Startup Pitch Decks that Raised $7.4 Billions in Venture Capital (and Lessons Learned when Pitching to Investors)

 By Martin Luenendonk| 2017-07-24T22:39:16+00:00 May 18th, 2017|

At the beginning you had a business idea. You’ve found a co-founder, maybe he’s even a good friend of yours.

Then you hit the road and talked to potential customers in order to find out their pain points and what the requirements for an awesome solution might be so that YOU could bring it to the market.

Next you prototyped your solution (or service design) in order to validate even more of your guesses (aka hypotheses). And your startup gained some traction. Nice! Well done!

But now you realize that in order to get your business to the next level you need some external funding, because you either don’t want to take 100% of the risk for yourself or because your bank statement shows less than a million dollars.

And you want to achieve market leadership much faster.

Therefore, you need to find an investor (e.g. angel investor, venture capitalist) in order to either improve your offering or scale the business or both.

But when talking to investors (or doing some Google search) you quickly realize that besides having a business plan (the financial model is key for investors), you’ll need to prepare an irresistible startup pitch deck in order to attract significant investments.

Even if you are only raising $300k, you’ll need a solid pitch deck.

Creating a pitch deck for your startup is no easy task especially if it’s your first time. You are probably nervous wondering whether your pitch deck will be good enough to attract investors.

Take comfort in knowing that this is exactly how some of the most successful tech startup entrepreneurs must have felt when creating their own pitch decks. So don’t panic just yet.

While most theory on pitch decks bears some truth, I think the most certain way to determine what comprises a great pitch deck is to carefully observe extremely successful pitch decks that attracted investors and sky-rocketed startups.

Let’s look at pitch decks from well-known companies such as Facebook and Airbnb. Companies that were once a small startup like yours and see what we can learn from them in order to attract millions in venture capital for your innovative, validated startup.

Raise Venture Capital HECK YES!

 

Facebook

Facebook was founded in February 2004 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States by Mark Zuckerberg, Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes. The Company currently has an estimated net worth of $33 billion since going public in 2012.

The original Facebook pitch deck is quite unique. When Facebook created its first pitch deck in an attempt to attract funding, the company was not making any money and therefore could not show revenue traction.

The pitch deck was mainly focused on the company’s value proposition based on a possible marketing service to sell ads to advertisers across the country. The pitch deck was based on current user engagement levels, future traffic levels, and projected growth.

This pitch deck got Facebook an initial funding of $500k from venture capitalist Peter Thiel and the rest as you know it is history. The company blew up! Growing out of a dorm room to its current headquarters in Menlo Park, California, United States. Facebook proceeded to raise over $2.3 billion from venture capitalists.

Facebook now has an employee base of over 10,000 personnel. It is currently the world’s largest social media network with on average 1.32 billion active users every month.

Facebook had its first $10 billion revenue year in 2014 when it earned $12.5 billion and the number rose to $27.6 billion in 2016.

Facebook’s Business Model: Social Media, Social Network, Social, Advertising

Key Learnings from Facebook’s Pitch Deck

#1 Show Venture Capitalists How Potentially Lucrative your Startup Could Be

What Facebook did: Venture capitalists are primarily driven by how much money they are making by investing in your startup (aka return on investment).

Facebook painted the market opportunity as huge given that there were 15 million students in the US who spent $85 billion dollars every year.

This would make Facebook a great marketing platform for products and services… and thus an attractive investment case for investors.

What you should do: Similarly, in your own Pitch Deck, show your potential investors why your idea will be profitable by rationally presenting a well-researched market and financial estimates that convince them of your startup’s future profitability.

#2 Your Pitch Deck Doesn’t Need to be Beautiful, but provide an Attractive and Credible Investment Case for Investors

What Facebook did: As opposed to taking time to create a visually appealing presentation, Eduardo Saverin evidently spent his time finding valuable information and data that would ultimately justify the profitability of the idea he was about to sell investors.

