Pitch Deck 101: A Foolproof Template For Any Startup

Rhiannon Payne
Aug 24, 2019 · 9 min read

Over the past several years, I have been consulting and building pitch decks for startups across Silicon Valley, New York, China, and all over the world, and have seen good companies live or die based on the quality of their investor decks and presentations.

Unsurprisingly, pitch deck help is the number one request I get from my clients at Sea Foam Media & Tech, as well as from friends looking for advice on how to raise money for their great ideas.

My upcoming book, The Remote Work Era (2020), is all about opportunities for women to start their own businesses online and take advantage of the changing work and business landscape of the 2020s. For entrepreneurs who are building a product or starting a company that’s cost-intensive early on, raising money from investors can be key to turning these dreams into reality, which necessitates a pitch deck that’s straightforward, substantive, and ready to “wow.”

To simplify this part of the process, I put together a pitch deck framework and template that any business can follow, based on my own experiences and industry standards for attracting serious investors.

Get the Template Here (Google Slides)

If you’re looking for professional pitch deck help rather than going the DIY route, you can contact me directly at payne@rhiannon.io to discuss your project.

Before You Start

Before jumping into your pitch deck, pause and ask yourself: have you fully fleshed out your company’s brand identity and messaging? Can you rattle off your mission, values, brand persona, and elevator pitch without a second thought? IF NOT, switch over to my Brand Identity & Messaging Template and complete the exercises therein with the relevant stakeholders in your company. A good pitch deck is only as impactful as the brand vision behind it, and this a mandatory first step.

If you need help through the branding process, don’t hesitate to reach out to me by email or Twitter @rhiannon_io.

  • Does your company need to raise money at this stage? If you can bootstrap — bootstrap. I love this article on Why Startups Shouldn’t Raise Money Just Because They Can by Alex Turnbull of Groove.
  • Are you well-positioned to successfully raise? Is there a clear product-market fit? Is your company’s approach unique? Do you have any traction in your market? Do you have an unfair advantage?
  • How much are you asking for, and at what company valuation? Your MVP with 10 beta users probably isn’t worth $8M at this stage. Check out Khawaja Saud Masud’s article on Understanding Startup Valuation to figure out a reasonable company valuation that investors will respect, so you don’t waste their time or yours.

Pitch Deck Template: Slide by Slide

Now that you’re ready, let’s dive into the template! I will walk through each slide to give you a better idea of how to shape your content and share examples from some of the world’s most successful startups. You may not need to use every slide in this template, and you can modify each as you feel is appropriate for your business.

I created this simple template based on a generic Google Slides template and modified it for content. Once your story and content have been perfected, you will want to give it a clean, unique design, which I’ll go over at the end.

Get the Template Here (Google Slides)

To edit the template, you can make a copy of the Google Slides doc or download it as a PowerPoint file.

On this slide, you’ll want to include your company name, tagline, contact information, website, and social media handles to show social proof. You should also add your logo and some imagery/background.

This slide will act as your hook, helping the investor decide whether or not they should care about your pitch. You’ll want to keep it brief, summing up the “what, why, and how” of your company in a sentence or two.

Check out this example from TheFacebook.com’s pitch deck from 2004:

And here’s an example from one of Youtube’s early pitch decks:

What problem does your company solve? Keep this slide human-centric, not technical. You want to appeal to the investor’s emotions and make them empathize with those who experience this problem, while also showing that there is a real opportunity to make money. Use concise bullet points (no more than three).

I like this example from the much-celebrated AirBed&Breakfast pitch deck from 2008:

Here’s an example from Youtube:

And here’s an example from LinkedIn’s Series B pitch deck from 2004:

How is your company solving the problem(s) you described? This slide should thoroughly yet succinctly convey the value proposition to investors and can highlight how your solution is unique and if there is a specific niche you are targeting.

Here’s how AirBed&Breakfast, now Airbnb, described their solution:

And here’s how Youtube articulated their solution:

You can use this slide to share a product demo video, mockups, screenshots, pictures of your device or storefront, or anything else of interest to visualize what your company is doing.

Here’s an example from Canvas’s pitch deck:

This is where you show investors the size of the opportunity to make them feel confident that they can 10x or 100x their investment.

