Historical and projected financial information.
- Product roadmap with mockups, screenshots, etc.
- Marketing research.
- Brand identity materials.
- Press articles and customer quotes.
These slides should be your guide, an example for you to base your own pitch deck, but this is not a magic formula. You can, and should, change the order or use more than one slide per topic, or mix it up to enchant potential investors in your unique way. No one can sell your passion for your company like you. Write from the heart, with emotion and remember you’re telling a story. Your enthusiasm will make others eager to discover more about your company — but, with that in mind, don’t forget that your pitch deck needs to stand alone. The story on the page should be as exciting as the one you tell in person. Investors may pass along the deck, or want to look at it later – and it needs to spark the same fire and energy you ignited at your meeting.