What you should do: Avoid getting lost in the aesthetic aspects of your pitch deck. This is not to say that it’s okay to create an unappealing presentation for your potential investors but your primary focus should be the content and creation of a convincing data-backed investment case. That is what will win investors over.

 

LinkedIn

LinkedIn is a professional networking site headquartered in Mountain View, California, United States. The Company was founded in 2002 by Reid Hoffman, Allen Blue, Eric Ly, Jean-Luc Vaillant and Konstantin Guericke right in Hoffman’s living room. However the site was not launched until May 5th 2003.

LinkedIn provides a platform where professionals can create business networks, seek employment, find potential employees, find potential clients, share insights, and find business opportunities. The Company went public in 2011 with the New York Stock Exchange listing its shares at $45 per share.

LinkedIn currently has an estimated net worth of $26.2 billion and had revenue of $930 million in the past year (2016). The Company currently has an employee base of over 10,000 personnel who are distributed in 30 offices across the globe.

LinkedIn acquired initial funding of $4.7 million in 2003 from venture capital firm, Sequoia Capital. Like Facebook, LinkedIn had not generated any revenue when they originally presented their startup pitch deck.

However, the pitch deck clearly highlights revenue generation as a high-priority agenda and clearly identifies avenues to achieve it. The pitch deck also places emphasis on the company’s values, its value as a social network, and its uniqueness when compared to other social networks.

This impressive pitch deck got LinkedIn a big break in 2004 during its Series B funding when Greylock Partners invested $10 million. Before going public, LinkedIn raised $103.2 million in six rounds from 11 venture capital investors.

LinkedIn is currently the world’s largest professional networking site with over 467 million members in 200 countries worldwide, with this number rising at a rate of 2 members per second.

Linkedin’s Business Model: Social Media, Social Recruiting, Professional Networking, Professional Services

Key Learnings from LinkedIn’s Pitch Deck

#1 Open with your Investment Thesis.

What LinkedIn did: In the LinkedIn startup pitch deck the first slide clearly indicates how the Company intends to generate revenue and through what channels. This will catch an investor’s eye and they will be more willing to listen to the rest of the pitch.

What you should do: This is advice straight from Reid Hoffman. Once you have introduced your startup and briefly explained what it is about, your pitch deck should demonstrate your uniqueness and how it intends to generate business.

#2 Steer into your investors’ objections.

What LinkedIn did: Show investors that you already understand their concerns. Most investors will have questions, and in the fourth slide of the LinkedIn pitch deck, Hoffman explains how LinkedIn leverage searches by creating networks as opposed to flat directories. This answers questions that would have arisen but he addresses them first, hence, somewhat earning their confidence.

What you should do: It is your job to understand your start up and what questions potential investors may have concerning your business. Strive to answer the most prominent ones in your pitch deck before investors pose the questions.

Showing awareness of investors’ concerns will make them more confident in you and will be more willing to pay attention and consider your startup for an investment.

Great entrepreneurs prepare for investor's objections in their startup pitch deck beforehand. Click To Tweet

 

FourSquare

FourSquare is a technology company that uses location intelligence to build meaningful consumer experiences and inform business decisions.

FourSquare provides personalized recommendations of locations near the user’s current location. The suggestions are based on the user’s browsing history, check-in history, and purchases.

The Company was founded in 2008 by Dennis Crowley and Naveen Selvadurai in New York. The Company was however not launched until 2009.

FourSquare is yet to go public but currently has an estimated net worth of $300 million. About 50 million people use FourSquare apps every month.

The Company currently has over 10 billion check-ins with an average of 9 million daily check-ins on Foursquare Swarm. FourSquare employs more than 200 people spread out over their New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, London and Singapore offices.

What makes the Foursquare 2009 startup pitch deck so unique is that it deviates from the traditional pitch deck structure and adopts a more unconventional approach.

The FourSquare app is shown in action through a series of screenshots that demonstrate actual user activity. The pitch deck also includes shared tweets from users in relation to their FourSquare activity.

