5 min read

How to build a winning pitch deck

Over the last few years I have been a part of designing and building pitch decks that have raised over $100m+ from investors. I wanted to share a little bit about how myself and the team at renga approach building decks.

Many people would say that the job of the pitch deck is to raise money. I believe that this is putting too much pressure on the deck, there will need to be some dialogue and due diligence before you receive a signed check. The goal is to allow the investor to empathize with the problem and pique their curiosity, you want to inspire excited and thoughtful questions.

View the pitch as the first date. Your goal is to properly communicate what problem you are tackling, your hypothesis on how to tackle it, why your product is the best way to test this hypothesis, and why you are the right team to build this product. The best first dates end with lots of excited questions. They usually start with "I wonder if..." or "what about", this is what the right investors will leave your pitch thinking, you aren't presenting an answer to the problem and looking for silent agreement. You're presenting a hypothesis and you're looking for a partner to help you test the hypothesis.

A great pitch deck doesn't win every investor, but identifies the right investors.

What are the ingredients for a winning pitch deck?

Good design rarely can correct a bad business or a bad story. Let's assume your business is great, then it all comes down to telling a great story. The first 3-6 slides is where you will win or lose the attention of the investor. The order of these slides and the framing of this story vary depending on the business and stage of the round. Most of the decks that we do are either Seed or Series A.

We generally structure the beginning of our decks this way:

Slide 1: Title Slide

A simple title page with your company name and the stage of the round that you're raising. If you have a tagline it would make sense to have that hear as well, unless it would be too close to...

Slide 2: One-liner

This is the declarative statement that you make setting the table for what the heck your business actually does. Please don't assume that whoever receives your deck knows what you actually do. They shouldn't need to get to slide 7 to have the context of what you bring. Generally this statement will look very close to your brand promise.

Slide 3: Problem (2-4 Slides)

You want to frame the core problem or market condition that your business is solving or addressing. This needs to be a big and clear problem broken down into it's simplest form. Framing the problem in a way that is relatable that transitions into your solution is one of the more challenging parts of this entire process. Often the surface level problem won't work for this slide. You need to dig deeper and hit at the problem under the problem and really set up what your brand believes about the world and why you started the business in the first place.

When setting up this problem sometimes it makes sense to qualify the problem with some supporting statistics, or the size and scale of who this effects (Market Opportunity). These slides could come before or after the core problem, this really about telling the story. What is the most effective way to quickly build context for the world that we are creating in.

Slide 4: Solution

This slide should be another declarative statement about the solution you bring to problem. It wouldn't be uncommon for it to resemble the first one-liner but likely with a little more brevity.

These first few slides are by far the most important part of your deck. This will likely determine whether someone checks out or leans in to learn more. If they lean in, you still need to prove that your approach, team and thinking are aligned but this is usually where the engaged investor's imagination starts to run.

Everything else.

You want to now need to link your actual product to the solution. This might be a 2-5 slide section that will be answering the "how" to the statement from the solution slide. Communicate the way your product works and how it all links back to solving your customers problem.

After this it's about communicating the traction you have, how the business makes money, and why your team is the right team to build this solution you presented.

After you've worked in these slides in the most appropriate order, you define your ask and what you're going to use the money to accomplish. It's always better to set thoughtful outcomes from what this money will enable your team to accomplish and how that accelerates the health and growth of the company towards the mission you worked so hard to articulate at the beginning of the deck.

Common Mistakes

Trying to convince that your business is a good investment

Rarely have I seen a pitch go well when the founder is trying to convince the investor that this is a good investment. The lines that are usually associated with this approach is leading with TAM (total addressable market) and showing what could be possible "if you only could get 1% of the market". This doesn't work. You're not trying to convince them that it's a good investment, but rather that it's a good and sound business. You need the investor to see themselves or someone they know as a customer for your product/ service. When you can meet the investor in the place of a customer experiencing the pain that you're solving and they believe your solution or approach is one they would pay for you're in the driver seat.

Trying to anticipate every question

Your goal is not to answer every question they might have in the deck. This will most likely bring up more doubt or uncertainty with how you answered a question they weren't asking. You need to be clear about what you're trying to solve, the way you are attempting to solve it and the way that this approach is a viable and sustainable business. Anything outside of that is generally detracting from the core message.

If at the end of the pitch there are no questions, it's not a good sign.

If it's a common question but not part of the core narrative, then it's a great appendix slide. This way you know that you have visual support to aid you in answering any anticipated question. If it's there to answer a potential question, it's an appendix slide.

WAY too much information

Founders have a hard time seeing the forest through the trees. Your business is all consuming and there are so many things that you want to share and communicate. Think about how you read websites, decks, articles, etc. There is a good chance your answer is "I don't really..." and if you do, you ready headlines quickly and use that as a quick filter if it's worth your time. Even if you are interested, you're still not likely to read all the supporting copy, but you will selectively read the supporting copy for clarity. The narrative can't not live or die by something in supporting copy.

Changing the deck too frequently.

If this one resonates you might self identify as a perfectionist. You're constantly tweaking, updating and optimizing after every meeting. All of these thing are good and beneficial but you need to ensure that it's whats best for the narrative and the story you're trying to tell even if the investor didn't resonate with it. Let's just reiterate that a great pitch deck doesn't win every investor, but identifies the right investors.

We can help

I would love to offer 30 minutes of my time to listen to your current pitch and offer and quick pieces of feedback or advice on how we might be able to streamline the narrative. Feel free to book some time with me here.