How to create a tech startup pitch deck presentation that wins over investors
In the world of tech startups, securing investment is often the pivotal moment that can transform a budding idea into a thriving business. But before you dream the unicorn dream, the journey begins with a crucial step: crafting the perfect investor pitch. Whether you’re a seasoned entrepreneur or have been bootstrapping your startup as a first-time founder, a compelling pitch can make all the difference in attracting potential investors. In this comprehensive guide, we walk you through essential components and strategies to create the perfect investor pitch deck, and offer expert pitch tips to help you nail the pitch presentation for your startup.
What is an investor pitch?
A startup investor pitch is a structured presentation or proposal made by an entrepreneur or founding team to potential investors or venture capitalists. The primary goal of this pitch is to secure financial backing for the startup in exchange for equity or other investment terms. It serves as a compelling and, crucially, concise narrative that outlines your business pitch or idea, market opportunity, competitive advantage, team, financial projections, and investment ask.
A well-crafted startup investor pitch not only communicates a startup’s potential but also aims to persuade top tier investors that their funds will be strategically used to drive growth and ultimately yield a return on investment. It’s a critical tool in the fundraising process, allowing entrepreneurs to showcase their vision and business acumen while addressing investor questions and concerns.
Investor pitch vs. elevator pitch — what’s the difference?
Although an investor pitch should be concise and to-the-point, it is distinct from an elevator pitch, which is designed to quickly capture the attention of anyone you meet, including potential customers, partners, and even investors. The elevator pitch, typically lasting around 30 seconds to two minutes, provides a high-level overview of your startup, emphasizing its unique value proposition and the problem it solves, aiming to help anyone understand what you’re trying to achieve and initiate a conversation. In other words, it’s the pitch before the pitch to spark enough interest to earn you a meeting.
An investment pitch, on the other hand, is a more in-depth and formal presentation, lasting around 10 to 20 minutes or more, that is specifically created to court investors and cut deals. It delves into detail about your startup’s business model, market opportunity, competitive analysis, financial projections, and the investment opportunity, backed up by comprehensive data and evidence to convince deep-pocketed investors to place their bets on you.
How to pitch to the right investors for startups
Before you even begin putting together your pitch, you need to know your audience. Different investors have varying preferences, risk appetites, and areas of interest; RBCx, for example, is a backer of Janet Bannister’s Staircase Ventures, which leads seed stage rounds in B2B software companies, and StandUp Ventures which focuses specifically on funding female founders.
Nicole Kelly—someone who has seen virtually hundreds of startup investor pitches over the course of her 15 year tech career, and as RBCx’s Head of Marketing—suggests that understanding who you want to fundraise from (and why) should be your most important consideration. “Is it because there is an alignment with their investment thesis, their portfolio, and how they see the world? Are they complementary to the space that you are operating in? Do they have a good reputation? What can they do for you? This is a back and forth to figure out if you’re going to be great partners together,” she explains. “The thing that makes a pitch stand out is the work that a founder has done before the pitch.”
“The thing that makes a pitch stand out is the work that a founder has done before the pitch.”
Moreover, tailoring your investment pitch according to the stage of your startup is essential for resonating with would-be investors and increasing your chances of success. In the pre-seed and seed stages, focus on your vision, the glaring problem you’re solving, and the uniqueness of your solution. For Series A, emphasize the unique product value compared to the competition, market traction, user acquisition, and scalability of your business model. As you progress to Series B and beyond, highlight revenue growth, profitability and other performance metrics, your go-to-market plan, ongoing product vision and how additional funding will accelerate your expansion and solidify your market leadership. Adapting your pitch to your startup’s stage demonstrates your strategic thinking and aligns your message with what investors are looking for at each startup funding phase.
What should be included in an investor pitch deck?