Furthermore, it also demonstrates how FourSquare plans to use lead generation to generate revenue as well as the incentives/offers FourSquare would keep users engaged.

For such a unique platform, this unconventional but practical approach caught the attention of investors and FourSquare received $1.3 million in its Series A funding.

FourSquare has continued to receive funding since and has to date received $207.5 million in funding from venture capital investors.

Foursquare’s Business Model: Advertising Platforms, Guides, Private Social Networking, Apps, Location Based Services, Big Data, Mobile

Key Learnings from FourSquare’s Pitch Deck

#1 Stick to a Single/Primary Business Model

What FourSquare did: FourSquare focused on lead generation as their primary business model. They avoided mentioning their capability to generate revenue through multiple channels, which is very wise according to Reid Hoffman (Founder of LinkedIn).

Hoffman believes that when consumer internet companies present multiple revenue generation avenues it raises a red flag for investors. One reason for this is that it is interpreted as a lack in certainty and focus.

What you should do: Like FourSquare, avoid mixing up business models and presenting multiple revenue generation avenues.

Look into your business and decide on the best model and avenue for revenue generation and include that in your pitch deck. Don’t rush… there is room for growth and expansion in the future.

#2 Be Crisp and Succinct

What FourSquare did: The FourSquare pitch deck was designed to be very precise, no fluff.

After a brief introduction the pitch deck quickly shifts into a demonstration of how the application works from a user’s perspective. Then quickly shifts into a proposed revenue generation approach, and finally a conclusion.

They used only 15 slides that were to the point, understandable, and non-exhausting.

What you should do: Investors are mostly looking to find out if your idea is workable and if your startup is sustainable and profitable enough for them to invest their money.

Go straight to the point. Don’t assume that having a lot of content will prove that you know what you’re doing. If you have to include information in your pitch deck, ensure that it is information that absolutely expresses the value of your startup and not just words/content to fill up your slides.

Investor readiness checklist

 

Airbnb

Airbnb was founded by two resilient individuals, Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia in San Francisco in 2007. The Company is essentially an online marketplace and hospitality service that enables users to rent or lease short-term lodging facilities including vacation homes, hotel rooms, hostel beds…

Airbnb however does not own any of these facilities, it works merely as a middleman earning a commission. The Company currently has a net worth of $30 billion. Airbnb currently has more than 3 million lodging listings located in 191 countries and more than 65,000 cities.

Part of the reason why Airbnb has become so successful is its foundation at the startup stage… and more particularly its startup pitch deck, which has become a favorite in the business world.

The Airbnb pitch deck jumps right into addressing a couple of predictable concerns that potential investors may have with the Airbnb business model.

The second slide then proceeds to explain why a person would prefer Airbnb as opposed to directly making reservations to hotels, lodgings, hostels etc. therefore revealing a market gap (aka business opportunity).

Finally, the third slide clearly communicates how the idea behind Airbnb can be achieved. This slide also brings out the benefits that would be accrued both by Airbnb and the user.

This approach helps identify customer problems while also putting investors at ease. This masterpiece of a startup pitch deck has raised Airbnb over $4.4 billion in 11 rounds of startup funding.

The most notable ones being its Series E funding in June 2015 where Airbnb acquired $1.5 billion in venture capital.

AirBnB’s Business Model: Marketplace, Travel, Travel Accommodations, Sharing Economy, Hospitality

Key Learnings from Airbnb’s Pitch Deck

#1 Focus on Getting your Audience Hooked to your Business Idea

What Airbnb did: Airbnb clearly described their business model and explained why it filled a gap in the market in very few words. It also voiced its awareness of the investors possible concerns, which reflects a well thought out plan and risk assessment prior to making their investment pitch.

Once investors were clear on the existing market gap and how Airbnb could fill it while simultaneously having their concerns addressed, they couldn’t help but be drawn in… and make the investment (at least after talking to dozens of other investors and getting a “NO”).

