Where founders go wrong with pitch decks

3 min read
Where founders go wrong with pitch decks

Here’s a 21-point checklist for your VC pitch deck

I’ve broken down the wins and fails of more than 60 decks for TechCrunch+. But if we’re being honest, these Pitch Deck Teardowns are a bit of a performance. It’s edu-tainment: Yes, you learn something about some of the things that work and don’t work about a deck, but you don’t learn everything.

As a consultant, I work with VC firms, accelerators and startups to build pitch stories for startups raising money, using an in-depth rubric to ensure that companies have crossed every T and dotted every I.

To every other pitch coach: You’re one TC+ subscription away from learning how I work. You’re welcome.

Here are the 21 things I check when I evaluate a pitch deck.

Note: Each item on this list doesn’t necessarily mean a slide. Some parts of the story can be told as part of other slides or be inferred from context, but one way or another, I usually advise that these elements be present in a story. If they are absent, I consider whether there is a good reason for not including them — for example, whether that part of the story is glaringly obvious, not as relevant for the company, or perhaps something that the company doesn’t have clarity on at this stage.

High priority

Any issues that you see in this section are very serious. You’ve got to nail these parts of the story in order to raise VC funding.

Is it venture scale?: Can your product give potential investors a venture-scale return?

Team: Do you have good founder-market fit? Can you hire a good team for your company?

Market: Is the market big enough? Can you reasonably obtain the market share you need?

Traction: This is your chance to show how you measure the success of your business, and how it’s going. Does it include vanity metrics? If the company doesn’t have revenue yet, how are you thinking about risk in the business?

The Ask: Are you raising enough money to reach your goals, but staying within a reasonable amount for the current stage of the business?

Use of funds: If you hit your goals, will you be able to raise your next round of funding?

Problem: Are you clearly outlining the problem you are solving, and is it a problem worth solving?

Medium priority

Any problems in this section may raise suspicion or result in more intense due diligence, but you’ll probably be able to raise anyway. Maybe.

Operating plan: Your pitch in numbers. How will you execute and build your KPIs (key performance indicators) for this funding round?

Competition: Outline your competitors. How are you different enough to take on the market/win their customers?

Business model: How does your startup make money, and what is the cost of acquiring customers?

Go-to-market: Who are your customers, now and in the future, and how are you going to reach them?

Solution: What’s the broad solution you are building to solve the problem you’ve outlined in your slide deck?

Product: How are you implementing the solution? Resist the temptation to go into too much detail.

Check these, too

Good enough is often good enough, but these pieces can help tell a more comprehensive story.

Summary: Does the deck have a good summary early or toward the end of the deck?

Pricing: This is closely related to the business model. Does the company explain how it charges for its products?

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