An investor-ready pitch deck usually includes 15 to 20 slides in a slide presentation (PowerPoint, SlideShare, Google Slides, etc). To create a strong, thorough, and engaging pitch deck for investors, here are some of the key slides/sections your pitch deck should have:
1. Company overview
2. The problem
3. The solution (the product)
4. The market opportunity
5. The competition
6. Business model
8. The marketing plan
9. The team
11. The ask
It’s okay to structure your pitch deck to suit your startup’s unique story and needs, but generally speaking, investors expect this type of presentation.
Pitch deck template: How to create the best investor pitch deck
Here are some of the most important details to cover in each section of your startup pitch deck:
The “company overview” slide of the pitch deck
The best pitch decks begin with a compelling narrative. Investors want to connect with your startup on a personal level, so start by sharing the background of your venture. This slide typically offers a snapshot of your mission, vision, and values as well as foundational elements like your company’s history, the founding team members, and its key achievements to date to help investors understand the business.
Slide one of a pitch deck also provides an opportunity to captivate your audience and set the tone of your presentation. For example, when a then-smallish-site named “The Facebook” pieced together its initial media kit-investor pitch hybrid deck, they kicked it off with a quote from The Stanford Daily student newspaper: “Classes are being skipped. Work is ignored. Students are spending hours in front of the computer in utter fascination. Thefacebook.com craze has swept through campus.”
It was an unusual but highly impactful choice because it demonstrated that the startup had an actual working product (as opposed to just a concept or prototype) that was gaining media coverage—one that’s forever enshrined in Silicon Valley lore. By taking a creative approach, you can create a sense of curiosity, prompting investors to lean in and learn more about your startup’s journey and value proposition.
“The problem” slide of the pitch deck
Investors invest in solutions, but first, they need to understand the problem you’re addressing and why it exists. Clearly define the pain point or challenge you’re tackling with credible data, statistics, and insights to help illustrate/quantify the severity of the problem, and why it’s worth solving. Conducting thorough market and customer research provides crucial validation that the problem is not only real, but also represents a genuine demand for the solution you offer, thereby bolstering your case for the startup’s viability and potential for success.
“The solution” slide of the pitch deck
Now that you’ve established the problem, present your solution. Explain how your product or service elegantly addresses the issue and why it’s superior to what’s out there. You should also address the key features and points of differentiation, why users care about the product, and what other product features are planned. Remember to keep it simple and avoid jargon that might confuse potential investors.
The “market opportunity” slide of the pitch deck
Astute investors want to know that what you’re building is sustainable and that it has the potential to be a category leader. Provide data-backed insights into the market size (also referred to as the total addressable market or TAM), growth potential and trends, and highlight notable early customers your company might have. Show that you’ve conducted thorough market research and there is a product market fit and demand for your solution. “For me personally, you have to make a very compelling case explaining why now,” says Angela Tran, a San-Francisco based VC and General Partner of Version One, of which RBCx is a Limited Partner. “You have to really think about creating this urgency so that investors get FOMO (fear of missing out) so much that they don’t just want but need to invest.”
The “competitive analysis” slide of the pitch deck
Acknowledge your competition and explain how your startup stacks against them. Highlight your competitive advantages, such as intellectual property, technology, or a unique approach that’s difficult to replicate. Be honest about potential challenges and how you plan to overcome them.
The “business model and revenue strategy” slide of the pitch deck
Investors need to see a clear path to profitability. Outline your business model and revenue strategy. Explain how you will acquire customers, generate revenue, and scale the business. Investors want to know how and when they’ll see a return on their investment.
The “traction and milestones” slide of the pitch deck
Demonstrate that your startup is gaining traction in the market. Share key milestones achieved to date, such as user acquisition numbers, revenue growth, strategic partnerships or product launches, along with how the early traction can be accelerated. If applicable, you can also include any testimonials, press, and other accolades. These milestones validate your progress and show that you’re executing your plan effectively.
The “marketing plan “slide of the pitch deck
Investors are keen to understand your startup’s plan to create and capture value in the market. This slide delves into your distribution channels (paid search, social, email, TV, radio/podcast, etc.), early marketing tactics and channel success, customer acquisition costs, and any PR you’ll be using and/or media buzz you’ve earned.