What you should do: When creating your pitch deck, don’t use many words and a whole paradigm of business terms to seem smarter. Describe your business clearly and in plain simple English.

Using complex terms could complicate your message to the point where investors are not quite sure they have understood what you were trying to put across and this could make them shy away.

#2 Be Concise and Consistent

What Airbnb did: The Airbnb pitch deck wastes no time in addressing concerns that potential investors may have about the idea.

Once this is done the pitch deck quickly demonstrates the benefits of Airbnb in comparison to conventional reservation alternatives showing Airbnb’s unique value proposition.

At the end Airbnb explains how the idea is achievable. This demonstrates certainty and careful consideration of the idea that encourages confidence in potential investors.

What you should do: When creating your pitch deck, ensure that every slide has a purpose.

Do not give potential investors the chance to get bored or lose track of your trail of thought. Ensure each slide captures their attention from start to finish.

Here’s another great video on startup pitch decks from AirBnB founder Nathan. A must watch!

 

Buffer

Buffer is a social media management company founded in 2010 by Leo Widrich, Tom Moor, and Joel Gascoigne.

The Company is yet to go public and has its headquarters in San Francisco, California. Buffer currently has an average annual revenue of $1.4 million with an employee base of about 50 employees.

Buffer provides a social media management tool for agencies and marketers enabling them to schedule content and identify insights. The Buffer tool is also available on various social networks, for example, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Google+.

The Buffer startup pitch deck is highly acclaimed for its transparency and earned the company $500,000 in its first round of seed funding.

The pitch deck was based on numbers that clearly described the number of users in correlation to the revenue the company would be earning from each user.

The Company has since been able to raise roughly $3.9 million from 20 investors in three rounds of startup funding.

Buffer’s Business Model: Internet, Social Media, Apps, SaaS

Key Learnings from Buffer’s Pitch Deck

#1 First-time founders should focus on traction.

What Buffer did: If you closely observe Buffer’s startup pitch deck you will notice that one key slide was the traction slide.

Jim Rohn stated that as first time founders, they realized that focusing on traction was probably the only way to get any attention and it did catch the audience’s eyes which eventually led to their funding.

What you should do: So, if you are a first-time founder ensure that you have traction before putting together your startup pitch deck. Place your focus on your product-market fit and metrics. Then it will be easier to raise funding (and not wasting months of looking for money where you already could grow your business).

First-time founders need to focus on showing traction in theri startup pitch deck. Click To Tweet

#2 Avoid confusion when pitching to investors

What Buffer did: According to Jim Rohn, one of the most commonly asked questions when it came to Buffer was related to the competition; ‘aren’t other apps already doing that’.

That was until they created a much more organized chart that is shown on slide eleven (replacing the original one) of the buffer pitch deck and from then on it was smooth sailing leading to funded.

What you should do: Go through your slide deck before releasing it and make sure that there is no chance for confusion.

Considering investors loved the idea of Buffer apart from that single aspect demonstrates how a single point of confusion can deny you the funding you’re looking for.

Pitch Deck Course

 

MixPanel

MixPanel is a mobile and web analytics platform that tracks application interactions. The Company was founded by Suhail Doshi and Tim Trefren in 2009 and is currently based in San Francisco, California. MixPanel is yet to go public but has an estimated annual revenue of $45 million and an estimated employee base of 243 personnel.

MixPanel supports businesses in studying consumer behavior. Data collected from MixPanel’s tests and surveys is used to generate business reports and measure retention rates and user engagement. MixPanel’s helps the world learn from its own data.

After considering what kind of questions potential investors would have, Suhail Doshi and Tim Tefren decided to design MixPanel’s Series B pitch deck to answer SaaS questions.

The Pitch deck was, however, not designed to be purely technical but also to articulate a compelling story to investors. According to Suhail, you need to captivate investors with your business idea.

