The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch – Refreshed (it’s 13)

The Only 10 Slides You Need in Your Pitch – Refreshed (it’s 13)

For years I’ve been directing founders to the Guy Kawasaki ten, twenty, thirty, (10 20 30) PowerPoint Slides blog post. It’s a great post about decks and very relevant if you have an idea vs. a product and business you want to communicate, or if you’re early in the pitching process or preparing for an early-stage pitch contest. For the startup community, it may be as close heresy to question the gospel of 10 20 30!

I still think 20 minutes and 30 point font are helpful. But, I think you add three slides and change the order of the slides a bit. The presentation requires some updates if you’re actually talking to VCs and investors in a discussion format vs. standing on stage. It’s especially critical if your company has traction in the form of revenue or customers.

I’ve outlined a flow of slides which I think make the most sense. But, there are some variables. It’s important that when you have traction, you get that up to the front of your deck. If you don’t have customer traction yet, you can hold it until later on the go-to-market slide, where you’ll have to explain your thesis vs. actual.

Use the feedback you get from your pitches to make adjustments.

Understand the pitch from the investor’s perspective. Do they like the stage of your deal (pre-revenue, some revenue, product-market fit, growth)? It’s easy for you to see how they get a check into the investment in your company deal, but they are also looking for how they get their investment out of the company.

Here’s the list of the 13 slides – cool infographic to follow… details on each slide below:

  1. Title, Value Proposition, Contact Info
  2. Presentation Overview
  3. Problem/Solution
  4. Traction
  5. Market
  6. Timing
  7. Product Roadmap/Demo
  8. How You Make Money/Key Metrics
  9. Go-To-Market
  10. Secret Sauce/Moat/IP
  11. Team
  12. Competitive Analysis
  13. Clear Ask

One note on context to start. What’s the one most important thing about a pitch deck? Is it Passion? Execution? Idea? You need to show you have passion it’s critical, but not sufficient. The “only execution matters” group assumes it’s already a great idea. So, it’s a trick question, there isn’t just one thing and there’s no single magic question that will let you walk away with a first meeting check.

Also, you won’t get all of the information outlined below onto each slide – it’s an example of what you should get onto a slide and where you’ll add supporting documents that go at the back of the deck.

In the first few minutes of your meeting the investor is going to form their questions – and will likely wait for the deck to unfold and see if you answer them. Remember, the question you want them to be asking at the end of the presentation is “how do I get a check into this deal” – you don’t want them asking “what is it you do again?” or “are you sure it’s really a problem?”

Slide 1 – Title – Value Proposition – Contact Info

This slide will be up on screen longer than any other slide on your deck. It should include your company name, logo, and tag line, or brief value proposition. If you’re pitching to a large group audience, it should begin to frame the pitch deck they are going to see. Think of this as the headline of your story.

This is a difficult task, so get the other slides completed first and come back to this slide at the end. Always include the company URL, your name and email address is a must.

Uber’s tagline was “Everyone’s Private Driver”

Slide 2 – Presentation Overview

This slide will not be used on a three-minute pitch or a demo day. It’s designed for a conversation or group. It is useful for your outline for the demo day. But you can use the Madlibs as your transition statement.

This is the “One Slide to Rule Them All! I remember getting to a meeting to pitch an angel investor only to discover that he was double booked. I literally got to pitch him on the (two) elevators to get to the parking garage. Having one overview will help with this process.

Don’t go overboard on the “tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them and tell them what you told them” here. It’s really about setting the context for the pitch.

It also helps to engage your investors at the beginning of the pitch or conversation. For a pitch, investors are deciding in the first few minutes if they are going to engage in your story. For example, are you in a market where they have made money before? Is it a market category they like (e.g. ” we don’t do hardware” or “medical device” or “outside our geography”).

Don’t bury the lead or your story! I’ve worked with startups that tell a boring story until they get to the traction slide at in the final two slides of their deck and watched investors do the “WAIT, WHAT?” after the startup announces it has 17k monthly users. At that moment investor is wishing they had been paid more attention.

