Great startups don’t fund themselves. Raising money from investors for your startup is challenging at any stage and requires a great pitch, even for experienced founders with significant traction in their company.
The good news is that there’s a formula for pitching your startup that has helped startup founders raise millions.
In this article below I’ve distilled the investor pitch formula down to the 11 core slides you need in your initial pitch deck. I’ve also provided specific examples including the actual deck that Reid Hoffman used to get funding for LinkedIn from Greylock.
Most importantly, I put all this into a single pitch deck template you can download (Power Point), and shared tips for using your new pitch deck to raise funding for your startup. The template doesn’t have fancy design, just the content outline you need.
Download the template, and read through the tips and examples below to create a compelling investor pitch that you can both share with investors directly and put online to run a successful equity crowdfunding campaign.
Download: Investor Pitch Deck Template (PPT)
Note: The formula in this deck was developed after raising money for my own ventures over the years, after seeing and evaluating the founder pitches sent to me as a seed / inception stage angel investor, and after seeing the almost 10,000 company profiles and pitches on Crowdfunder.
This formula also takes cues from leading active startup investors including Dave McClure of 500 Startups and others (disclosure: 500 Startups / 500 Mexico is an investor in Crowdfunder).
I also recommend that you use this outline/template, then put your own pitch deck online at a leading equity crowdfunding platform. It’s free to create a Company Profile that showcases your deck online, and sets you up to launch an equity crowdfunding campaign and attract investors.
What Investors Look For In Your Pitch Deck
Listed below are the 11 slides every Entrepreneur should look to include in their initial investor pitch deck.
Within the template / Power Point I created for you, on each slide I explain more about what kind of information to fill in and share. Further below I’ve also linked to some actual pitch deck examples that have raised funding from angels and VCs.
Here are the 11 basic slides:
Slide 1: Vision / Elevator Pitch
Slide 2: Traction / Validation
Slide 3: Market Opportunity
Slide 4: The Problem
Slide 5: Product / Service
Slide 6: Revenue Model
Slide 7: Marketing & Growth Strategy
Slide 8: Team
Slide 9: Financials
Slide 10: Competition
Slide 11: Investment ‘Ask’
A few important notes about these slides and pitch decks in general:
*It’s my opinion that including much more information that this in your initial pitch can be counterproductive. You want to leave some questions unanswered, hit the big points in a clear way, and avoid over-sharing.
*I encourage founders to put their key numbers and traction at the very beginning of their deck. This grabs attention and clarifies the market opportunity, especially if the numbers are good. Don’t make an investor wait until 5 or 6 slides in just to see what is going on.
*The pitch deck template does not have fancy design, just the content you should include. Design and visuals are a great thing to invest in, as long as they better tell your story by simplifying and clarifying.
*There are other optional slides I mention in the deck template including: Exit Strategy, Product/Demo Shots, and more.
*Use separate documents like an executive summary or dedicated technical documents to cover complex product images and descriptions, patent details, technical explanations, or detailed financial and marketing items. Let investors choose to dive into those by their choosing, outside the deck.
Pitch Deck Examples
Here are some pitch decks and examples that have helped companies raise Seed and Series A funding in the past: some from Crowdfunder, some posted by entrepreneurs on their blog after the fact, some templates and recommendations on how to pitch from VCs:
- Enmetric Systems
- Reid Hoffman’s LinkedIn Pitch Deck
- Aria Retirement Solutions
- Dave McClure’s ‘Startup Viagra’ Template
- Innovative Solar
- Sky Fernandes’ VC Template
- Go Greek Yogurt
Pitch Deck Tips That Win Startup Investment
Pitch decks done well are one of the most compelling ways to tell your story and get investor interest, in lieu of face to face meetings. They are also critical to your success in equity crowdfunding.
Here are ways that successful fundraisers use their deck to capture attention and close investors:
Tip 1. Get Intros: Many investors want to “discover” deals, not get pitched a deal by the Founder. Make sure to seek out and ask for direct intros to potential investors – but only do so from people with strong professional reputations.