The “team slide” of the pitch deck
Investors not only invest in ideas but also in the people behind them. This might seem obvious but in the absence of significant revenue or a proven business model, it’s the team—their skills, backgrounds, relevant expertise, unique experiences, track records of success—that VCs are ultimately backing. A strong, capable team has the ability to navigate challenges, pivot when necessary and execute the business plan effectively. Demonstrating that the startup has the talent and dedication required to bring your vision to fruition can inspire investor confidence, and indeed, may just be the deciding factor in securing funding for it.
The “financials” slide of the pitch deck
Provide realistic financials that showcase your startup’s potential for profitability. Include three- to five-year financial projections, forecasts, total revenue and expenses, your burn rate, EBITDA, and a clear path to break-even and profitability.
The key here, stresses Nicole, is to be prepared to explain your assumptions and methodology, especially if it’s an early-stage company that may not have much history or traction, much less revenue. “One of the biggest mistakes that I see is not having the numbers to back up what you’re claiming,” she says. “It’s great to be ambitious and optimistic, but when you’re going out to an investor, it has to be rooted in legitimate things that you can back up.”
“One of the biggest mistakes is not having the numbers to back up what you’re claiming. It’s great to be ambitious and optimistic, but when you’re going out to an investor, it has to be rooted in reality.”
The “investment ask” slide of the pitch deck
Clearly state how much funding you are seeing from investors (a range is fine). Break down how you plan to use the funds (e.g. new hires, tech and product development, etc.), how long the financing will last, and what milestones you aim to achieve with their investment. Be specific and transparent about the terms and conditions of the investment, such as equity or convertible notes, and highlight any notable existing investors.
“By the end of the presentation, it should be very clear what the problem is that you’re solving, why this team, and the investor should feel confident that this team is actually capable of tackling that problem,” says Nicole. “Nailing the pitch really comes down to your ability to tell the story of your business effectively, succinctly, and how you bring investors along the journey with you.”
How to design a pitch deck
A visually appealing pitch deck will go a long way to ensuring your story and message will be delivered succinctly. Use clear and concise slides with compelling visuals, charts, and graphics to illustrate key points.
“Your pitch deck shouldn’t be all glitz and glamour. Make the content count and ensure you’re leading with your story, not your design.”
Nicole emphasizes, however, not to get too hung up on the aesthetics; you want investors to be impressed by you, not your slides. “There are a ton of resources and tools online that can ensure you’re compiling a pitch deck that is crisp, clean, and formatted well—this should be an absolute given,” she explains. “It’s not all about glitz and glamour. Make the content count and ensure you’re leading with your story and not your design.”
How to prepare for a pitch
1. Practice your presentation
Entrepreneurs need to be supremely confident about their eventual success. In the lexicon of the startup world, they have a high kill rate. Once you’ve created your pitch deck, practice your delivery relentlessly. Rehearse in front of trusted advisors, mentors or peers to gather feedback. Focus on delivering a confident, engaging, and concise presentation that fits within the allotted time.
“It’s okay to be nervous, but as a founder/CEO, you’re signing up to be in hard situations and in places that are really going to stretch you as a leader,” says Nicole. “But if you can’t thrive under that pressure, it might plant a seed of doubt in the investors. Come to the table with conviction so that they trust and believe in you.”
2. Handle questions effectively
Expect questions from investors during and after your pitch, including ones that are meant to throw you off, and prepare thoughtful, concise responses.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common questions investors may ask during a pitch:
- How did you come up with the idea of your business?
- Why is the problem you’re addressing important?
- Why now? Why hasn’t this worked in the past?
- How are you validating the market opportunity? The value of your solution? Your valuation?
- What evidence of market traction do you have—user growth, sales, customer research, case studies, partnerships, benchmarks for similar businesses?
- What is your win rate against competitors? How do you plan to maintain your competitive advantage?
- Why hasn’t your company’s growth been stronger?
- Can you tell me a customer success story? Who is your ideal customer?
