How to create a compelling pitch story — aka the J12 seed pitch deck template
I’ve spent a good amount of my adulthood browsing through founders’ pitch decks and the one thing that is for sure — there is no “one-size-fits-all” solution — so making a template is paradoxical. BUT, I also know that most founders (you?) prefer to spend time building your business — so hopefully, this saves you a few valuable hours.
Access the google slide templates here:
→ v2.0 all template slides (2022)
→ v2.1 story flow outline (2022)
First, some advice
Before you get started:
1. Tell a story.
This is btw why 1-pagers are the worst. I’ve learned a few tricks that I wanted to share shortly — stay tuned.
2. Keep it simple.
Explaining even something complicated simply shows skill. Few will decline a first meeting because your deck is too simple. But many because they don’t understand it.
3. Be concise.
“You had my curiosity, now you have my attention.” — that’s all you need. The rest you can explain later and show that you know your stuff.
PS: VCs spend less than 3min on your pitch on average according to Docsend!
What’s the most important thing at the seed stage?
Your pitch deck? Wrong. Most people will answer team. Does that mean your team slide is the most important one? Maybe almost the opposite, all the other slides will be a short opportunity to show how your team works.
Often the most important things to focus on in a seed deck are:
- Your product idea
- Why now?
Giving the reader a quick and simple feeling for why your idea has not materialised to date, but will fly off like a rocket once you bring it to the market is essential, and perhaps the most important slide of all of them — especially if you have not launched yet.
So why even have more slides? — you ask
To tell a story. And here’s how I suggest you tell a story:
Story flow — 10 to 20 slides
Here, the typical outline of your pitch following a logical flow of story-telling:
- The Yes-slide (!)
- Why now (!)
- Market opportunity
- Business model
- Go to market
- Growth plan
What happens in the analytical head of a VC when they look at your deck? Sadly, they try to kill it. Find “the flaw” in your story and logic to save time and move on. That’s why I recommend you to have a “Yes-slide” in the very beginning — maybe even two. Typically, it describes a fairly obvious trend or opportunity that opens the reader's eyes to what is coming after. I call this “The Art of Yes-sliding” ™.
There are two ways you can go. Try to make people feel the pain emotionally or with data. The goal is the same, be clear about what problem you solve. Be clear about how painful it is. Be clear that it IS a problem.
Solution is the abstract version of product. The main use case that your product solves. You could skip this, but likely it will help your story flow.
Product / demo
How your solutions work in practice. Often a short demo video (or gif) might be the most efficient way to explain your product (or rather give the reader a feel for it).
Showing that you have momentum and made progress is useful for somebody that only gets a snapshot of where you are right now. Make them feel that you’ve achieved something, worked hard, and made progress. It might be hard to show pre-launch, hence a time-line of milestones could help (traction slide #3)
This might be one of your most important arguments while often being based on somewhat subjective “beliefs” — make it easy for the newly arrived reader to convert into a believer. Use visuals where possible.
Starting with the overall size of the market can help to show the long term potential and to dream big. At the same time it’s important to narrow it down so as not to seem theoretical and naive — and it must tie in with your “go-to-market” strategy and the segments you seek to address first.
How is your business going to make a profit over time? Typically, on a high-level you will focus on unit economics, that is, how each customer generates profits based on the marginal revenues and costs, ignoring fixed costs.
If you have a well thought through financial model it makes sense to include the forecast, be ready to argue all assumptions down to a reasonable level of detail.
The choice of axes say more than you being top right… What are the key success factors to win?
If you are creating a new market / behaviour / product competition is often less direct — you can then list what other services or behaviours provide a competing purpose. (e.g. “Walking” as a competitor to taking a “bike” — although you can’t buy walking…)
Go to market
How are you going to reach your customers — what segments and channels?
Typically a summary of your financial model. you could also include a roll-out element, international expansion or new customer segments. If you haven’t figured out your pricing model and don’t really have a strong grip on financials it might be better to skip this slide. If you have a financial projection slide (like the one above) you will have to be able to argue for it.
If you have relevant advisors/ investors it can be worthwhile adding those. Distinguish clearly.
Naturally, your slides should echo your company’s identity and fit your story so you’ll need to find your own design style.
A lot of the principles of the previous slides still apply in my opinion — don’t make slides that look very fancy but are hard to understand the main point. If you need some slide design inspiration pitch.com has a lot of good stuff.
Here you’ll find probably the most extensive list of pitch deck templates, financial models, investor lists, CRM tools, etc. In the end, what really counts are company results. If you get investor meetings without a deck — maybe you don’t need one at all. Otherwise, make sure you have a good one ;)