The discussions for this article took place in a conference room with serial SaaS entrepreneurs, experienced venture capitalists, and professionals with decades of experience in evaluating and scaling ventures. The opinions on what should or should not be included in a pitch deck were strong.
While everyone has their own, sometimes divergent opinions, there are some things everyone agreed on. The advice we’ve compiled here is meant to help you refine your pitch decks, improve your analysis of the market, and better your chances in the meeting itself.
Who is this for?
If you’re an entrepreneur in the B2B SaaS space (our home ground), your business is running well (congratulations!) and you’re thinking of raising your first institutional seed round to help you get primed for a (pre-)Series A in 18 to 24 months (our sweet spot), then this article should be perfect for you. Even if you don’t fall in this precise category we’re sure the advice here should still be valuable to you.
So, here goes.
The secret ingredient is…
…nothing. The very first thing to acknowledge is that there is no formula. Your pitch deck is the story of your company, your team, and your journey to build your product. That story is original, it belongs only to you. Your storytelling has to be original too, it cannot be formulaic.
Starting a pitch deck
“How many slides is too many? How few is too few? Should I start with the vision, the problem, or the size of the opportunity?”
The process of building a pitch deck almost always starts with confusion and uncertainty. Whereas it should start with confidence and clarity. The right question to ask is, “What’s the most important thing to know?”. The first 2-3 slides should give an investor a reason to keep reading.
If you’ve identified an opportunity that few others have, make the first slide about your vision. If you’ve managed to build a team of stars, make the first slide about your team. If you’ve landed big-name clients, built strong momentum in the market, or landed some promising POCs, make sure the numbers and client logos are in the first 2-3 slides.
When an investor opens your pitch deck, they’re asking “Why should I be excited about this?”. Your first 2-3 slides need to answer that question.
“Alright so I’ve made slides for our vision, our team, our customer, our product…now what?”
There’s a language barrier between founders and investors, and metrics are the bridge. Metrics are what investors use to understand where you’ve been, how you’re doing, and where you’re going. Once you’ve covered the most important things, get straight to the metrics.
Present your most impressive achievements and back them up with numbers. Have you been growing fast? Make a slide on it and show your metrics. Have you achieved really good sales efficiency? Make a slide, show your metrics. Also, while there are hundreds of SaaS metrics you could be talking about, there are a few that you must talk about. Listen to Sandeep Chawda, partner at Pentathlon talk about ‘The 4 supreme SaaS metrics’ if you haven’t already.
Presenting a market analysis
“Should I tell them it’s a $ 2 Trillion market, and we’re trying to grab just 0.05% of it…?”
Investors don’t want to hear about billion-dollar markets, and certainly not from a top-down perspective. Investors want to hear what you understand about specific customer segments, their addressable pain-points, and how you plan to build your way up to a share of the Total Addressable Market (TAM). Present what you understand about the market in simple, concrete terms.
Talking about the competition
“But, we don’t really consider anyone our competition. What we’re building is unique.”
Is there a company out there cashing a cheque that should have your name on it? It doesn’t matter how they do it, it matters that they’re eating a piece of your pie. Investors want to know how you plan on becoming the no-brainer choice for your customers among all options available to them.
A feature comparison table or scatter chart is a great visual way to show where you stand against other players in the field.
Presenting the pitch deck
“I will project the deck, read out the important bits, and answer any questions…”
That’s a simple and solid plan, but it’s not enough.
Start by knowing your audience before you walk into the meeting. You might already know this, but not all investors are cut from the same cloth. Founders-turned investors will appreciate and analyze your efforts very differently from non-founder investors. Do your research on the firm and its partners.
Second, keep it short. Can you finish the entire pitch in 5-minutes? If yes, then do it. Or at least get it to as short a timeframe as you can. The first meeting will always have more small-talk and longer introductions than you would expect, and you want enough time, in the end, to set the next steps and shake hands. Be prepared for a short pitch that isn’t rushed and achieves your real goal – getting a second meeting. There’s no point trying to go from zero to term-sheet in one meeting, anyway.
Asking for money
Yes, finally. Investors want to know what you plan to do with their money (obviously). More often than not, you’ll have one of the following four goals:
- Expansion: Do you need to enter new markets or grow within current markets quickly? Talk about how you’ll use the investment to forge partnerships, conduct research, or execute your expansion plans.
- Growth: Are you going for a quick but small exit or a longer path to a larger reward? Talk about different scenarios and try to understand which way the investors lean. A hands-on investor (like Pentathlon) will also want to know how they can support your chosen path, not just how you plan to spend the cash.
- Staffing: Do you need to build a sales team? What about marketing, engineering, and customer support? Tell investors what key positions you need to hire for, how much you plan to spend, and by when you want to bring someone on board. Help them understand how these roles will take you closer to success.
- Product development: Are you building more features? A USP that competitors will find hard to emulate? Will this become your differentiator? Talk about how the investment will help you solve customer problems and win against the competition.
The last thing we’ll tell you is that a pitch meeting is a superb opportunity to learn. Ask for feedback, take notes, go back to the drawing board. The way to make your pitch deck ‘perfect’ is to never stop working on it, even when you think it’s perfect.