8 simple steps to building a pitch deck that really works

After multiple requests from our clients and network, we have decided to share (some of) our internal guide on how to create amazing pitch decks for startups looking for investors. 

Let’s just be honest for a minute. Founders tend to understand their product and service, but often lack the fundamental concept that almost no one else in the world will understand it in the same way. This means that they often make assumptions or do not take into account the lack of information or understanding. Put simply, this often results in an accurate, but extremely impractical investor deck that no one is interested in. 

How we try to change this perception is by building a narrative around the founder’s story. We create something that anyone can understand without losing the essence of the founder’s (or founders’) personality and vision. This means we do not say ‘It has to be this way…’ Instead, we just ask ‘does this explain the same thing you just said, but in a way, we can understand it as well…’. 

Our aim is to grab attention, educate and engage investors. To achieve that we keep it simple and build on what makes the startup amazing. We also train them on what to say, how to present and coach them through the process to make it easier. 

To simplify it, we have developed a simple formula that has helped us create numerous successful decks for startups. Just a caveat that while this has had a lot of success, it is NOT a guarantee of success. Having a great business that is growing fast and sustainably will help convince any investor regardless of whether you have a great deck or not.

So without further ado, here are the eight simple steps that we use for every single investor deck we have built for our clients.

Create the narrative outline

What this means is that we want to build a story that fits the startup. Rather than diving straight into everything, we gather around to build the outline of a story that suits the startup, the founder and the overall journey. I guess our experience in PR really does come in handy sometimes. 

It resembles the skeletal outline of a business plan but focuses on different touchpoints that are used for emphasis. It is a way to ensure there are multiple factors that stand out to each investor.

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Build your problem statement

If a business idea does not solve a real problem, then it isn’t a real business. That’s something that we have found to be true almost all the time. There are exceptions to this obviously (pet rock anyone), but for the most part, startups are built to solve problems that exist in the real world. 

Therefore, your problem statement tells investors a couple of things at least:

  • You’re solving a real problem
  • You are solving a problem that impacts enough people to make it a sustainable business

So make sure you build a strong problem statement that clearly highlights the problem and the size of the market. This article has a great template for how to build your problem statement.

Create your ‘hero statement’

This is what we call the solution. 

Be the superhero that swoops down at the last minute to save the day – but choose whether you rather be Batman or Superman. Both save the day, but do it very differently. One of the major issues we see from many startups is the tendency to oversell their startup as Superman. What this means is that they create a persona for their startup that is squeaky clean that can basically do everything. 

However, we personally prefer Batman and startups that are scrappy and demonstrate the ability to hustle, navigate through crises and are able to roll with the punches. Such startups are also highly sought after by investors.

Market thyself well

A huge part that I personally feel is left out of pitch decks or not fully explored is the marketing strategy. This includes the go-to-market, the acquisition model and the ability to cost-efficiently scale your business. This is the part, where we also come in and develop a short, simple and effective strategy – backed by numbers – to showcase how our clients will acquire customers and enter new markets without going bankrupt in the process. 

Having nice numbers of a deck without being able to back them up can leave you open to multiple ‘gotcha’ moments from eagle-eyed investors or anyone with a decent knowledge of scaling a business.

Visually explain the technical aspects

Nothing gives me more intense heart palpitations than when I see someone trying to present a technical product without first understanding that his or her audience may not have the know-how to fully understand what the heck they are talking about. This is where diagrams come in handy.

Most investors in the startup space have some understanding of technology. However, for disruptive companies, we’re looking at new implementations of existing tech or something completely unique that no one has ever seen before. So, don’t assume that everyone understands AI modelling and deep tech solutions. Create visual representations that highlight how your tech beats everyone else’s.

Show them the money

The financials are something we do not take a heavy hand in preparing, but often do work on the visualisation of the numbers. A bar chart that shows exponential growth in revenue is more impressive than just the numbers on a screen. So literally show them the money in the most impressive way possible.

Show them the exit too

No matter how awesome your investor seems, their goal is to make a profit off of you. So, don’t beat around the bush and show them. We suggest making it simple and easy. Be it an IPO or an acquisition, highlight within a single slide how they are going to come out of this deal considerably richer if they back you in this technology race. 

One of the decks we created was for a company that was looking at an acquisition within two years and had already short-listed some of the companies in the running. We showcased all the potential buyers in a single slide along with their expected valuation and the amount each investor was projected to make from the deal. 

Tell them what you want

People often forget that you need to ask for the money. Standing in front of your screen with a big ‘Thank you’ on your slides is not as impactful as having a slide that says we want a US$10m investment from you XX% of my startup. 

There’s no science behind it, it is just a very simple thing that almost everyone forgets – the call to action.

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There you have it, the SYNC process in a nutshell. It isn’t rocket science and we have built a lot of this from trial and error – mostly error – but it has helped a lot of our clients and friends raise capital. If you do take away one thing from this article, it should be that keeping it simple and impactful is way more compelling than an overly complicated deck that confuses everyone. 

If you’re curious to learn more about storytelling, branding and public relations or want to speak to a SYNC consultant about starting your brand’s PR journey, contact us at [email protected] 

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