Make sure you provide numbers that are reasonable and credible, while still significant enough for investors to care. You should also provide your sources in a footnote.

As Mark Cuban has famously said on Shark Tank, you never want to go into an investor pitch with over-the-top numbers showcasing too broad of a market while saying “if we only capture 1% of this….” This wisdom is particularly salient if your company is still quite early-stage.

Here’s another example from LinkedIn’s early pitch deck:

And here’s another example from Canvas, which raised $9M with their deck:

How does your company generate revenue? On this slide, you should try to focus on one key revenue source that has the biggest potential for your business.

For examples of great business models, I love this guide from Board of Innovation, which examines the business models of companies like Uber, Airbnb, 23andMe, Tesla, and more.

Here’s an example from one of FourSquare’s early pitch decks:

And here’s an example from Mint:

What kind of traction does your company have today? This could mean revenue, users, social proof, an email list, a successful Kickstarter, or high-profile endorsements.

Here’s an example from one of SEOMoz’s early pitch decks:

If you don’t have a huge subscriber base or any revenue yet, that’s okay. Figure out what you do have that will show investors that there’s interest from your market. If nothing, that’s something to start working on before your next pitch.

Showing investors your competition is crucial to prove that your idea has merit while also showing how your company is different, better, or perhaps focused on a specific niche.

There are several ways you can format your Competition slide, but I particularly like the matrix model where you create X and Y axises with key differentiators and position your company away from the pack.

Here’s an example from Front’s Series A pitch deck:

This is what investors really want to know: what is your unfair advantage, your secret sauce, your underlying magic? What makes you best positioned to win market share?

On this slide, you can list any proprietary technology, patents, unique expertise on your team, or even a first-mover advantage that would make it hard for others to catch up.

Here’s another example from Front’s pitch deck:

So you have a great product or service, but how are you finding customers? The Go-to-Market slide is a great way to show investors that you are a data-driven founder and that you have a solid strategy for demand generation.

A good place to start is sharing your user acquisition channels, cost, and conversion rates (what you have seen to date or estimated).

Here’s an example from AppVirality’s pitch deck:

This is an easy one — who’s on your management team? Why are they uniquely qualified to drive your company’s success?

This example from LinkedIn’s Series B deck highlights notable companies that the leadership has previously worked for:

And here’s a similar example from Square’s early pitch deck:

What’s next for the company? How will you spend the money you raise? What’s the 3-year plan? When will you achieve MRR (monthly recurring revenue)? These milestones can be illustrated on a road map.

Here’s another example from Front’s pitch deck:

And here’s an example from Swipes’s pitch deck:

What are you asking for, and at what valuation? If you have already raised money, you can include that here as well.

If you’re struggling with figuring out your valuation, I again recommend the article Understanding Startup Valuation from the Data Driven Investor blog.

For more pitch deck inspiration, check out this article with 30 Legendary Startup Pitch Decks And What You Can Learn From Them by Aaron Lee.

Pitch Deck Design

Now that your content has been perfected, it’s time to give your deck a clean, custom design.

Visme is a great free design tool that includes lots of slide templates, royalty-free images, and iconography you can use. To find more options and design tips, check out my previous blog post on How to Be Your Own Designer.

For professional design resources, you can reach out to me directly to discuss your project.

Additional Resources

For more resources and information on raising money for your startup, I highly recommend:

Rhiannon Payne, based in San Francisco, is the founder of Sea Foam Media & Technology, an agency working with tech startups to help them tell their stories, build their products, gain investment, and scale.

With a team of 25+ people distributed globally, she is specifically interested in distributed team building and the changing workforce of the 2020s. Her book, The Remote Work Era, will explore these changes with a focus on new opportunities for women to go remote and start their own businesses online.

The Remote Work Era

The guide for women to go remote & thrive in the new age of work.

The Remote Work Era

Taking advantage of opportunities to start remote work & businesses in the changing workforce of 2021 & beyond. The Remote Work Era book is now available to purchase! remoteworkera.com

Rhiannon Payne

Written by

Founder of Sea Foam Media & Technology 🌊 Author of The Remote Work Era 📖 (RemoteWorkEra.com)

The Remote Work Era

Taking advantage of opportunities to start remote work & businesses in the changing workforce of 2021 & beyond. The Remote Work Era book is now available to purchase! remoteworkera.com