What Is a Pitch Deck and How Do I Make One?

Pitch decks can be used by entrepreneurs to showcase their business to investors when seeking funding.

Entrepreneurs are likely familiar with an “elevator pitch” — a concise summary of an idea or goal, polished enough to impress, but brief enough to be delivered while riding an elevator. An equally essential, useful tool aspiring business owners may want to have in their kit is a pitch deck.

What Is a Pitch Deck?

A pitch deck, or presentation deck, is a slide show that entrepreneurs put together to convince investors that their business is worth investing in. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs will make two-pitch decks, one that is meant to be shared via email that is more text and information-heavy. The other is curated for a presentation, and may have more visual elements to keep investors focused and attentive to you.

Early-stage investing in startups is essential, and the entire purpose of a pitch deck is to hold potential investors’ attention long enough to explain your ideas and prove why your business is an intriguing investment. You may not achieve your investment simply from presenting your pitch deck, but that’s okay — you are striving to make it to the next step in the investment process.

Step-by-Step Pitch Deck Design

Oftentimes, investors wish to receive the email version of a pitch deck before committing to a meeting where you can make your presentation. The email version of a pitch deck needs to stand alone since you will not be able to provide supportive commentary. You need to provide all of the information succinctly and exhaustively. The first slide needs to capture attention, and should start with:

  • What the business idea is, or what you do.
  • Reasoning why you are the best option — why you are better than your competitors.
  • How big of an opportunity it is to invest in you.

The rest of the deck should fulfill and support the claims of the first slide, but should still err on the side of 20 slides or less. If your email pitch is not succinct or organized in a way that is easy to understand, you may lose the attention of your potential investor. Your emailed version of your pitch deck should set up your investors with foundational knowledge that you can build on during your presentation. The following suggestions provide details for creating the second pitch deck and setting up your presentation.

Use Fewer Than 20 Slides

Your pitch deck should use the least amount of cards possible, and should never stray over 20 slides. The topics you should absolutely cover include:

  1. The problem, consumer pain point, or gap in the market that your company intends to fulfill.
  2. The scalable solution that your company presents to the problem.
  3. The landscape of the industry and market that your company will exist in. You need to address your marketing platforms and campaigns making note of how they are purpose-built for a growing business. Explain your actionable marketing techniques and your customer relationship management (CRM) plan.
  4. Pictures of your product in action, descriptions of your product, or quotes from clients that discuss how much they utilize or love your product.
  5. For companies that have already started, investors may want to see granular or month-over-month growth. If your company has yet to start-up or you are still in early stages, you may wish to omit this slide.
  6. You should consider showcasing your team and leadership. Your investors may wish to know who is executing the mission and vision of your business.
  7. Make a point in differentiating yourself from your competitors. Provide a comparison of what sets you apart and makes your company, business, or ideas unique. This may include the innovation of your product, the sustainable ways in which you can run your business, your all-in-one marketing campaign that has the ability to reach niche customers, etc.
  8. You should always include financial figures, including your current investments and use of funds. Some investors may require projections for the next three-to-five years.
  9. The amount you wish to raise, shown in a range. There may be a cap that prohibits your potential investors from providing you the full amount of your ask. By creating a range you may open up your opportunities for more investors.
  10. Your contact information. You should never forget to include your contact information, your website, and any digital or social media presence you may have acquired. Chances are your investors may wish to look you up and reach out to acquaintances for references.

Use a Clean, Professional Design

Much like a job interview, first impressions count during your presentation. It is important to use a clean and professional design, taking note of color schemes and the use of space. You want to ensure that your pitch deck is well-edited and thoughtfully curated to convey a sense that it was compiled with great care.

Make It Clear and Simple

It is important that your information is thorough but does not veer into unnecessary details. Your pitch deck should mimic your elevator pitch and it should be built to capture attention and be succinct. Provide enough details that you don’t leave any doubts with your potential investors, and make sure to leave space for them to ask questions at the end of your presentation.

Don’t crowd your slides with images or text, make them simple and easy to understand. If you place block text on your slides, chances are your audience will be attempting to read your slides rather than listen to your pitch.

Provide Solid Evidence for Demand

You will need to address the market and industry in which you intend to partake, as well as the problem or gap your product will solve or fulfill. If possible, it is best to showcase studies or documented evidence in studies, reviews, or statistics that distinctly supports your claims. Exhibit your marketing plans, and how you intend to master the ways of marketing with different resources such as email and digital marketing, making note that you are prepared to start marketing your small business on day one.

Stand Out

There are a lot of formulas and preset models to build your pitch deck from that offer a solid foundation, but it is important to make a unique and impassioned pitch to encourage investors and to bring energy to your presentation. Adding unique elements that specifically showcase your unique designs, products, or ideas can display the authenticity and originality of your work; this may include elements of design, and videos and pictures of your business at work.

Offer a Detailed Business Plan

While discussing market size, opportunity, and your marketing plan is vital, the importance of your business plan is undeniable. Your business plan will showcase the major elements of your business operations, financial models, and goals. It will show how you are going to achieve success through a viable strategy. All of these efforts combined should narrow down the focus to exactly how your ideas, products, or services are going to generate income, which is crucial to the bottom line of whether or not your investors choose to invest in you.

Have Credible Projections

Provide a financial summary and history of the funding you may have received so far, as well as the investment range you are looking for. Discuss in detail how you intend to utilize the money and how you intend to grow your business. The financial plan should summarize and explain the return on investment that the investors may receive from choosing to fund your business. Curate and display this information through a graph or easy to read imagery, so that your investors don’t need to squint at small numbers on an excel sheet.

Make the Investor’s Role Easy

Through the entire creation of your presentation, keep simplicity in mind. This may include clean designs for your slides — no blocks of text or tiny numbers — or keeping your industry jargon to a minimum. For example, if you have an idea for creating an app, detailing the logistics of the programming or technical aspects may not speak to your audience of investors. However, explaining how customers will use your app to relieve a pain point, will.

Startup Pitch Deck Examples

Examples of successful pitch decks may include:

  • Facebook: Facebook utilized clever graphics and quotes to capture attention and provide a quick understanding of the data they were presenting. The color scheme was minimal and on-brand, and they used simple language to make great impacts such as “Our services - Online Marketing Services”.
  • Airbnb: Airbnb utilized an extremely clean and simple design that allowed for ease of understanding. Each slide contained minimal text, but large amounts of information. Graphs and illustrative designs provided important context for the ease of use as well as financial summaries.
  • Foursquare: Foursquare does include large blocks of texts, but also customized and showcased their unique app on nearly every page. They were able to showcase customer experiences as well as provide easily readable images of statistics of use.
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