After all, investors also have to consider how they spend their time and money. Even with a winning startup pitch deck, it still matters how well you sell your idea… how well you explain what makes your idea a great investment case that has the potential to create a 10X return for investors.

For example, MixPanel made their pitch deck interesting for investors by demonstrating their competitive advantage, their exponential revenue growth over the years, and briefly explaining their expansion plan, making the deal quite sweet for investors.

MixPanel has raised a total of $77.2 million in five rounds from investors, with the most notable round being its December 2014 Series B round that saw the Company raise $65 million.

MixPanel’s Business Model: Analytics, Web Browsers, Mobile

Key Learnings from MixPanel’s Pitch Deck

#1 Including realistic sales models and financial forecasts will go a long way

What MixPanel did: As a SaaS Company that had already acquired seed funding, MixPanel knew that investors would respond well to the presentation of a quarterly sales model that included past, present, and future.

MixPanel also included a financial forecast that was only 12 months out because a smart investor would know that you’re making it up if you’re forecasting beyond that period. MixPanel further included their top 50 customers’ spending.

What you should do: Understand what sort of questions your investors will have and include your answers in your pitch deck. Answer all the technical questions and incorporate data that is both realistic and convincing of your excellent and improving business performance.

#2 Ensure you have a compelling pitch story, not just a great pitch deck.

What MixPanel did: MixPanel understood that no matter how great a pitch deck is you need to have a compelling story because investors are still human beings at the end of the day. Investors will want to know that they will be spending their time on something captivating.

Therefore, MixPanel focused on creating a story that would interest investors and prompt them to perceive their idea as exciting.

What you should do: Being a tech startup, you will be tempted to focus on the technicalities of your idea along with data to back it all up.

While this is important, ensure to add a human touch to your pitch deck where your story comes off as interesting and compelling.

This will buttress the data you have already presented and assure the investor that he is about to involve himself in something truly enthralling.

Higher startup valuation checklist

 

Moz

Moz is a SaaS company founded by Rand Fishkin and Gillian Muessig in 2004 in Seattle where it still has its headquarters.

Moz began as an SEO blog but grew to become one of the world’s most popular marketing software providers by 2008, supporting inbound marketing strategies by availing analytics software subscriptions to businesses.

Moz’s website hosts over one million digital marketers across the globe. The Company is still privately owned and currently has annual revenue of $29.1 million with an estimated employee base of 154 personnel.

Additionally, the Company has made four significant acquisitions over the past five years.

Moz’s has raised $29 million from investors in three rounds of funding. However, it is its Series B funding that stands out having raised $18 million from the Foundry Group.

The reason why Moz’s Series B pitch deck stands out is because the Company was founded five years prior to making the pitch.

Because of this, Moz was able to create a pitch deck that had accurate data including, the estimated revenue, average customer lifetime value, customer targets, revenue run rate, cost of paid customer acquisition, business risks, and so forth… this amount of detail was Moz’s greatest advantage in raising money from investors.

Moz’s Business Model: Search Engine, SEO, Software, Big Data

Key Learnings from Moz’s Pitch Deck

#1 Patience: Success is a Journey.

What Moz did: Moz raised only $1.1 million in its 2007 Series A funding and was struggling in and out of debt. Despite being rejected in several pitches, and running a business that was barely funded, Rand Fishkin and the team never gave up on their idea.

They continued operations and in five years (2012) Moz had such accurate data and refined experience for their pitch deck that it was irresistable for investors.

What you should do: Don’t forget, success is a journey. It took Moz five years to finally get it right and raise sufficient funding, it could take your startup more or less.

I’m not saying hold on to an unsustainable idea but if you believe in the workability of your idea hold on to it and focus on refining it as you prepare to create your next pitch deck.

#2 Put yourself out there.

What Moz did: With all the rejected pitches, it could have been easy for Moz to decide that they were going to give up on trying to attract investors and attempt to find their own way.

