The right way to create a killer pitch deck and get funded — from someone who has raised $125M since 2011.
Creating a pitch deck is hard, especially when you’ve never done it before. If you’re a first-time entrepreneur like I was when we raised our $15M series A round for Bigcommerce back in 2011, then you’re probably excited, nervous and anxious about raising your first round of financing.
The good news is that a pitch deck can (and should be) be almost formulaic. You’ve got to tell a story, paint a vision, know your metrics and sell, sell sell. Whether you’re raising a small seed round or a bigger series A straight off the bat, you need to get a few things right and the rest will fall into place. In this post I want to share with you the 8 ingredients to create the perfect pitch deck.
There’s a lot of advice out there about creating pitch decks, so why should you take mine? Well, I’ve raised 4 rounds of venture financing since 2011, totaling $125M. I’ve pitched dozens of investors, including most of the tier one and tier two firms up and down the west and east costs.
I’ve also received multiple term sheets — all with strong valuations, great terms and the most important thing: great investors and board members.
Finally, I’m also an investor myself, so have been on both sides of the table, so to speak. I’ve seen good pitch decks, great pitch decks and terrible pitch decks. Probably 300 in total over the last few years.
Here are the 8 “ingredients” I think are the most important for creating a pitch deck that will make your fundraising experience short, effective and rewarding for you, your co-founders, your employees, your business and your future investors.
#1: Have a big vision — then make it 10x bigger
Having a compelling vision for where you want to take your business is important, but most first-time entrepreneurs think too small . I know I was guilty of this a few years ago. I can tell you now, whatever your vision is, it needs to be bigger and more compelling.
For example, if you have a vision to make it easy for people in a specific country to solve a problem, then expand your vision to help everyone in the world solve that same problem.
How do you know when you’re thinking big enough?
When you’re uncomfortable and even nervous with the size of the vision you’re adding to your pitch deck. Over time you’ll get used to the bigger vision and you’ll be surprised at how much more aggressive it will make you towards pursuing it.
#2: Explain how you’ll use the capital — in detail
“We will invest half in marketing and half in engineering” is not the most articulate way to address how you will spend the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars you want an investor to trust you with.
Having a detailed financial model (AKA best guess) for at least the next 3 years will paint a picture of not only your operating expenses but also your revenue growth, margins and potential profit over that time as well.
More than anything, know by department and ideally by business case where you will invest the capital and if you already have a marketing machine with a predictable ROI (i.e. $1 in brings $5 out) then explain that in detail too.
Having an accurate financial forecast will help mitigate some of the risk potential investors see in your business, especially if you’re pre-revenue and/or are a first time entrepreneur. Remember — the more risk you can take away, the better your chances of closing the deal.
#3: Know your metrics better than anyone
For a subscription business it’s CAC, LTV, CAC:LTV, nett MRR, conversion rate, churn (both number of clients and percentage of revenue), gross margin, etc. For other businesses the metrics will be similar. You need to know your current and future metrics in exact detail and you should be able to talk to how you will improve the metrics that aren’t up to scratch.
David Skok wrote the ultimate guide to metrics back in 2010 on his great blog For Entrepreneurs. It’s a long and detailed post, but it’s foundational to understand if you’re raising capital.
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