There are many great entrepreneurs with amazing companies looking for funding. Likewise, there are many great investors with valuable knowledge who have seen all the tricks of the trade and who are looking to invest their money and share their knowledge with you to help you grow your business to that envisioned 10X. Unfortunately, when I look at pitch decks, there is much room for improvement that could be beneficial to both sides.

Try to understand the investors’ perspective

To increase your chances of raising capital, you must understand how investors think and what they look for. While each investor thinks and behaves differently, there are some essentials when it comes to a pitch deck. Of course, the true execution of each can vary greatly from company to company, so when I help my clients with optimizing their pitch decks, I always take all factors into account.

Hammer on your strengths, keep it clean, and capture their interest

The thinking shouldn’t be “What does the best pitch deck look like? I’ll just copy that.” The thinking should be “What things do investors find important when assessing a company and how can I capture their interest so they want to know more about us?” While you should not put all your information in your slide deck—keep that for the meeting—I suggest your deck should at least contain the following items.

  1. In simple language, what does your business do and what is your value proposition?

The easier this is to understand, the better. When I read about what you do, it should be instantaneously clear. I shouldn’t have to think about it. Treat it like you’re explaining it to a five-year-old kid.

  1. What problem are you solving?

Describe how things are currently broken, missing, or inefficient and what the effect of that is. Think about the gravity of the problem. Investors tend to think “must have” or “nice to have.” If your product falls in the latter category, it will usually have a much tougher road.

  1. What inferior solutions are out there now and what is your solution?

How is the problem currently resolved and how can that be improved? Why do you think you can do it better?

  1. What is your business model?

Keep it very simple. The most important questions are these:

  • Is it B2B or B2C?
  • Do you sell a product or a service?
  • Is it recurring or nonrecurring?

Usually, what investors are trying to calculate is a ballpark figure of how big the business can be and how many clients it will take to get there.

  1. What does the market look like now and how will it evolve in five years?

How mature is the market? How will it grow? What are the recent trends in the market? There are many approaches for calculating market size (bottom-up, top-down, etc.). The more proof or analysis you have here, the better.

  1. Who are your competitors and how are you different from them?

Usually we see two flavors. The matrix quadrant where your company is on the top right or a comparison table where your company—unsurprisingly—checks all the boxes while the others don’t. Whichever you choose, be ready to get grilled on how you stand out from your competitors. Prepare for this! Example: if you won clients who previously were working with your competitors, try to figure out which aspects they were not satisfied with and ask what they like about your company.

  1. What does the team look like?

This is perhaps the most important aspect. They say investors don’t invest in a company but invest in the team. Think like this: an investor would rather invest in a good team with a bad product than a bad team with a great product. A great team with great entrepreneurs have the mindset and ability to improve a product. So, highlight anything that makes you stand out. For example, focus on the track record you’ve built (already founded three other companies, had two successful exits, etc.). Also, try to create a strong board of advisers with industry knowledge.

  1. How has your business been growing (financially) so far?

Historical growth, traction, any relevant metrics that stand out, show it here. Ideally, an investor looks for traction or at least some proof that your product or service has validation in the market and is ready to grow. A common pitfall is showing irrelevant information. Again: keep it simple.

  1. What is your strategy for the next five years?

You should have a roadmap strategy. For the upcoming years, set quarterly milestones. It shows you have thought about this and that you know where you are going. If you are growing at a rapid pace, it is wise to have a financial model in which you have put all your assumptions and created various scenarios. This makes it easy for you to clearly see the impact of different growth scenarios. This information is what investors usually crave.

  1. How will you spend the money?

Explain how you will invest the money. This can be ballpark for certain categories. Better yet, make an Excel sheet and show the math behind each category. And make sure it is realistic. For example, if you’re saying we will grow 3X in FTE this year, make sure you have thought about whether finding all those new hires in such a short period and being able to keep them is realistic.

I believe these guidelines give you an idea of how investors look at pitch decks and how you can increase your chances with them.

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