If you’re pitching across a conference room table to VCs this will guide the conversation and help you ask clarifying questions like “is there anything else you’d like to cover today”

  • Madlibs Pitch – Our Company <your Company name here> is solving the problem of <insert problem here>. Our product <insert product info here> is designed for our target customer of <insert target customer here> with this secret sauce <insert secret sauce>. We make money by <insert method here> and our team is the right team because <insert why you’re awesome here>. I need help with <insert help needed here> (more details here)
  • Market Size – $100s’ Millions or Billions (hopefully a “head nod”, see below)
  • Traction – product, revenue, users
  • (In-person meeting) Anything else you would like to cover today?

Slide 3 – Problem/Solution

This is a classic. What is the problem you are addressing and is it really a problem? Is your solution a pain pill or a vitamin? You need to really Wow the investors with the problem and that your product is the real solution to that problem.

If your problem area is complex, break it down to make sure the investor understands. If they don’t think it’s really a problem (which also includes if they don’t understand it) you don’t get to move forward in the presentation and the audience is just going to mentally check out.

Keep in mind you’re not the customer! If you’ve talked to 50 target profile prospects, talk about that and talk about what you’ve learned building the product. If you don’t yet have traction make sure you have data.

If it’s a big problem, will they pay? What are they paying today? Again, if you’re pre-revenue, you need to have data to validate your hypothesis for pricing.

If you’re struggling with the story arch, start with a simple mechanic: What’s life like for your customer before your product, what’s life like for them after your product. Is that storyline compelling and emotional? Would it make your customer buy? How much better is it than the existing solutions?

Slide 4 – Traction

If you have traction, get it up early in your story! 17k monthly users are great, so is revenue! If you don’t have revenue, this is where you talk about your customer development interviews.

Many early pitches are for “concepts” or products that barely exist. Many have little or no traction. Distinguish yourself and your company right away by stating your traction.

If you haven’t done enough customer development yet? Move this to your Go-to-Market slide.

Slide 5 – Market

The market needs to be huge, with amazing potential, this is another slide that needs to WOW investors. How large is the market for your product? Founders get this wrong all of the time for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s because they just don’t do the work, sometimes they’ve done the work but fail to communicate the information clearly.

What are the sources of your market research? If it’s a Gartner or Forrester report, it generally means that the market has already launched and you’re likely well behind.

If you have to make inferences about your market from adjacent market data, that’s OK, it just needs to be logical and that logic needs to hold together.

For more details and a breakdown on TAM, SAM, SOM, and Launch Addressable Market (LAM) go here. A “good” Market slide should elicit a head nod from the target investor. It should be a well-reasoned argument if not much data is directly accessible. If there is data, it should be well referenced. If this slide creates an argument or a pained face by the investor, you’ve missed the mark.

Slide 6 – Timing

Bill Gross is the founder of IdeaLab, the original incubator/accelerator program in the U.S. In the video, he talks about the value of timing. Timing isn’t something you can predict (only brilliant VCs with revisionist history can do that).

What you can do is to address trends in your timing are the general market condition. Do you believe you have “tailwinds” or are you facing “headwinds.” Why do you feel that way? Do you have any data to back up your thesis?

Slide 7 – Product/Roadmap/Demo

I think the best version of this timing slide is based on a domino slide, with quarters across the bottom and milestones each quarter.

The biggest take away in this slide is what will you do without raising capital – most of the plans I see are predicated on cash coming in before they start the hit the milestones on the slide. If you want to be in the top 10% of presentations, build out your milestones “with or without outside capital.”

The message you are communicating is your confidence to continue to bootstrap and find a way to get the job done if the cash doesn’t come in the door in a time frame you anticipate.

Move your milestones forward into earlier quarters based on the incoming investment. That way, when you’re asked what you would do with the capital, you can point at the milestones from Q4 next year and move them forward into Q2 next year as an example.

  • Product
  • People
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Revenue

If you have a live demo, it will go here. Be careful with live demos when you’re on stage. A video will work much better or screenshots/screen capture of the live demo.

Avoid demoing things like “login pages” everyone knows you will have a login. Demo the magic and explain what’s behind the demo.

This slide has to balance the launch product with the product vision. You’re threading the needle of what you can ship in the near term (launch) and where you will go in the long term (scale). The investor wants to buy your vision and see how you get from launch to that vision without running out of capital. Finally, does your vision create a better future for your customers?

