A good part of the work we do at SWARM is offering support for startups, and a big part of that support is guiding founders on strategy for designing pitch decks, a necessary yet somewhat elusive skill. Luckily, we've got this down to a science, and in the past year we’ve seen our decks close over 10 million for a handful of companies and we’d like to share a bit of what we know with you.

First thing’s first, with so many decks from leading tech startups floating around, i.e. AirBnB, Buffer, Mint.com and others, and then next to everyone else having an opinion on what you should or shouldn’t put into a deck it may be hard to navigate just what it is exactly that investors are looking for.

To set things straight, a pitch deck by itself will not seal the deal, it’s a tool that should belong to your arsenal and be used when ready, and while investors differ on when that is - an accelerating curve for right and up is a surefire way of knowing you’re getting there.As with any presentation, the most important thing is to know your audience and define clear objectives. Learn who you’re pitching to, ask people who know the audience, in this case Angels or VCs and what they respond to. You should know them, but not cater to them. Your unique brand, company, personality and knowledge of your sector are what will make the difference.

With that being said, let’s jump into the structure of a Winning VC / Angel pitch deck.

Deck Text

1. Introductory page   This should embody your brand, what you do, what is unique about you and should engage the audience.

2. Product  This is all about what you’re building, what your product is and a one line pitch.

3. Problem definition  What problem are you trying to solve? Why does it matter? How big is it?

4. Solution  How your product solves the problem. This is the perceived customer value of your product.

5. Market  How big is the market opportunity, is it attractive, growing, what makes the segment you’re entering worthwhile?

6. Revenue  Are you making revenue, if so what’s your run rate? If not what’s your burn rate.

7. Customers  If any, and or list your target customers.

8. Competition  Who is your competition, how are they positioned, and how are you different from them?

9. How you win  This is meant to communicate why you will win, and while some sectors have space for multiple players, there will usually be a market leader. How will you become that leader, or outright kill the competition.

10. Why now?  What market indicators point to this being the right time to invest in and see your product grow?

11. Business model  How are you going to drive revenue and make money? In general, don’t say online advertising.

12. Team  Take this to heart, people invest in people not ideas or products, which is why it’s imperative to communicate why your team is complimentary and cohesive.

13. Ask  How much money are you looking for? And what are you going to use it for. You can typically split this out into two different slides if need be, but try to keep it concise.

14. Summary  Sum up and add contact info.And that’s it. Your investment deck is complete. Visually it should communicate what each slide is saying, it should never read like a wall of text, in fact the less text on a slide the better, and never ever read off bullet points. Your deck is there to support you, not provide a reading list of bullets that you’re communicating to your audience.If you have any questions please ask, and if you think this process can be augmented in any way, we’d love to hear from you, and if you'd like to talk to us about your deck then please get in touch.

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