When it comes to launching a startup, getting funding in the initial stage is a tricky task. Creating and presenting high-quality pitch decks is one of the best ways to attract investors and receive funding. A solid pitch deck displays a company’s purpose, value, and profit potential.
A recent workshop entitled “Pitch Decks” delved into secrets for wowing investors. University of Utah alum Tim Cooley shared valuable tips for nailing pitch slides. He provided the tips through Lassonde for Life, a program developed to serve University of Utah graduates exploring entrepreneurship. Lassonde for Life provides lifelong entrepreneurial support free of charge.
Cooley has helped raise over $500 million for companies in the early launch stages. Read on to hear the tips that have helped make many startups dreams possible.
Cooley was first introduced to entrepreneurship through the Lassonde Entrepreneur Institute’s Get Seeded program while trying to raise money for a business idea. After constantly being turned down, Cooley wondered about what his pitches lacked. He went on to work closely in the startup space and later was granted the opportunity to help run Park City Angels, a Utah angel investment firm focused on funding early-stage startups.
Over the years, Cooley screened more than 1,000 unique startups and business ideas. He watched teams earn millions in funding and others receive nothing. While at Park City Angels, Cooley made notes on all the positive and negative comments given around every presentation. With stacks of notes and feedback behind him, Cooley wrote “The Pitch Deck Book,” a bestselling book on how to nail your pitch deck and raise capital for your company.
Cooley breaks his pitch deck tip ideas down into three areas: the pre-pitch, the pitch, and the post-pitch. His advice ranges from what to wear, what slides would be in the deck, how to pitch if you are on camera, and even the length of the pitch, which should be between 10-12 minutes long. More than what should be in the deck is why it should be there. Here are 10 more tips of the hundreds of tips you can find in Cooley’s book.
A strong background slide is essential in a pitch deck. From Cooley’s perspective, a background slide “roots us all into the same position.” This pitch deck aspect ensures investors have a solid understanding of why you, why this company, and why now.
Identify problem and solution
Discussing the background leads to the problem statement. Specify the observed problem, define an issue, and then explain your company’s unique solutions and problem-solving approach. Cooley highlights getting the problem statement right as an essential pitch deck aspect. Well-presented problem slides set up a presentation and help make a company’s value contribution clear. You should not move quickly through the problem or solution slides, this should be extremely clever and can take around 2 minutes for each section, 4 minutes total.
Another tip Cooley gives is to focus on the topic at hand. After moving on from the background to the problem statement, stay in the problem statement rather than shifting back and forth between problem and solution, more problems and more solutions, and then more problems and solutions. This is confusing to everyone listening.
Slide content should be thorough enough to present points solo without added dialogue. Limit text to necessary words, keep slides clean, and include images throughout. Font size should be readable for all viewers and never dip under 22.
Include business model
Cooley recommends setting aside slides to highlight costs and revenue. A finance graph helps explain where income and revenue come from — stacked bar charts are best if you have multiple revenue streams. Key performance indicator charts measuring success and potential success are something investors look for and thus should be in a pitch deck.
Define target market
Clearly define the intended target market. Get as specific as possible and focus on the demographic most willing to buy the product or service. According to Cooley, this is key. In many cases, you will want to mention this target market in the problem slides.
A company’s total addressable market size is all the people who may have the problems you are addressing. You need to show an estimated market size. Multiply your product’s cost by all the potential buyers. This is the total addressable market. These numbers and graphs provide investors with a lens for the company’s potential.
Be careful not to exaggerate financials as investors want to see realistic numbers. They are doing a gut check to see if this idea makes any sense.
Competitive analysis helps to highlight company strengths. Compare your company’s features with the closest competitors. Overall, competitive analysis gives investors a better understanding of the competitive environment they would be entering.
Next, highlight the milestone goals you will be reaching when the funding is successful. Milestones help the investor understand how the money is being used and what they can expect to see over the next 12-18 months.
Investors will also need to know who is going to make the above milestones happen. Incorporate a slide showcasing the amazing team backing your company. You will need to show the executive team, advisors, and key players. It is important to also highlight their unique, valuable, and entrepreneurial skills. A strong team signals a strong company and a desirable investment.
Future opportunities and exit
Most decks don’t need this section of the slide, but it can be a good thing to have or put into an appendix section. If you know you are in a competitive space where you will need many features to compete, then this is a great place to say when you will add those features. You can also add exit slides, mean slides that show who you plan to sell to or which types of companies are doing acquisitions in this market. These are not needed but can add a little value depending on the company presenting.
This is your final slide of the pitch deck. You want to summarize the entire presentation, have how much money you need, and also put your contact information on this one slide. This slide is probably the third most important slide in the deck after the problem and solutions. This slide gets the most air time and can easily be present for 10 minutes during questions and answers.
The pitch deck is not an easy thing to put together and requires many iterations, practice and patience. To see other pitches, check out PitchUs.