But Moz founders kept putting themselves out there for over the five years and finally the Foundry group noticed them and gave them their first substantial amount in funding that led to $29.3 million gross revenue for Moz in 2013.

What you should do: All the best things happen out of serendipity.

Hard work is critical for success. But don’t forget, sometimes it’s not just about hard work, sometimes it’s about chance, you never know who might spot your pitch deck and fall in love with it, so keep growing your startup every day and keep improving your pitch deck as you go.

Put it out there as regularly as you upgrade your business because you never know who is watching. They just might be the big break you have been waiting for.

 

BuzzFeed

BuzzFeed was founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti and John S. Johnson III in New York. The Company has described itself as an internet ‘Social News and Entertainment Company’.

The Company focuses on the most impactful breaking news, original reporting, and entertainment news; essentially it focuses on viral content.

In 2008, BuzzFeed traffic was at 2.5 million views per month but in 2017 BuzzFeed boasts of over 200 million views every month.

The Company has an estimated annual revenue of $179 million, an employee base of 1,503 personnel and an estimated net worth of $1.5 billion all the while being privately owned.

Jonah Peretti says that it wasn’t easy raising money in the early days of BuzzFeed. But despite the criticism and questions being asked by investors, BuzzFeed managed to get funded by Hearst Ventures back in 2008.

What really impressed me about the BuzzFeed pitch deck is how clearly it is illustrated; there was no need for a presentation of data and metrics in order to be convincing.

The BuzzFeed pitch deck sought to answer the question of whether you can generate content without having any content creators or journalists and whether this can be done automatically.

Whether it was possible to detect trending material, grab it from other places, and convert it into articles making the cost of content creation nil.

The BuzzFeed pitch deck goes further to explain how BuzzFeed has an algorithm that can do exactly that. The algorithm would have three pillars; editorial buzz, algorithm buzz, and user generated buzz.

The generation of this buzz would be further supported by SEO, widget network, and viral word of mouth.

Users on the other hand would be attracted to BuzzFeed by making the platform a sort of game where users and trend spotters would compete and be ranked according to their ability to identify buzz.

This would make users feel addicted to the free platform, where some users would pay for premium services and receive premium features.

The startup pitch deck goes on to address the issue of competition who in this case would be trendsetters/spotters and marketers, explaining how they cannot possibly perform better than the algorithm.

But now that there is an algorithm to identify trending content, what about the future?

That’s where it really gets interesting.

BuzzFeed partners would be able to advertise their content on the platform where they would be able to customize and control their buzz promotion.

BuzzFeed would also apply trend targeting where advertisements would be placed next to the hottest buzzes so advertisers are sure their advertisements would appear whenever there is a ‘hot buzz’. Behavioral targeting would also be used to place advertisements that relate to the users’ preferences.

According to the pitch deck, media houses make good use of compelling content while advertising companies make good use of targeting, optimization, and paid promotion… and BuzzFeed makes the best of both worlds.

With such a well-articulated pitch deck, the Company has been able to raise $496.3 million so far from investors with the two most notable being the Series F and Series G rounds where BuzzFeed raised $200 million in each round from Comcast NBC Universal.

BuzzFeed’s Business Model: Internet, Digital Entertainment, Social, Video, News, Media

Key Learnings from BuzzFeed’s Pitch Deck

#1 Use illustrations: Be Clear and Unambiguous.

What BuzzFeed did: As mentioned earlier, one of the most impressive aspects of the BuzzFeed pitch deck is how uniquely put together it is. The whole idea behind BuzzFeed has been clearly illustrated.

The BuzzFeed pitch deck goes to show you there is little need for wordiness and data when you can bring out the value of your idea illustratively to your investors.

What you should do: Find out what works for your startup’s pitch deck. Don’t include words and data unnecessarily merely because you believe that is what a conventional pitch deck should be like.

If you feel that illustrations are what would work best for your pitch deck, then do not shy away from using them extensively.

#2 Unmistakably bring out the value and mechanics of your business idea.

