Have a new business or thinking about starting one? You might be asked about your pitch deck. But, what exactly does that mean — and how do you put one together? Use this guide to find out and help your pitch stand out!
What is a business pitch deck?
A pitch deck is a short presentation that gives an overview of your business. You might use it to recruit investors, partners or even employees for a new business or startup. Your business pitch deck should tell your story from the idea stage to where you are now.
What to include in a business pitch deck.
There are many things you'll want to include in your pitch deck. According to investors and startup experts, these eight items are the most important:
1. The problem your company or product solves.
You want to set up the opportunity for potential investors or partners. Show them that there's an unsolved issue that impacts many people (in the community or even the world). You want to appeal to their emotions at this point. They should be very concerned about this issue!
2. The solution you provide and how you provide it.
Now that you’ve convinced your audience of this big problem that exists, you have to show them how you’re going to solve it. What's your solution and how does it work? You'll want to build on the drama you've created as you tell your story.
3. The market for your product or service.
On this slide (or set of slides), show your potential total, addressable market. Who has this problem you’ve identified, and who will actually pay for your solution? You want to be as specific as possible without overwhelming your audience. You may need the help of a creative designer to help you help investors visualize the story you’re telling with the data.
4. How you plan to make money and how long it will take to become profitable.
This section will address how, where and when you’ll sell your solution. How much will you charge? Is this a one-time, fixed cost or a monthly fee? Are there opportunities to upsell, or will the ability to make a sale be limited to just one time? For example, if you’re selling software or an app, will users be able to buy additional features or make in-app purchases?
5. Any competitors in the marketplace and how you’re different (or superior).
This slide should focus on competition. Even if you’re creating something brand new, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have any competition. Using our software or app example again, you’ll want to see if there's anything similar on the market. You may also want to do some research in this area on other products or ideas that have failed. This is a good opportunity to show potential investors you’ve done this research and learned from others. For example, if you find a similar product had failed because of bad marketing or a lack of seed money to execute the idea, tell your investors. You can share with them what you’ll now do differently based on having the information from others who have tried similar things before.
6. The team involved in the project.
This is the part of the pitch deck where you provide information about the founders and other key members of the team. For leadership, talk about past successes and highlight key experiences in their backgrounds that make investing in them a good decision. For other team members, it might be important to discuss the specific skills they bring — maybe, for example, there's no one on the founding team with a technical background, so you’ve brought in a really skilled developer, or you know sales are essential, so you’ve brought in a sales leader who has already proven she can grow and scale three startups.
7. Investments you’ve received to date.
Where has the money come from, and how much have you already raised? Be cautious here as your investors (or potential investors) will absolutely be doing their due diligence. This might include speaking with past investors or trying to find people who have passed on investing in you. They’ll be looking at your ability to raise money and how honest you are and also trying to understand what others saw (or didn’t see) in you and your company.
8. The amount of money you’re looking to raise and what it will be used for.
This section is really to show your financial acumen. Here, investors will be looking to see if you have a solid financial plan. Do you understand your burn rate (how fast you’ll spend the money)? Have you given yourself enough runway to get the product or service built before you can start selling? How much money will you need to get started, and what will you spend it on? Are you focusing on the right things? Your potential investors will be interested to see how you plan to use the money and if you’ve thought through your needs and next steps in a financially responsible way. Investors are usually looking to get the most return on their investment in a timely manner. If you think you need 2-4 years before you’re profitable, make sure you say so.
How long should a pitch deck be?
Pitch deck length can vary greatly depending on the pitches and industries. Most decks run between 10 and 20 slides. As you’re putting together your pitch deck, think about your audience. How much information can they absorb in 30 to 45 minutes realistically? Keep the most salient points in the deck, but feel free to link to your backup or data sets so it's easy for potential investors to check your work later. They may make some notes or ask followup questions, but this is a good sign!
15 Pitch decks to try.
Do you still need some inspiration to help you perfect your pitch? Use these 15 famous examples to guide you. See what you like (and what you don’t)!
Probably one of the best-known startups in the world at this point. Taking a look at the pitch for Uber Cabs is like a trip back in time. Can you think about what issues Uber solves today?
Another one of the most well-known startups, The FaceBook started as an exclusive place for college students to check each other out. Now everyone and their grandmother is on Facebook!
The team at Airbnb claims that hotels isolate tourists from the local culture. What other challenges did they solve, and how did they initially plan to make money?
With a listicle for everything and an expansion into news and food, Buzzfeed has become our go-to for both news and entertainment. Peruse their pitch deck linked above to learn about how they got to where they are today.
If you’ve dated in the last 10 years, there is a high likelihood that you have swiped left or right at least a few times. Starting out as Matchbox, Tinder has played a big role in how we date (or don’t) these days.
Although the company is under much scrutiny now, peruse the WeWork pitch deck to learn about its early days. While they’ve been in the news for less positive reasons, there's still something to learn.
One of the most-used career sites in the world, LinkedIn’s humble beginnings have a lot to teach us. Remember professional networking site before all of the premium subscription options or before you could love or celebrate a colleague’s post?
Many of us rely on Buffer to schedule social media. How did it start and what problems were the founding team solving by creating a product to schedule our posts?
Elon Musk is another name that's consistently in the news. See how he and the Tesla team pitched investors. What can you take from their approach?
The financial app shows you your net worth and how you spend your money. Do you know how they make money or gain subscribers?
Foursquare is one of the pioneers of gamification. See how they "gamified" their pitch to investors.
Intercom tackles the issues of helping companies build relationships with their customers. This early pitch deck puts the founding team first. Is this a strategy that might work for you, too?
Snap stories changed the way teenagers communicated. How did Snapchat woo businesses and investors to the platform?
This SEO tool is used by many of the top digital marketers. How did this company start back in 2004? This pitch deck is like a stroll down memory lane for many who have been in SEO and digital marketing for more than 15 years.
Almost all remote or distributed workers use slack for collaboration and communication. Walk into any coffee shop, and you’re likely to hear the familiar knock of Slack alerts. How did they start, and what problem were they looking to solve for users?