Quality referrals are one of the best ways to capture the attention of big active investors.
When you ask for intros, give the person making the introduction a very short email ‘blurb’ of suggested language for them to use. Make sure that blurb includes a single link / call to action. By using a single link to your online profile on a site, you can allow people to pass along your pitch and all your core company info with a single URL. The moment that any potential investor clicks on that link, they experience the pitch and message you’ve crafted for them online, in a more dynamic and powerful environment than just a PPT attachment.
In my case, when I was fundraising for Crowdfunder in the past and people made intros to investors, that message and link went something like this:
This simple message and link showcases my pitch deck, video, as well as my existing investors / advisors / team – all streamlined in my pitch on my Crowdfunder Profile. What’s more, my pitch now has the powerful social proof provided by the people and investors already involved in Crowdfunder who are listed on my Company Profile. Seeing who else is involved or investing can make a real difference for investors taking a first look.
When my latest round was live on Crowdfunder investors who saw this could even make investment commitments right then and there, or Follow my company to stay up to date. This process, along with our Crowdfunder campaign, helped us quickly raise $1M in Seed funding.
Tip 2. More Story, Less Information: Data and bullets on a deck don’t sway investors. What takes your pitch from good to great is the story you tell and how it engages the imagination of an investor.
All great pitches have a basic “meta story” that is emergent from the overall pitch. This meta story can take a few forms, but it generally sounds something like this:
“There is a huge opportunity to do X as a giant business. We’ve cracked the code, and this is how my company is doing it and will dominate this market. Here’s who myself and my team are, and why we’re the only people to back in this space. It’s working, and now we need money for X and Y to grow.”
Your pitch deck should be more of an experience that communicates this overall narrative / story about you and your startup visually and with words simply by scrolling through the series of slides.
It’s also a great idea to start with, or include, actual present tense ‘user stories’ or use cases about your customer experience or customer success that is at the core of your product or service experience. As in, “Jane is looking for investors for her startup. She goes to Crowdfunder and clicks a single button to connect via LinkedIn. This automatically creates a rich and socially connected pitch profile for company that engages her existing network and is visible to a larger network of active accredited investors on Crowdfunder.”
One of the world’s best at teaching this kind of pitching and storytelling is Tyler Crowley of the LAUNCH Conference, CEO of Skweal, Crowdfunder Advisor. Here’s a great short post on storytelling by Tyler.
Tip 3. Ask For The Money: Many entrepreneurs fundraising love to drone on about their company and pitch all the features, traction, strategy. But when it comes time to define the investment opportunity and ask for an investor to write a check, suddenly they’re shy and can’t find words.
Be prepared to ask each investor you communicate with to come in to your round directly, and even ask them for how much money you want from them, and why.
Also, be prepared to succinctly describe the use of funds for the money you are raising, and where it will get you.
Think of this as “good hygiene” when fundraising. Make sure you know your numbers, your financing, have a timeline for your round, and be clear and direct on your asks.
Tip 4. PDF Your Deck: Don’t leave yourself open to the formatting pitfalls of Power Point. Turn your Power Point or Keynote pitch deck into a PDF. This makes sure that investors see the deck the way you designed and intended it.
This also makes sure it displays well if you use it in any online equity crowdfunding efforts.
Tip 5. Continually Update Your Deck: Entrepreneurs who do well at fundraising treat their pitch deck like the most valuable piece of content or advertisement that they will ever write.
Example: a Founder who recently closed $500,000 on Crowdfunder literally went through 7 iterations of his deck in a few months. Each time his traction grew, he would update those numbers in the deck. Each time he had a big win or development, he would update the deck.
If you’re using your deck correctly, you’ll find that it reflects the rapid learnings and growth you’re experiencing as you pitch investors, get feedback, and refine your story and approach.
Good luck in pitching investors and your fundraising efforts.
Make sure you spend time both pitching investors in person to learn and get feedback to improve your pitch, and take advantage of the new opportunity to get your pitch in front of thousands of investors online via equity crowdfunding.