A big part of my job at Kruze is to help our clients prepare to raise venture capital. So I’ve seen a lot of venture capital pitch decks recently. As a former VC who also has been an exec at a number of startups that have raised quite a few million in venture financing, I have some strong views on what information VCs want to see. And because Kruze clients raise something like a billion in venture funding annually, I get to see a lot of what works - and what doesn’t.
Since I’m regularly being asked for a template for a venture pitch deck, I thought that I’d compile the best templates available on the internet that I know about. Again, I’m strongly biased, as I’ve seen many companies successfully raise and some not. This is what I think is working (note: I updated this post in August 2020, so it is still up to date with trends post COVID.)
Top 5 venture capital pitch deck templates on the internet right now
Guy Kawasaki’s pitch template - https://guykawasaki.com/the-only-10-slides-you-need-in-your-pitch/
Ycombinator’s slide template - https://blog.ycombinator.com/intro-to-the-yc-seed-deck/
First Round Capital’s deck - https://www.beautiful.ai/blog/uber-vc-pitch-deck-presentation-template
Series A pitch deck used by Front to raise their A - https://medium.com/@collinmathilde/front-series-a-deck-f2e2775a419b
Airbnb’s seed deck - https://www.alexanderjarvis.com/airbnb-seed-pitch-deck/
Slides in a standard pitch deck
The professionals (like YC and Guy Kawasaki) are suggesting 10 slides. I think the real point is that you should be able to deliver your pitch in 15 minutes or less - and if pressed, do a 5-minute pitch. That’s really short.
Why so short? Aren’t most VC meetings scheduled for 30 minutes? Well sure, but…
Assume that your VC is late to the meeting by 5 minutes (they will always say something like “something came up with a portfolio company’s acquisition, but the truth is probably that the barista messed up and gave them an almond milk latte instead of a soy milk one and they had to wait for the right beverage - kind of a joke.) The VC will probably then give you a few minute spiel around what makes their fund different. Then assume that you need to answer at least 5 minutes of questions if your pitch is not going well - and 10 minutes of questions or more if the investor is engaged. And you’ll need a 5-minute pitch, that isn’t rushed, if some important partner is running way late or misses the first 20 minutes of your 30-minute meeting.
The standard table of contents in a good pitch deck is:
1. Cover/title slide - including the company name and the founder’s contact info
2. The industry’s or customers’ problem - the pain that your startup is solving
3. Your startup’s solution or value proposition - how your startup fixes the issue / the benefits you provide
The templates start to diverge, so a few different next slides are:
- Traction - metrics that show adoption or market validation or
- Product magic/product demo - showing off the offering
- Market size
- Business model / how you make money
6. Go to market/growth - explain how you are going to grow
7. Competition and or competitive analysis/advantages - all startups have some sort of competition, or there is at least a way that customers are currently dealing with the pain your startup is solving
9. Financial projections - include revenue growth, high-level spend, burn, and other KPIs like customer count (you can go deeper in an appendix or in a financial model). And if you are looking for a free downloadable model template, visit our financial modeling page.
- How much you are raising
- Traction if you haven’t already done so
- Use of proceeds (what you do with the money)
- Current investors participation level (if any - strong investors who have already invested in previous rounds and who are participating in this one are a very good signal)
I am slightly older school - I usually like an “executive summary” after the cover page that goes over the company and round. I think this is probably a page that went out of style in 2015 or so, but I still like it because it quickly helps the VC see what your key metrics/sales points are, and how much you are raising. I usually recommend only four or five bullets on this slide:
- Disrupting the $x billion industry
- 1,500 customers using product [or] Marquee customers include McDonalds and Marriott
- ARR of X, growing 20% month over month
- Team has deep domain experience from XYZ
- Raising $8 to $10 million Series A
Given that YC and Guy Kawasaki seem to no longer (or maybe never) had an exec summary at the front of their venture capital pitch deck templates, you are probably OK ignoring my advice and just getting straight from the cover page to the problem statement.
