Pitch Deck Hacks

What makes a pitch deck successful? What do investors want to hear? Is “problem-solution-traction-team-future” structure still game? Find answers to these and some other questions in the article below.

Ana Bibikova
Jan 20 · 9 min read

Googling up “pitch deck template” will probably yield over 10 mln results (depending on your language and location). It’s quite a pond to fish from, isn’t it? If you’ve had an experience of being interviewed by investors or of actual pitching to them, you probably won’t see the task of writing a descent pitch deck so challenging. But if you’re a novice and getting down to your first investor’s pitch, you’ll certainly feel as frustrated as I had couple of years ago. On the other hand, even if you have already successfully raised a round or two, you might feel prompted to find out are there any new trends. Or the same old “problem-solution-traction-team-future” structure is still your best bet?

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Problem -Solution Dilemma

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Secondly, you were supposed to get straight to the Solution, as in this use case graciously provided by Front — a shared inbox software company. If you’re not familiar with it, I advise you to go and check it out. Front is considered to be one of the most successful startups in terms of raising, and their first Pitch Deck for Series A round is widely discussed at various entrepreneurship courses.
To sum up, the solution for the problem you had presented in the first slide, was supposed to be straightforward, easy to understand and give a glimpse on your technology or/and the market.

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Traction’s Attraction

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Team’s First?

Going in the “green zone”

  1. Investors are not interested in businesses they won’t be able to exit with profit in 3 to 5 years. Meaning, show considerable growth in this time range.
  2. Investors are looking for companies that can grow into something really huuuge.

The second message actually means that there are “red zones” and “green zones” in terms of revenue numbers that make investors go from default no to default yes in seconds. For instance, you your growth projection slide shows that your company will generate $25 mln in revenue in 5 years, most US-based VCs will lose any traces of interest to conversation straight away. Your anticipated $25 mln just don’t fall into their “green zone”.

Plan B

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Naeem Zafar, Demystifying Financial Side of Starting Up

Building up strategy

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New game

You have to understand that the game rules had been created in early 2000 when startups were rare. Nowadays, average VC receive over 100 applications a day. They have about 10 meetings and review at least 200 companies. Your only chance not to get lost in this noise is to stand out. Meaning, everything in your application (from the introductory letter to the Pitch Deck) should be different from what this hypothetical VC receives daily. On one hand. And on the other, built with the familiar bricks of “problem-solution-team-traction and future”.

To give you other parallels: you must use the same ingredients to cook the most unexpected and mouthwateringly seductive dish. Or, you must take the same scenery, words and actors and stage a mind blowing movie of the future. It is not an easy task. But it must be done.

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Great stories for great people

The message is clear. Turn your Pitch Deck into a thriller, romantic novel or a blockbuster. Create a plot to get your investors’ attention and hold it up to the last slide. Make it a movie. A cartoon. A comic. Create a whole new world for it (like, in Harry Potter or The Lord Of the Rings). But don’t forget to make sure your story is delivered in less than 30 minutes.

Befriending an investor

“Whom do you think I’m going to pay more attention”,
asks Naeem Zafar, author of “Get Funded”, chief advisor and shareholder in companies like Oracle, and Telesense.
“To a person who writes me a cold email, saying “hi, please check out my Pitch Deck”. Or someone whom I’d seen among my followers in LinkedIn, who’d commented on my posts, approached me personally at numerous conferences and had shown respect and interest in what I’m doing?”

With all social media availability, websites like Meetup and Eventbrite you, as a founder, actually has limitless opportunities to establish connections that used to be accessible to Ivy league alumnae alone, just a few years ago. Use these tools wisely to build an impression and a network you’ll need to launch your startup and to move it further.

Knowing your customer

But if you can’t say exactly these words, don’t get discouraged. Airbnb, for instance, couldn’t do it. They had the first part. They had made something they themselves wanted. But it wasn’t spreading. The idea is to show that you have a deep understanding of your users’ needs. If you’re building a service for travelers, you should know from the first-hand experience what motivates guests and hosts. If you’re creating a Shopify competitor you should explain in details what empowers entrepreneurs and make them want to start online business. Be a part of your users. Get under their skin. And open their secrets in your pitch deck story.

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