When you’re at the earliest stages, just working out what the bare bones of your business might be, it can be even tougher. After all, you won’t have any metrics to speak to and/or you might be a team of one. You’ll be glad to hear that there is a secret source code for pitch decks, and you can still use that code at day zero minus one.
- Getting started is easier than you think, there’s a handy code to help guide you
- Slides need to be quick to read and as exciting as possible - keep the reader in mind
- Market slides are an opportunity to show that you know your stuff
The Secret Code
Tech entrepreneurship (and by association, investing) has some ‘core texts’. One of these core texts is a book called Crossing The Chasm by Geoffrey Moore. The book deals with how to scale software companies however it contains a nugget of information about the rough formula for an elevator pitch. That formula, I believe, is the source code for all great pitch decks. It goes like this:
- For [TARGET CUSTOMERS]
- Who are dissatisfied with [THE CURRENT OFFERINGS IN THE MARKET]
- My idea/product is a [NEW IDEA OR PRODUCT CATEGORY]
- That provides [KEY PROBLEM-SOLUTION FEATURES]
- Unlike [THE COMPETITORS/COMPETING PRODUCT]
- My idea/product is [DESCRIBE KEY FEATURE(S)]
I feel as though every great pitch deck that I’ve seen contains this information in some way shape and form. Of course you can re-order things, top-and-tail with summaries. These lines are also best understood as categories/headers. As businesses mature, you’ll have more information in your pitch deck which you can slot in underneath the these categories/headers.
How to use it
Firstly, it’s a template for an elevator pitch. So, if you are going to accost someone in a confined space, it’s not a bad template to follow. Though how does this work in practice for the Day Zero Founder putting together a pitch deck?
For the examples below I’m going to use a startup from our portfolio as the subject matter: Gravity Sketch. As a quick get-you-up-to-speed, Gravity Sketch are makers of virtual reality design workflow software. In plain English, they allow people to design things in VR. That’s of particular interest to anyone who designs anything massive (literal), large and/or digital.
You can summarise the first two lines of code. Target customers + who are dissatisfied with something = the problem. The purpose of this slide is to convey that there’s a real opportunity out there / that you’ve spotted an area to add value. Investors love businesses which aren’t merely ‘nice-to-have’ or incremental improvements to existing products and processes. Ideally you’ll be able to articulate some big, big pain point or well of demand.
Setting out a slide which articulates the problem, might look a lot like this:
Here’s an example day zero problem slide for Gravity Sketch.
You can also summarise the next two lines of the code. “My idea/product is” + “Key problem/solution features” can be reframed as The Solution to the problem that you have articulated above.
This slide is your opportunity to set out your stall as to why this isn’t just a small improvement or a nice to have, rather a massive improvement or leap forward from what is currently available.
A generic Solution slide might look like this:
Putting some Gravity Sketch context around it:
Next up, another important section, The Market. You can’t combine lines of the code here. You have to address what the market looks like both in terms of economics/numbers but also the competitive environment.
There’s no getting around doing a bit of desk-based research. Future investors, employees, stakeholders will all be interested in knowing what the size of the business could be and who the competitors are.
It’s worth devoting more than one slide here as it’s crucial to know your market inside-out and for other people to appreciate that too. As such, I’d always follow up a more text-based slide with a 2-by-2 enabling the reader to understand your market context at a glance.
The template slides look like this:
For Gravity Sketch, these might look like:
If you really want to push the boat out beyond the standard 2x2 (and/or you feel as though there are more than 2 critical dimensions for comparison), you could put together a table with the key features that you want to compare as the rows or the columns.
That also gives you the opportunity to give some credit where it’s due to your competitors; in the cells you can use percentages or something else to show where you and your competitors are strong, moderate or weak.
To an extent, we’ve already addressed some of the key product features in The Solution above. So let’s interpret this line of code as the most key feature: you. You and your team, if you have one of course.
Your team slide doesn’t need to be exhaustive rather to show some of your key credentials. I’ve actually included Gravity Sketch’s original team slide below which is a good example of a light team slide. Nb// One way in which it could be improved would be to make clear who is the CEO.
We’ve gone through what is perhaps the very first iteration of a pitch deck that you’ll be creating for your business. Over time you’ll make slides more beautiful and you’ll put more information on them and represent that information differently. You’ll also add in summaries, ‘the ask’, forecasts and plans, etc. as and when they come necessary.
Hopefully what you’ve seen here provides a decent blueprint to break through the writer’s block and to get started!
Other top tips
- Always remember what the purpose of the deck is. It’s typically to get someone interested in your business and to secure a meeting. So...always be asking yourself: “is this exciting?”, “if I were reading this, would I be inclined to give up some of my time to meet this person?”. Given that you’re the founder of the company and you’re probably well into the detail, why not as a friend what they think. They *might* be more objective...
- At the early stages, resist the temptation to put too much detail on a slide. Most investors when they’re doing their first scan might only spend 10-30 seconds looking at any given slide. Knowing that...make them snappy!
- Don’t send your slides to anyone in an editable file format.
- Don’t worry too much about design. Your deck doesn’t need to be a thing of beauty - clean and tidy is good enough. If you have time and money to gild the lily, great, otherwise no harm done.