Seed Pitch Deck Outline
Our COO, Scott Orn (also a former VC) has been assisting a number of seed and pre-seed companies during their fundraises, and has produced an outline/template for a seed pitch deck.
Pre-seed is sort of a new asset class. It’s essentially the first money in. That’s what seed used to be for everyone. So this is applicable to pre-seed and seed - basically, what to present when your company is more of an idea.
- Company’s slogan / 1 sentence elevator pitch - the first page or first slide should really just be the company’s name and slogan, or the one sentence, what you are doing. And just get the audience focused on that. Make sure to make an impression, deliver it with passion. You are in sell mode here. You’re pitching investors.
- Problem - what are your customers struggling with? A lot of investors like the problem-solution type of framework, so the next slide would be the problem. So talk about how your potential customers are suffering, what’s going on right now in the market, why it’s not working, and then the next page in the deck will be your solution.
- Solution - how are you going to make everyone’s life better? You can explain how you’re going to be better, how you’ll save your clients or customers a ton of time, a ton of money, etc. Better, faster, cheaper is a Silicon Valley slogan that people typically use when explaining their startup’s solution.
- The Product / Service
- Nothing is more powerful than a demo. That also shows that the company has actually built something and you can get a taste for it.
- Often you see a screenshot of the demo and often can click for video.
- Some people like more visual depictions of what you are doing. Regardless, in this section, something visual is pretty helpful. You want to get the conversation going, you want them to react to something, you want them to feel vested in what you’re doing. Get them to buy into the solution.
- Market Size
- This is kind of a “check the box” because it’s always hard to size the market.
- And many of the best companies look like they have a tiny market but turn it into something huge.
- But it’s a good exercise and tells investors where you are going. And, remember, venture capital is really just wanting to invest in big opportunities. VCs are okay with some losses, but when something works, they need it to be big. And so that’s why they really care about market size. This section helps prove to the seed investor that you are pointed at a big possible market, and that you are aiming to make a big company vs. a nice, small, lifestyle business.
- You would be surprised at how many small businesses, that never really anticipate getting bigger than a couple of million in revenue, try to raise seed financing. So the seed investors need to be able to weed out the entrepreneurs who are not focusing on big opportunities, and you do that in this part of your seed pitch deck.
- And if you’re willing to spend a bunch of your time, five, 10 years of your career on something, there better be some size to it!
- You want to identify competitors. If you pretend you don’t have competitors or bad mouth them, you’ll lose credibility. investors typically like you to acknowledge your competition. And oftentimes there’s a little bit of education, because you know this market really well, but the seed investor doesn’t, so here is where you teach them about the competition.
- Seed investors know that competitors aren’t the end of the world. In fact, the best venture capitalists actually LIKE successful competitors, because it helps validate that there is a market for the solution.
- Go to Market Plan
- This is a super important slide. Are you using a sales team? Partnerships? Online marketing? Events?
- Creativity, different approaches and things that investors have seen work are great.
- How much money do you need?
- How long will that get you?
- When do you think you’ll start to generate revenue.
- A visual is really good as part of this slide.
- It’s important to understand the seed investors mindset on this slide. They are doing the math, and they’re thinking, what does this company need to raise money from a series A venture capitalist? Because really, at every step of the venture capital game, people are putting money into your company and then hoping other people will step up down the road to fund the company. The seed investors that you are pitching only have so much capital. They are going to rely on your company doing well enough, and looking strong enough, to be able to get a VC to invest in your next round. And so, they’re doing that math and trying to figure out what is going to be that milestone that really brings other venture investors in the company?
- Exit Opportunities
- Some seed investors don’t want you to talk about a sale eventually. They are essentially saying “I don’t want to even hear that you’re thinking about selling the company in three years or four years, or how could you possibly know who’s gonna buy it?” Which is very fair. So you needed to kind of tread lightly on this. I think the way I typically like to do this is just point out the players in the market and make the point that if you get traction and you’re successful, these people or these companies are gonna have a real strong vested interest in acquiring you. And so that’s kind of enough.