What BuzzFeed did: Even without looking at the numbers, once you have gone through the BuzzFeed pitch deck you are almost certain that this is going to be a success because you can clearly understand why customers would be interested in their service.

What you should do: Ensure that the pitch deck for your startup brings out the workings of your idea in such a clear manner that investors ask themselves ‘why hasn’t anyone ever thought of this before?’

 

YouTube

Just a decade ago YouTube was a startup looking to raise money but is now the third most visited site in the world. The company was founded by Martin Pauer, Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, who were all initially employees of PayPal.

Since video as a means of communication was just beginning to come up, the idea behind YouTube was simple; to create a web platform where all videos could be stored.

The domain name www.youtube.com was activated on February 14, 2005 at 9:13 pm and the first video was uploaded on the YouTube on 23rd April.

Six months later, the founders needed to raise money so they created their startup pitch deck and sent it to Sequoia.

What stands out in the YouTube pitch deck is that for such an amazing idea it is quite a simple pitch deck.

There are no complex graphics, there are no pictures, or insane color schemes. In fact the text itself is quite large in font and the bullet points make it seem like any other presentation.

However, this is not to say that it does not put the message across.

The pitch deck gets straight to the point to discuss the important aspects of competition, market size, and growth potential of the platform.

It was also an advantage for YouTube that they had already launched by the time they decided to seek out investors.

After making its pitch, YouTube received initial funding of $3.5 million in its Series A round and a further $8 million its Series B round, both from Sequoia. About a year later, in October 2006, Google purchased YouTube for $1.65 billion.

The Company currently has an estimated annual revenue of $4.4 billion, an employee base of roughly 1,032 personnel, and was estimated to be worth $80 billion in 2016.

YouTube’s Business Model: Internet, Video, Music

Key Learnings from YouTube’s Pitch Deck

#1 Understand your Product.

What YouTube did: YouTube founders succeeded in acquiring funding the first time because they understood what their product can do and they were able to demonstrate its potential very clearly in their startup pitch deck.

What you should do: If you can’t explain it to a five year old, then you don’t understand it. So take the time to really understand what your product can do and how exactly it can do that then bring that out in your pitch deck.

#2 Simplicity is Key.

What YouTube did: YouTube managed to present a great idea through simple explanations while they could have made the fanciest pitch deck ever.

However, it is possible that an overly hyperbolic pitch deck may have worked against them if it seemed that they were selling aesthetics more than the idea itself.

What you should do: Your pitch deck does not have to be as simplistic as YouTube’s, a little aesthetic appeal never hurt anyone.

But if you’re going to do so ensure that in your quest to appeal to the eye of the investor you don’t overshadow the idea itself.

 

Dwolla

Dwolla is a payment solution that enables users to send, receive, and request funds from other users. Dwolla was founded by Ben Milne and Shane Neuerburg in 2008 and has its headquarters in Des Moines, Iowa, United States.

The Company was however officially launched in 2010. The Company is privately owned and has annual revenue of $7 million with an employee base of roughly 75 personnel.

Dwolla was founded as a result of Ben Milne’s own issue with paying thousands of dollars in credit card fees.

Dwolla’s pitch deck is primarily based on this particular issue and reminds investors of this central issue in every slide, eventually revealing to the audience Dwolla’s solution to the problem by enabling negligible transaction fees. The 18-slide Pitch Deck includes financial, technical, and legal aspects.

However, the Dwolla pitch deck also allows for presentation of essential information without overwhelming startup investors.

Like the BuzzFeed pitch deck, the Dwolla pitch deck takes an illustrative approach that takes the audience through the steps of what is a complex process by using easy-to-understand visuals.

The pitch was a great success and the earned the Company a total of $39.3 million in seven rounds of funding, its most prominent round being its May 2013 Series C funding where Dwolla received $16.5 million from Andreessen Horowitz.

