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Rethinking the Standard Fundraising Deck
I see hundreds of fundraising decks each year. I’ve been doing this for eight years now, so I’ve been able to see some longitudinal trends during that time.
There are a couple trends that I have noticed emerge over the last few years that I think have become industry standard. The problem is that I think they don’t work and need to be rethought. Not sure if this is going to be true for every investor out there, but this is definitely true for me.
Below are a couple things I’d change, and a proposed structure that I’d recommend for most fundraising decks. This is what I’d recommend for founders that are raising a more mature seed or series A that has at least early signs of Product/Market Fit.
Put the team slide first.
This used to be standard, but has since changed. I think part of the reason for this is that conventional wisdom has been influenced by demo-day style decks. In those cases, team slides are often appropriately at the end.
When I’ve seen demo day presentations, founders generally weave a story about the problem and market, and close with something like “we are the right team to do this”. But when you are having a real conversation with someone, you always start by introducing yourself.
Trust me, almost every investor I know flips to the team slide first when they get a deck or are first hearing a presentation on the phone. So save everyone the trouble and put the team slide up front.
Bring traction up front as well.
Burying it in the end makes no sense, especially if it’s strong. Again, the money slide of most early stage decks is the most relevant top line growth and engagement metrics. After the team, it’s the next slide that investors will just skip to.
This is different if you are a pre-launch company, obviously. But increasingly, seed and series A rounds are raised for companies that have some product in market, if not significant revenue. The entire narrative will eventually be viewed through the lens of traction.
If you don’t have much traction, you need some credible evidence why one can believe that your company will be the best in the world at whatever it is you are doing. So you need some evidence that this has a chance of being true. Without traction, this is some combination of team, distribution, and some collection of unique assets that give you an unfair advantage.
Tone down the big picture narrative.
I don’t need to see another slide with a hero image that says “XYZ is broken”. Similar to the idea of “changing the world”, these sorts of claims are being made so frequently that they all blend together.
Instead, I’d make it crystal clear what your product actually does. Within the first 3 minutes after introducing the team, I want to know what the company actual does. It’s amazing how often I hear a pitch and after 10 minutes think to myself, “what does this company actually do?”
Based on these things, I’d order a fundraising deck to answer the following questions:
Slide 1: Who are you?
Slide 2: What do you do?
Slide 3: Is it working?
Slide 4–5: Why does it matter? (Market)
Slide 6–8: Can you be best in the world? (Product, growth, and financial metrics)
Slide 9: Where are you going?
Slide 10: What do you want?
Short and sweet, and very flexible for different sorts of audiences or settings. In general, I love decks that can be delivered with 10 slides or less, but with an appendix that can go deep if needed.