- It’s enough to say that if we hit traction, there will be a lot of interested companies like X, Y Z.
- You don’t need to say like “I’m going to get bought for X number of dollars in year three” or something like that. Just talking about who could buy you or who would be interested is a delicate way of doing this.
- It’s always great when a founder says, “I’m taking this through IPO. I’m committed.”
- Note from Healy: While Scott may really like this slide, I don’t love it as much, because, as Scott mentions, it makes me afraid that the CEO is not in it for the long term. I usually prefer to discuss this on the competition slide, “here are other, very big companies, that don’t play in this solution but who have the same customer base as we want… they may get into our market. Who knows, they may acquire their way in once they realise the solution is being adopted.” I like that method better, as it doesn’t imply to the seed investors or the VCs that you are putting the cart before the horse, instead it says that you know who the heavy hitters are in the general market, and then the investor can do the mental math to think that they may want to buy their way in eventually.
- Team - some people like to put this way up in the front, right after the slogan and what they’re doing, because they have a team that has accomplished a lot and the team is backable just because they’re just so successful and so technically strong and know what they’re doing. But you can have it here at the end of the presentation, either way is fine. It’s good to get some bios up there, get some pictures so that people can identify. Also the nice thing about bios and your founding team in the slide is that oftentimes you can play the name game with venture capitalists or seed investors - they’re professional networkers, they know a lot of people. And so oftentimes, you can get to a point where they know someone that’s on your team or that you know, and that’s a really great background diligence channel. If they want to invest in you, they may actually call their friend who knows someone on the founding team or knows you and just check and see what kind of person you are or your team is just for diligence sake. It also can be very impressive if it’s a super strong technical team or a marketing team that’s gone to market in a really unique way. But, wherever you put it in the pitch deck, definitely have a team slide.
- Any examples of progress - this is huge. If you can say you already have clients, revenue, etc, it is much more convincing. All these signs that what you are doing is working, and that it’s legit and it’s something the seed investors want to be a part of, it’s a social proof type of thing if you know that from influence. And so showing your traction is probably the best thing you can do to sell the company. So don’t hesitate to do that. If you have a commitment from a lead investor, that’s great, always put that in this slide in the pitch deck because it’s a lot easier to follow on than be the lead and set the evaluation, write the check, that’s a lot of responsibility and sometimes people don’t want to do that. But that’s what you can end up with.
And then there’s a tiny little tip which is, oftentimes you get to the end of the presentation and that slide just sits up there for the remainder of the pitch discussion. If it’s going to sit there, just make it like something showing how awesome you are or helping you close the sale, maybe it’s pictures, maybe it’s graphs or your traction. Instead of having that boring, “questions” slide, do something that spices it up. And every time they kind of subconsciously look at the slide deck on the wall, or the presentation, even though you’re just talking after the presentation has been done, it can kind of help convince them in a small way. So just a little tip to help your pitch deck be a bit stronger at the end.
At the seed stage, you’re still living the dream and you’re convincing investors that they should come along. So it’s a little less finance, a little less metrics and more vision. But really this framework should work for any type of venture capital presentation.
Tips for your fund raising presentation if time is running short
Ok, so as I outlined, it’s highly likely that your 30 minute conversation gets cut into a much shorter time frame. There are good ways to handle this and bad. The worst way that I’ve seen is when a CEO talks REALLY REALLY fast and blows through the preso. It’s hard for anyone to soak in the information, it can be hard to understand, and it usually doesn’t work. A better way is to have the 5 minute presentation ready to go, and then to just walk through that briskly. No demo, and try to answer the VC’s questions as quickly as possible.
Hope this helps you find a good pitch deck template for your fundraise!