What Is a Startup Pitch Deck?
A pitch deck is a short presentation used to provide potential clients, investors, or other stakeholders with a summary of your concept, business plan, services, products, and forecasted growth curve.
When combined with a verbal presentation, a pitch deck is a powerful way to get your message across to the people you'll need to get your startup off the ground. Depending on the audience you're pitching to and the time available, there are two types of pitch decks on offer:
Lean Pitch Deck
The lean pitch deck is your elevator pitch. It's an abbreviated version of the deck you would present if you had an hour of your audience's time. The deck should be about four to five slides in total and contains only the most pertinent information that investors would need to walk away with.
There's a good chance that the aim of a lean pitch deck presentation is going to be securing another meeting — this is a process. You want your audience to walk away with their interest sufficiently piqued, their most important questions answered, and just enough left on the table for a follow-up meeting to be essential.
Detailed Pitch Deck
You've either got past the first meeting, or your audience has given you more than enough time to present every aspect of your startup. Here's where you pull out your detailed pitch deck.
At no more than 19 to 22 slides, your detailed pitch deck gives your potential investors every piece of information they could wish for about your startup but in a visually and audibly stimulating way.
Opinions differ about what a pitch deck should include, but the most successful decks in history all contained the following:
- Introduction: Who are you and why are you there?
- Problem: What is the problem you propose to solve?
- Solution: How are you going to solve that problem?
- Market Size and opportunity: How many people/businesses have the problem you've identified?
- Product: How does your solution translate into a product or service?
Depending on the intricacies of your situation, these five slides may be enough to include in a lean pitch deck, along with a summary of the type of investment you're looking for. If you have more time, then your detailed pitch deck should also include:
- Traction: What are the next steps and major goals for your startup?
- Team: Who's on your team right now?
- Competition: What are you up against, and how is your startup different?
- Financials: Words are great, but it's the numbers the investors really want to see.
- The ask: What type of investment are you looking for, and what are you going to do with it?
Depending on your industry, you may also want to include a slide on the technology you'll be using, your marketing plan, and your business model.
The Importance of Pitch Decks
Learning how to pitch effectively might just be one of the most important skills a startup owner will ever need. Constructing an impactful and succinct pitch deck that gets investors interested and excited about your startup is vital — it may just be the difference between success and failure.
In the world of startup investments, you really do often only get one chance at the pitch, and this is why your deck is important. Your pitch deck may well be the first (and last) impression your potential investment tool has of your startup, and you need it to be a good one.
Startup Pitch Deck Examples
Sometimes the best way to forge your path is to look at how those that came before you did it. Even the largest companies in the world were once startups standing in front of an audience asking for investment, so let's look at some of the most successful pitch decks in history.
- Facebook: When Mark Zuckerberg stood in front of a group of investors in 2004, he presented a pitch deck that looked more like a media kit. The concise presentation included information about Facebook's value proposition, its traffic, and growth projection. We don't have to tell you it worked, but the immediate upshot was that billionaire investor Peter Thiel handed over $500,000 to turn this dorm room project into a world (and society) altering business.
- Airbnb: Airbnb is the Cinderella story of startups, and it's no coincidence that their investor pitch deck was one of the most simple yet impactful we've seen. By the second slide, potential investors already had a clear idea of what was being proposed.
- Square: This payment portal startup understood that you need to work to your strengths. Angel investors, in particular, are often interested in the team behind the idea. So, if your team has experience with big-name companies that link back to your startup offering, include it on your pitch deck.
- YouTube: Long before Google acquired YouTube for $1.6 billion, they too were just a startup pitching to investors. The power behind their pitch deck was that they knew exactly what their mission was and how they intended to achieve it.
- Buffer: The social media scheduling platform relied primarily on solid numbers when it presented its pitch, and it was music to investors’ ears. This pitch deck also became one of the first to be shared online — an effort the founder hoped would help other startups.