Today, NextView Ventures is excited to release a pillar project in our Growth Guides series: pitch deck templates for raising seed capital. These help address a common question which we frequently receive from entrepreneurs about how to create startup pitch decks for this crucial financial milestone.
For context, last year, based on questions from our existing portfolio, we launched two board deck templates for seed-stage startups. These were well-received, so we next turned our attention to entrepreneurs outside the portfolio to ask what questions we could address in a similar fashion. The response was consistent and clear: “Thanks for those board decks — hope to use them someday — but I’m still raising a seed round right now. What makes a great pitch deck?”
This answer was somewhat surprising — there seem to be several templates like this which already exist. But the feedback we received was that those decks (a) are somewhat generic and not built specifically for seed-stage startups, which often require more art than science during the pitch, and (b) lack storytelling components and design and layout sensibility.
So, we hope these two deck resources can address both issues. We also aimed to take these one step further by adding our own VC commentary throughout the slides and by providing two different, somewhat unique versions of great pitch decks.
Read on for more context, or download your templates right here:
(Clicking will take you to a Dropbox page where you can download the file.)
Two Unique Pitch Deck Styles
Jay Acunzo, our VP of Platform who largely created these slides, asked us a poignant question before we began this project: Aside from the accepted format of pitch decks today, what did we as VCs wish they could be? If we’re designing a great early-stage startup pitch from the ground up, what would that look like?
From our perspective at NextView, startup pitch meetings should come in two flavors:
The first is a conversation.
Usually, when raising a seed round, your pitch process with a VC firm starts with a small number of meetings with just one or two team members — or else you’re pitching angel investors individually. In those contexts, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll want to stand up and “pitch” a deck. Usually, a more human interaction works better. You introduce yourself, you talk about why you started your company, and you start digging into the details in a conversational way.
This is the way my partners and I tend to operate in our initial meetings, too, whether we’re being pitched or raising money ourselves. In the end, I think discussion-based meetings are simply the way people want to interact with others they’re speaking with for the first time. It just feels more human and natural, in addition to helping both sides learn a great deal about the other.
The second type of pitch is more of a show.
Maybe you are presenting in front of a crowd in a demo-day scenario, or perhaps it’s to a larger group like the full partnership of a big firm. In these cases, the interaction is very, very different. It tends to be more one-way — more of a presentation than a discussion.
In these pitches, you have to carefully choose the details into which you dive more deeply, since you don’t want anything to go over people’s heads, nor do you want to confuse an audience that lacks the ability to have a back-and-forth discussion to find clarity.
Instead, what you actually want to do is drive home the story and the excitement of the opportunity, as well as the inevitability of your success. Emotion is a bit more crucial here, since this may be the first or only major interaction you have with these people during your fundraise.
But here’s the problem we often encounter with the standard pitch deck:
Most fundraising decks are a poor compromise between the needs of both of these meetings — conversation and show — and so they leave much to be desired as an investor, generally speaking.
To address this and slightly rethink what pitches should be, we created two different suggested templates for fundraising decks: a short explainer with a “kitchen sink” FAQ section and another style we’ve dubbed “The Show.”
Some quick context on each:
Pitch Deck Template #1: Explainer + Kitchen Sink Appendix
The first template you’ll encounter is designed for a discussion-based pitch. It’s super short – just a handful of slides to convey the basic, critical details up front. However, it includes a “kitchen sink” of FAQs in the appendix.
The shortness of the up front pitch can be incredibly helpful one-on-one. When you’re speaking to an investor, you can say, “I have a few slides that might help introduce the company, but we can keep it pretty conversational and dive into specific questions once you get the gist.”
It fits the format, but it also allows you to demonstrate mastery over the details of your business by pulling up a slide from the appendix if/when the discussion requires it. Does the VC have a detailed question about the product roadmap? No problem, just turn to page 16 in the appendix. Did the discussion evolve into an exploration of your go-to-market strategy? Perfect — easily pull up page 6 in the appendix as a backdrop to the conversation.
Also, you don’t need to sweat the order of the details in the appendix to weave the pieces together like a high-school essay. The first few slides are neatly and logically ordered, while the appendix serves as backup.
As my partner Rob Go points out, this approach puts you on more equal footing with an investor: “It’s less of a ‘pitch to me’ kind of interaction and more of a discussion, which is really good in building early trust and rapport.”
The appendix becomes a flexible go-to resource to augment a genuine dialog with the investor. This Explainer+Kitchen Sink approach allows for a natural discussion to unfold, while still clearly demonstrating that you’ve come fully prepared and have a strong handle on your business. In a one-on-one setting, this format is going to have much more of an impact than the more rote “flipbook” of slide after slide.
Pitch Deck Template #2: The Show
This second deck is great for the second type of meeting where there’s a larger audience. This is when emotion-driven stories delivered start to finish make more sense. The Show is longer and very focused on telling a cohesive narrative that elicits a (hopefully) positive emotional response.
By including The Show in our templates, we’re also acknowledging that certain settings aren’t well suited to digging into all of the details of the business and that different members of the audience likely start from different places in their understanding of what’s going in on your company and your market.
That said, The Show isn’t just fluff. It should demonstrate good prioritization of the details that matter from the entrepreneur. You need to have just as much mastery over your business as in the case of the other pitch deck in the event that an investor wants to dig in a bit further.
Like all templates, these are just guides, and you probably don’t want to include absolutely everything in your own deck. As you flip through the slides which we’ve created, look for the call-outs from my partners and I to inform your own versions.
Pitching NextView? Some Context
Although we hope this helps entrepreneurs generally, we recognize that some of the audience reading might eventually meet with someone at NextView. To that end, I wanted to share at least a little context, which is simply this: Stay true to your own style and comfort level. Don’t feel the need to directly utilize either or both of these templates — they’re merely suggested guides for those at the beginning of the deck creation process, not prescriptions on how things have to be done. Every startup is unique, and so are the best ways to present them.
Without further ado, I encourage you to download these templates and share with anyone that might benefit. Best of luck telling your startup’s story and delivering a successful pitch.
You can also view our SlideShare of the deck template called The Show: