A practical guide for entrepreneurs looking to build a compelling pitch deck with great flow that really grabs investors.
Decent entrepreneurs can succinctly explain what their product does. Good entrepreneurs can describe their market and their customer. Funded entrepreneurs can pitch their company in terms that an investor can relate to.
For most entrepreneurs, it's neither easy nor intuitive to put the investor version of the story together. It is easy to talk product, customer, and maybe market. But when you are talking to investors, your company is your product, and you need to pitch in a way the investor can grab onto.
Fortunately, there is an easy formula that works nearly universally. The key to this formula is that it covers all the required subjects, but strings them together into a coherent and engaging narrative flow.
You need to cover all the building blocks, but the key is in the arrangement of those blocks. Here is a picture of the framework, followed by a walk through the pieces:
The astute may have noticed team is not first. Many investors say the team is the most important thing, and I agree, so some people recommend that you start with the team. They are wrong. We are trying to craft a narrative here--hook them with the story of the customer and the problem. Team is important, but as you can see from above it just comes later in the flow. Here are the building blocks, piece by piece, in order.
Problem & Customer
Every time I sit down with an entrepreneur for the first time, I always start the conversation the exact same way. Before we've even settled in, I'm already asking "who's the customer and what's their problem?" If you are telling a story, this is the logical place to begin. As an entrepreneur if you cannot describe who your customer is and what problem you are solving for them, you've got work to do.
The next thing to do is to talk about how these customers make a market. What its size is, whether it is growing, if it is fragmented, is it ripe for disruption, who the other players are, etc.; in short, what makes it interesting.
Here you want to talk about the solution. Focus on the pain relief, rather than the product. These are the attributes of the product that solve the problem. Highlight benefits, not features. Explain what the perfect solution looks like, not all the details about what you have built.
Here is where you say, "yeah, I've built a solution with those required attributes, and I've solved it in a cost-effective way." Given enough resources, anyone could solve virtually any problem. Emphasize how your solution is both practical and economically viable.
This is the story of how you are going to get your solution to the customer. Your business model, your go to market strategy. What are you actually going to be doing and selling and what the key challenges are going to be along the way.
Go To Market
Here is where you get more specific about your actual sales strategy. Are you selling with a direct sales force, over the web, through partners, through distributors? Where are these customers and how can you locate them, talk to them, and bring them on board cost-effectively? What is the customer acquisition cost going to be relative to the life-time value? (Hint: LTV better be higher than CAC, or you're in trouble.)
Now that your listener has a handle on what you are doing, it's time to tell them why you have the stuff to pull it off. Yeah, you are super-smart and have the right education, skills and experience, but you also gel as a team. Keep in mind that a high-functioning team is very different from a group of high-functioning individuals. Investors are looking for 1+1=3.
Here is where you talk about where you are, where you have been, what you need to do next, what resources it is going to take, and how long it's going to take. You are going to talk about a plan that makes sense, is realistic in terms of both time and resources and is sequenced logically.
Now that your potential investors understand what you are going to do, let's talk about the resulting financials. What is the revenue model? What kinds of gross and net margins will this company generate? How fast can it grow? How much capital will be needed down the road?
Looking forward, let's assume your business starts to grow. Take time to consider who the potential buyers might be. Who cares about what you have built? Are there different kinds of potential buyers? What will they value the company for? What kinds of prices are they likely to pay? How much traction/revenue/growth is required before the company will be of interest to them?
Call to Action
A great call to action needs to express that you know you need help and your desire to get them involved. Start the dialog by providing the details of your current fund-raising.
This formula allows you to take an enormous amount of detail and weave it into a narrative that hooks the listener immediately with a human interest story about a customer and their problem, and starts an interesting discussion about solving it. The result has flow. Flow is key to telling a good story and is key to organizing your company's information into a cohesive investment hypothesis. Of course this is not the only way to do it, but it's a tried and true template that works well and has had proven success.