Slide 8. How You Make Money/Key Metrics

Here’s a link to the 16 Startup Revenue Models. Remember, you’re creating a new company/product/idea, but you’re not likely creating a new revenue model (how you make money). There are 14 that are primary tech models, Subscription Fee, Transaction Fee, Productize a Service, Marketplace, etc.

Each of the revenue models share common key metrics, especially in the marketing and sales categories. Some of the models have unique edge cases.

  • Life Time Value (LTV) – how long will a customer continue to pay you based on what you know today? The base case should be 12 months unless you have data to back up the LTV, e.g. you have customers that have been with you for two or three years already.
  • Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) – how much does it cost to acquire a customer? What channels do you use for marketing and what is your marketing spend
  • LTV: CAC Ratio and Trend – with these two numbers you can calculate the ratio and begin to calculate the monthly trend. Note: if you don’t have this data yet, it’s OK, but you should at least have a hypothesis and start tracking the data
  • Monthly Lead Volume: is it going up or down
  • Conversion Ratios
    • Web traffic
    • Marketing Qualified Leads (MQLs)
    • Sales Qualified Leads (SQLs)
    • Customers
  • Time to Close – how long does it take to convert a lead to a customer?
  • Churn/Retention – how many customers leave you every month/year?

If you’re selling services are your primary revenue model, e.g. your employees/contractors are responsible for fulfilling the offering you’re likely not going to raise capital from VCs.

Licensing as a model has been generally replaced by Subscription revenue over the last few years. Both investors and the market like recurring revenue expressed as Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) or Annual Recurring Revenue (ARR).

Some of the revenue models outlined only work at scale and not at the launch of your company. For example, advertising revenue will require large (>1M) unique monthly users to get meaningful revenue. For example, Big Data is a model that also requires that you have the data before you can sell the data. Just saying – if it’s your aspiration to sell data in the future, that’s great, you’ll need to build that out over time.

You’ll need a Graph that is pulled from your financial model on this slide as well as your key metrics. The marketing and sales metrics can be in a table below the graph. If you have any company-specific or super unique metrics you can add them there as well. You’ll want the “hockey stick” to go up and to the right – but don’t get too crazy about it.

A three-year model is fine unless your business is more mature and you can go five. Keep in mind that this is an exercise in showing that you know how to do this work or you can pay an interim CFO to do it for you. However, it’s critical that you know how to make the numbers work in the financial model and what the assumptions are that change the model.

If you don’t have a financial model yet, you can get a Startup Financial Model Template here of the top four that will cover the majority of the early stage models. Here’s a link to a Startup Revenue Forecasting presentation.

Slide 9 – Go-To-Market

There’s an old adage “if you build it, (he) they will come”. OK, it’s totally not true, it was made famous in the fantasy/drama movie “Field of Dreams” with Kevin Costner. If you build your product – they won’t come. You have to do sales and marketing. This points to your go-to-market (G2M) strategy.

I outlined some initial traction metrics above in LTV:CAC ratios in Slide 8 above. What this slide needs to address is how you are going to scale your marketing and sales effort, here’s are some examples:

  • What is your marketing thesis? For a startup marketing funnel, breakdown goes here.
    • Trade shows
    • Paid advertising
    • Organic Search
    • Word of Mouth
  • Who will you need to hire or contract with to get your message out to your customer
  • How will you sell your product?
    • Direct Sales
    • Web Direct
    • Channel/Indirect sales
    • Retail
  • Partners – are their companies or groups you can partner with to help you speed your G2M strategy?

Pricing

What will your product price be at your product launch and where will you take your price in the future? It doesn’t necessarily have to be the lowest priced product. I see a lot of “tools” oriented companies, for example, developer tools that help with a specific problem.

Investors want to know that you can go from $25 a month per user to $100k a month/year based on the value created. If you’re familiar with DocuSign, it went from a monthly subscription for real estate brokers to multi-million dollar a year contract for large banks and institutions.

How does your product pricing mature over time? Does it go up, down? Do you introduce new products or pricing tiers?

More on Startup Product Pricing here.

