In 2022, funding in the new space sector was slashed in half. Couple this with the fact that new ventures are popping up left, right and centre - it's safe to say that the battle for investor attention has never been more fierce.
In this battle, a startup's primary weapon is its pitch deck. A simple document comprised of about 15 slides that has the potential to either make or break a company. Or, in other words, make or break a founder's hopes and dreams.
Few things have such an impact on a startup's journey.
Your brand goes beyond a simple name or logo.
It is the very essence of your venture. An embodiment of your vision and so much more. Breathing life into your venture, creating a dynamic portrait of who you are, not merely what you offer. And this is where the value lies.
Because it’s you and it's your vision that sells, not your products.
“Ideally a vision has to be big, it has to excite. Investors look for ambition and scale. A founder has to convince investors there is a market worth going after. They have to be able to build a narrative around that. Personally, I look for a ‘real-world problem’ too. I’m done with dog-walking apps.”Phil McSweeney, author of AngelThink - a book of insights on how to get inside investor’s minds
“Seeing hundreds of decks on a monthly basis, what we want to see in a pitch deck, especially for early stage startups, that what makes them unique. Not necessarily their product but their vision and way of thinking. If investors think it’s exciting and can be executed, it’s highly likely that you may get a call with them.”Serkan Ferah, the founder of the automated pitch builder, PitchSpace.
A 24/7 ambassador
Think of it like this: your brand serves as your startup's 24/7 ambassador. Tirelessly advocating for you to customers and investors alike. Without it, you're nothing but a product with no hope for a future.
Learning to communicate this value is where the money is too. This isn't just hyperbole either. Data from DocSend found that in 2022 investors spent 52% and 42% less time on the product and business model slides of pitch decks respectively. Conversely, the company purpose section was the third-longest viewed slide.
In the discourse of new space entrepreneurship, storytelling is your trump card. Especially when you've only got ~3 min of investor attention.
When creating a pitch deck it's easy to drown in the deluge of data and metrics available. It's your brand narrative, however, that serves as your beacon, capturing and holding investors' attention - not your graphs.
With a potent brand story, you can supercharge your pitch, forging emotional connections that mere numbers cannot. It's the human element, the passion behind your venture, that fascinates and convinces your potential stakeholders.
Another critical factor of pitching i.e. storytelling, is knowing who your audience is.
Your customers and investors are different. So too should the story you tell them. Learn these differences and you're already one step ahead of the game.
“A great story is really an invitation, a challenge to join the founder on a journey to a solution. You’re trying to make it hard to resist. That’s the emotional tug or hook you’re trying to reel the investor in on.”
“While engaging with investors, you need to build a narrative that sucks the investor into itself and make them want to continue to engage. Disney’s storytelling framework is a great inspiration for pitching: Give the context and enemy (the problem that you’re uniquely positioned to solve and “who is affected by this problem and how do they try to solve it but fail?”, then introduce your product as the hero of the story who found a solution to fight the enemy, and present a world where the problem is eliminated and everyone is happier.”
“Seeing hundreds of decks on a monthly basis, what we want to see in a pitch deck, especially for early stage startups, that what makes them unique. Not necessarily their product but their vision and way of thinking. If investors think it’s exciting and can be executed, it’s highly likely that you may get a call with them.”Serkan Ferah, PitchSpace.
Skip your high school Photoshop skills
For those serious about their brand, design is never an afterthought.
It's a visual manifesto.
Similar to a well-designed product, good design is a pivotal aspect of your brand. It dictates how your venture is perceived and remembered. This holds especially true for your pitch decks.
Remember that story you're telling?
Well, the design of your pitch deck and that story should be completely symbiotic. One should enhance the other. If your designs are only there to serve as eye candy then you've missed the point.
And before you open up that pitch deck template - just remember your competitors are probably using the same one.
“It’s tough to make a pitchdeck stand out, but easy to turn people off with it. Investors are expecting a certain flow, so don’t disappoint. Starting with a big problem is a convention - and I usually like to give one big fact that hits people between the eyes - if I can find one.”
“It’s very important to never forget the function of a pitch deck - it’s to make it very easy for investors to understand your story and find the answers they’re looking for to engage further. That’s why over-designed decks are as bad as poorly designed ones. The most overlooked element in a deck is typography but many focus on the eye candy visuals. Make your legible, use headlines to grab the attention of investors while using colour and background changes to keep the attention flow nicely so that they get to the end.”Serkan Ferah, PitchSpace.
A prophetic indicator
Personifying your brand in your pitch deck is non-negotiable.
But don't start rapidly firing it off to investors if that same brand isn't personified in all other areas of your business. Investors want to see a complete package.
Consistent brands foster trust and exude reliability - essential elements to persuade investors to place their bets on your venture.
If there are shades of inconsistency, then you're giving investors the wrong glimpse into your startup's future.
"The easy thing to do about brand is the theme and collateral etc. Consistency there - but the more important thing is giving value. You’re making a promise. Keep to it.
Clarity is one of the most important things when it comes to brand communications and fundraising. The story you tell and identity you present should be consistent with what they will find on you on a simple Google or Linkedin search. The more engaged and consistent the brand comms, the more confidence you can instil”,Serkan Ferah, PitchSpace.
So what does an ideal pitch deck look like?
Before the nitty gritty, let's understand that not every culture and person on the funding side runs on pitchdecks. Some people prefer more genuine, human-to-human approach to business.
"I don't like pitchdecks"Prateek Sanjay, foundraisr.com
Let’s take a look at what other experts say.
- What do they advise?
- What do they look for?
- What are the main turn-offs?
"I’m not a great fan of ‘ideal’ pitchdecks - or the same template for every one. But there are essential things that you need to convey. Investors want a return on their money. The main story needs to be how you’re going to give them that. Team, scale plan, exit - I’m sure you get it really!"
Serkan Ferah, PitchSpace.
- Ideally not more than 15 slides
- Don’t add friction to delivery - many investors actually don’t like email protected links
- Focus on the narrative but make it look good enough that investors see you respect them
- Explain why the world needs your product and how you’ll execute well
- Don’t see it as a design process - it’s a storytelling exercise
Gian Seehra, gianseehra.me
- Easy to read
- I should be able to get the gist just from the titles
- Lots of white space
- Single point per slide (with 3 data points MAX on each slide, rule of 3)
- Don't need to make them invest, just want to spend more time on you
- Don't use a template, use whatever makes your story the best
Angel investors are partners in your enterprise. Show how you’ll respect that.
A blank cheque
A robust branded pitch deck does more than merely attract investors. It engages them, enabling them to understand your startup's vision and potential. The goal is not “tell it all”. It is to grab them by the (eye)balls, pique curiosity and open a conversation.
Effective branding can tilt the odds in your favour during funding rounds, providing a significant competitive advantage.
Your brand - your silent advocate. The next best thing when you don't have a referral.
Till the next one.