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Investor Deck for Rookies

By Carlos Tribino, The Machine

So you started your tech startup. You have the founders, the technology, a company name, that snazzy GoDaddy domain, and the business plan. Now you’re ready to meet with investors and have to put together a deck that will stand out from the hundreds of PDFs that are cluttering the email boxes of venture capitalists, angels and accelerators. A strong pitch deck can be crucial for you to land that first Zoom meeting that may put you on the path to raise the cash you so desperately need. If you’re experienced on this matter, feel free to turn the page. If this is your first rodeo, I invite you to read on.

Keep it brief; 20 pages, tops. A long deck is a major turnoff and nobody has the time or attention span to go through 40 pages. Be concise in your words and images; say and show only what will create impact, surprise, a “wow” effect and help explain a complex technology or business model.

The cover page matters. Proudly display your product, service or technology in a creative and impactful way. Build a short tagline or vision that explains the unique benefit you bring to the table. How is your tech changing the world or an industry? Don’t get distracted by the fastest or most cost effective, but focus on the end-benefit of your disruption – this will capture your audience’s interest to want to turn the page.

Now you have two pages to avoid the reader hitting the delete button. State the problem you are solving. Don’t be shy and feel free to add some drama to the story. Immediately thereafter, show effectively how you are solving this problem. Be credible, add enough beef to convince the audience that your solution makes sense. The idea here is to position your startup as a “must have” and not a “nice to have.” To some extent, you want them thinking “if it’s not these guys, somebody else is going to do this,” but right now they only have your deck in hand.

Follow up with TAM (Total Addressable Market) and SAM (Serviceable Addressable Market) to show both an ambitious and a realistic picture of how big or huge this idea can be. This gives investors a sense that a $5M investment can turn into a billion dollar exit. A page-turner.

Then it’s time for your tech. Exactly how is it that you’re going to solve the issue? What is unique about your technology that changes the game convincingly? Actual patents or filings are big here; IP is what will give investors protection from me-toos.

Customer discovery interviews can follow up to show you’ve done your homework and talked to people in the industry to prove there is a genuine interest and need for your innovation. Investors want to see an unbiased endorsement that will add to the story.

If you have any strategic partners that can help you accelerate market penetration with both know-how and a hefty industry rolodex, don’t leave it out. It is a sign that you may enter the space with more ease.

The Team is no moment to exercise modesty. Be bold, show off your Ph.D.s, MBAs, CMUs and EINs. Display related experience, board of advisors and anything that can reassure them you’re the guys to do it.

Then come the financials, projections, hockey sticks and P&Ls that will get scrutinized if and once you get to the discussion phase.

Finally, don’t be afraid to get graphic help. A strong design won’t only make you look buttoned up, but more importantly will add clarity, brevity and a stronger narrative to your deck.

Every single opportunity to get in front of an investor is hard earned. Make the most of it.