Promotion

“Freemium” is a common promotion type for Business to Consumer (B2C) products. Where time-limited promotions are more common for B2B (e.g. free for 90 days). the reason is that you can’t typically “de-feature” a B2B MVP product any more than it is, it’s only an MVP. Promotions are different than pricing in that they are for a limited time and generally used to acquire or retain a particular profile customer.

Like your pricing and financial model, this is at least showing that you have a thesis.

Slide 10 – Secret Sauce/Moat/IP

What’s the “magic” or secret sauce in your company or product? Is it that the team has unique insights into the industry? Do you have “24 Patents Perfected” or are you building a solution that anyone can copy?

You won’t have to answer all of the questions at the early stage, but you do need to have an idea of how you’re going to build a moat to protect the company you are building.

Slide 11 – Team

Why are you the right team to win? Do you have a diverse and inclusive team? Industry experience? Track record of success? You want to balance humility and arrogance here but tell your story with conviction.

Do give:

  • History together – short of the origin story, see below.
  • Track record of success
  • Credentials
  • What makes you unique – the personal version of secret sauce

Don’t:

  • Add up your “cumulative years in the industry”
  • Highlight nonrelevant info that’s bragging

If you’re solving a super complex problem that’s you’re the only co-founders in the world to solve, you can move this slide near the front of your deck. I had one team that had quite literally “written the book” on a topic. The complexity of the problem they were solving was likely to need Ph.D’s in the category – and they were. Who knew!

Slide 12 – Competitive Analysis

Who is in the market and how do you compare to them? What’s the difference in product, features, and pricing. Have you figured out how to acquire customers in a better way than other competitors?

Having “No Competition” is a bad thing. That usually means their is no market for the product.

Slide 13 – Ask

Are you looking for investment, customers, talent? The whole reason you’re doing the presentation is that you have a need. Don’t keep the audience guessing. Make a clear ask.

If you’re on stage and can’t do a “public solicitation”, ask for customers or let the audience know why they should join you looking for engineers or salespeople. Your job as CEO is to be the promoter in chief – that means you are always recruiting talent.

What are the “use of proceeds?” Hopefully, you’ve addressed some of the budget questions in the quarterly milestones above. But outline, why you need with you, are asking for in the round.

A round of funding should fund 18 months of runway for the company. Get the round closed, go execute for 12 months and you’ll have six months to raise the next round. Remember that the expectation is that you will double each round of subsequent funding.

Final thoughts...

  1. Every great story has a trajectory or story arch. A beginning, middle, and end. A good story arch appeals to both the right side of the brain (logic) and the left side of the brain (emotion)
  2. Should you tell your “Origin Story” not in the pitchdeck? There will be time for that in your discussion. A public pitch is a contrived event with strange limitations and audience.
  3. Should you have a hook? Maybe, maybe not. A story hook is great as long as you’re not trying too hard and it stretches the logic of the story. We often hold onto analogies too far in our storytelling
  4. Avoid Jargon and acronyms. Most investors, if you ask them, “do you know what that means” will say yes. Human nature says no one wants to look dumb, but they won’t tell you when they don’t know. So explain things without jargon and simplify
  5. No rhetorical questions – especially asking for people to raise their hand at the beginning of your pitch. It’s an awkward social norm – “raise your hand if…” If you have a strong story, make a statement! Don’t ask a question
  6. The history of how you got here will not matter to investors as much as it matters to you. Sorry, but it’s true. The pivots and life challenges are all about your past. Investors care about your future more than your past
  7. No fake stories! Be authentic, use real customer profiles not composites
  8. Don’t imply things in your pitch. Be explicate. If you’re doing something great, tell people.
  9. Don’t ever make investors do math in their head – ever

Regarding exit strategies

Speaking of story arcs, let me close the story where I began. Guy’s original deck is targeting early founders and ideas – in that case, I agree with his statement:

A word about liquidity: no entrepreneur knows when, how or if she will achieve liquidity, and yet many include a slide that says. “There are two liquidity options: an IPO or an acquisition”. Duh. If an investor asks about your exit strategy, it means he’s clueless. If you answer with these two options, you have a lot in common.

Guy Kawasaki

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