Crafting the Investor Deck

Crafting the right pitch deck seems mysteriously formulaic because it is. I have a thought progression to lay out, but this isn't a template. I'm not convinced you should work off of a template. In the end, tell a compelling story that flows through and leaves the reader with the questions you want to receive first. Knock those out of the park to get a conversation started. 

1 liner and what you do - Keep it short and don't be a "this for that" comparison. Succinctly explain the business and let the investor quickly understand you're "this for that" without it being stated.  Try the 1 liner under your logo on slide 1 and what you do on slide 2. 

THE TEAM SLIDE! - Don't be so concerned with this. Are you a group of badasses with highly relevant industry experience at a leading company, or have a significant exit or 3? You aren't? No big deal put it towards the end. 

Problem - This will most likely be 1 slide explaining the problem briefly. If you need two just be sure it's necessary and not adding redundancy. Remember your audience is smart and can understand problems.  

Solution, Model, Product - A deck becomes art when summarizing all of this. Most of your time should be spent thinking how you plan to present this information and tell a compelling story. Think about what questions you want to receive and optimize to have the reader lead with those. I think these are all very separate points and should feel like individual presentations. Minimize the number of slides used and intelligently explain where the product is and how it works. 

The market is big enough - Great. Early stage investors just need to know it's big enough to feel an exit after dilution from multiple rounds (a big exit). Show the beachhead opportunity and the total market that is in the billions magnitude. 

Traction - In the end, the investor wants to know you a) deeply understand the customer and b) know where and how to find them. Sometimes this can be a beachhead strategy with intelligent thought around expanding it to the rest of the market. There are limits to CAC, but in the early stages it's ok if you have a sound plan to bring it down in the future but need capital to do so. Show a repeatable acquisition model.

Growth - Marketing, sales, whatever you want to call it. What have you done to understand this and how is it automated? Explain the engine you're building. 

KPIs - This is likely tied to growth, above. You need to know 3-4 KPIs that are the most critical at the current point in the business. Present those and point to the most critical one, maybe add a few words on how they're interrelated. Investors want to know you understand what's moving and you have control of the mechanics.

To revenue or not to revenue - You should show revenue projections, but simply and quickly, maybe in the appendix. This is more about understanding when you think you make money, how much customers might be willing to pay, and what exists at that point-- context is from the rest of the deck. Show somewhat reasonable revenue expectations for year 1 but don't kid yourself with long term or lofty. 

Competition - Be realistic, you aren't the first to do this and there are other companies in the space. Address this head on and explain your position in the market relative to the others. If you miraculously check EVERY box you've created to show the competitive market, congrats. Its not believable, though. Be upfront with competition and layout the competitive landscape fairly.

Roadmaps - These might belong in the appendix. You absolutely need a technology and business development roadmap to show the investors what's next (and really what's missing). Be realistic and align them with milestones. Maybe it's a Gantt chart. 

The ask - Ask for money. If you don't have a lead investor that's set the terms, you don't need to say what kind of round (convertible or priced) or what terms you want. You're already complicating the negotiation by anchoring on numbers before they know the business. Pick a reasonable number and shoot to oversubscribe, no terms unless a lead has set them.

Use of Funds - The breakdown can be a % used for team, technology, customer discovery, customer acquisition, etc. Maybe add what team members are most critical hires to show the gaps in the current team and that you understand them. Add this to the ask slide. 

Milestones - Again, this might be combined with use of funds on the ask slide. Show how you're using the funds to reach certain milestones to get to your next round of funding. Think strategically because an investor is seeing how you understand what you need to to raise a much larger round. Don't underestimate the thought process here. 

Appendix - It can grow from gaps in conversations you have. Things like: potential exit scenarios; hiring roadmap if it isn't in the use of funds; case studies and specific customer testimonials; more details on engagement; deeper competitive landscape breakdown (still put competition in the main deck); more traction graphs and projections. Just make sure the appendix isn't bloated with low-value items. 

Bad at design - fix that. Here's the dirty secret: we're all shallow and would rather look at a pretty deck. It's not an absolute deal breaker but imagine sowing up at your wedding in shorts and ankle-high socks. Content dictates design-- make sure there's substance before aesthetics.

The investor deck is a living, breathing resource that defines the company. If you're moving at the pace you need to get investor interest, it will change week-to-week in small or significant ways. Keep it up to date and don't be caught on your heels.