I learned almost everything I know from sitting in partner meetings hearing how investors evaluate companies behind closed doors, raising capital myself, but mostly following the advice of Y-Combinator, the most successful early stage investment firm of all time (seed deck advice here) and watching hundreds of founders choose to listen (and mostly raise) or innovate (and mostly not raise).
When creating a pitch deck, focus on creating a first slide that is:
- Simple to understand
Here’s some other distractions you should avoid in your slides.
- Too much text.
- Excessive explanations and caveats.
- Excessive branding per slide.
- Animation or things that can go wrong
- Subtle humor.
If an investor doesn’t understand your business, disagrees with your opening hypothesis, or thinks your vision is small, it will be hard to keep their attention for the rest of the meeting. I tend to find investors fall into two buckets:
- Investors who imagine what happens if this truly works (the minority)
- Investors who think about everything that could go wrong (the majority)
Your pitch needs to address both, but first you need to nail the opening line, and the opening slide.
From YC’s how to build a better fundraise deck here.
Complicated opening slide:
Better opening slide:
Simple opening slide:
A few other lessons learned
- If you have a killer growth graph, lead with that!
- Don’t assume your investors know the market and challenges, even if they are users of the product. Problem - why the problem exists - solution is a simple framework
- Go through your deck and make sure everything supports the opening line. Your investors will at most remember 3 things about your business - what do you want those three things to be?
- Founders are typically too close to the details to clearly articulate your business at a high level. There is always a sense you are missing an important point or nuance. Good stories reveal themselves over time naturally. Use a trusted friend or AI to help you bring your story up a level.
- Simple slides with one point each.
- Have answers to the top 5 questions investors don't want to ask. Ignoring risks and problems shows a lack of focus on fixing them, but having answers projects confidence that you can identify and address problems, even if you don't have all the solutions at an early stage. Some will be solved with time, with expertise, or perhaps are a smaller risk than you assumed. It’s ok to have risks (every business does!), but not ok to look unprepared when discussing them.