- Why are you fundraising at this stage and how will you use the money? Could you grow faster without the investment? What is your ultimate financial objective? What will happen if you run out of money?
- How long will it take to capitalize on my investment?
- What would happen if you were forced to stop or something unexpected happened?
- What are the biggest mistakes you’ve made so far in this startup and what have you learned from them?
- What would need to happen to make you fail a year from now? Five years from now? Why did you decide to do X, Y, Z (objections related to competition, market, expenses, financial projections, etc.)
- What makes your team the best to execute your business plan?
- What is the first step of your business plan?
- How do you plan to mitigate the risks and challenges your startup faces?
- How do you envision your startup evolving in the next three to five years, and what milestones do you aim to achieve?
- What other investors do you have and who else are you speaking to?
Don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t have an answer, but assure investors that you’ll follow up with the information. Whatever you do, says Nicole, do not try and fumble your way through it: “Think about the weak spots of your business and be prepared to have a non-BS answer for what you’re doing to solve for it. Just be ready.”
3. Build relationships
Investor pitches are not just one-off interactions; they are opportunities to build long-term relationships. Treat every meeting as a chance to connect with potential investors. Listen to their feedback and adapt your pitch accordingly. Even if a VC decides not to invest immediately, maintaining a positive relationship can lead to future opportunities.
“It’s never too early to build a relationship with an investor. They may not write you a cheque but it’s about building rapport, credibility, and bringing them along the journey.”
One tactic that Nicole recommends is to start a targeted distribution list that updates potential investors on major milestones. This makes it easier to stay in touch after the pitch, regardless of where they are in the investment cycle. “It’s never too early to build the right relationship with an investor,” she says. “They may not feel it’s the right time to write you a cheque but it’s about building rapport, credibility, and bringing them along the journey.”
4. Learn from rejection
It’s an unfortunate truism that rejection is a common part of the fundraising process. Don’t be discouraged by a no. Instead, view each rejection as a learning opportunity. Ask for feedback from investors who pass on your pitch and use their insights to improve. “There are a thousand reasons why you might get a no from an investor, including some that are beyond your control,” explains Nicole. “As a founder, you need to go in with the mindset that a no right now does not mean no forever.”
5. Iterate and refine
Remember that the perfect startup investor pitch is a work in progress. As you gather feedback, iterate and refine your pitch accordingly. Continuously update your pitch deck and narrative to reflect your startup’s progress and evolving goals.
Dos and don’ts of a successful startup pitch
- Pre-pitch, do a brand audit; look at your company’s digital footprint—including your website, your social media platforms, and the founders’ LinkedIn—to ensure they’re up to date and reflect a professional image.
- Do send the deck as a PDF to potential investors in advance of your meeting.
- Do use a consistent design including font size, colours, header styles, and layout throughout.
- Do be prepared to do a product demo; showing it in action is your one chance to really captivate investors.
- Do a fast follow-up with interested investors after the pitch, providing additional information as needed.
- Don’t overwhelm them with excessive data or details; that information can be added to the appendix if necessary.
- Don’t add too much text; your pitch deck is a visual aid that shouldn’t be read verbatim.
- Don’t get bogged down with the nuts and bolts of your product; customer tastes change and an early-stage business will likely iterate.
- Don’t neglect timing; going over your allotted time can leave a negative impression.
- Don’t forget to include a disclaimer in the footer of your pitch deck cover page: Confidential and Proprietary. [Name of your company]. All rights reserved. While your early-stage company might be pre-copyright, and the disclaimer may not be legally-binding, it is a common practice.
Final thoughts on creating the perfect pitch
Crafting the perfect investor pitch for your startup is a challenging yet essential part of your entrepreneurial journey. Remember that your pitch is not just about securing funding; it’s about conveying your vision, passion, and commitment to potential investors. By understanding your audience, telling a captivating story, and addressing key business elements effectively, you can increase your chances of attracting the right backers who believe in your startup’s potential to succeed and make a significant impact in the market. With practice, perseverance, and a compelling pitch, you can take your tech startup to new heights.
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