Dwolla’s Business Model: Mobile Payments, Developer APIs, Banking, Financial Services, Accounting, FinTech, Payments

Key Learnings from Dwolla’s Pitch Deck

#1 Do not get too technical.

What Dwolla did: The solution that Dwolla offered is a technical and complex one. However, Dwolla while incorporating the technical aspects of its operation in its pitch deck managed to present their idea in an easy to understand manner that anyone can follow and understand progressively through the slides.

What you should do: When creating your own pitch deck remember that even when your audience is comprised of investors who are well-versed in technology and finance, investors only have a few moments to internalize each slide and it is prudent not to get them confused or bored.

Also remember that investors are also well-versed with the challenges that face any start up and once they have understood your idea they will pose questions so avoid getting too technical just yet.

#2 Get personal.

What Dwolla did: Dwolla’s pitch deck was centered on the problem Ben Milne had faced paying $50,000 in credit card fees annually.

Most people may not have even realized that these were excessively high fees before Ben told them that this was a problem. They most likely had accepted these fees as the norm.

But once Ben made his issue the center and proposed lower fees then it must have clicked in the audience’s minds that Dwolla was a better, much cheaper way, hence they were inclined to fund the Company.

What you should do: Do not be afraid to get personal when you create your own pitch deck, you have more in common with your investors than you might imagine.

We all face the same challenges, be it on different levels. But when you appeal to people on a personal and relatable level they are more likely to respond to your pitch.

 

Podozi

Podozi is an online e-commerce platform that is based in Nigeria and San Francisco. The company was founded in January 17, 2016 by Wale Babatunde and Teniola Adejuwon.

The Company is privately owned and currently generates annual revenue of $4.7 million with roughly 69 employees.

Podozi is a beauty tech startup that aims to solve the issue of finding ‘right’ beauty products for women of color.

The founders wanted to change how women of color discover and shop for beauty products.

They also have an online quiz on their website that gives advice to women on what products best suit them. Podozi users discover authentic brands from across the globe and enjoy a personalized shopping experience.

The Podozi pitch deck is quite short, only 9 slides long.

In this nine slides Teniola explains the problem African women face in finding authentic and suitable beauty products and then proceeds to explain how Podozi has developed an algorithm that recommends the most suitable products to these women of color.

She goes ahead to describe Podozi’s growth rate and site several beauty product companies that have already partnered with Podozi.

She describes the 500 million women in the African continent who form an untapped market for most beauty product companies around the world and how Podozi could be the link to that untapped market. The Podozi pitch deck lead to $100k funding in January 2017.

Podozi’s Business Model: E-Commerce, Shopping, Beauty, Lifestyle

Key Learnings from Podozi’s Pitch Deck

#1 Avoid fluff and unnecessary information.

What Podozi did: Startup pitch decks are much sweeter when they are not too long or tiresome. Podozi simply presented the problem, the solution, and an invitation to beauty product brands to tap into the untapped African market through Podozi.

What you should do: Ensure that you avoid fluff when creating your pitch deck. Simply present your problem and how your idea can present a solution while still making good business for you and your investors.

As mentioned earlier, fluff and unnecessary information does not make you seem like you know what you are doing but rather that you haven’t refined your idea.

#2 Be original.

What Podozi did: Reading the Podozi pitch deck, I realized how many women of color I have heard complain that they have trouble finding beauty products that are suited for their skin types, hair texture, etc and I realized what a great and original solution Podozi is offering that demographic.

With such a unique and original solution the idea already convinced me of its workability and so were the investors.

What you should do: Prior to creating your pitch deck, ensure that your idea is not redundant, in that the unique problem you are looking to solve doesn’t already have a solution.

However, that is not to say you will fail if there is already a solution, just ensure that your solution has a unique edge that will resonate with your audience.

 

Canvas

Canvas is a cloud-based software service that enables businesses to replace paper documentation by using apps on their phones and tablets. It also enables users to share or integrate that information using existent backend systems.

The Company was founded by Marc Austin and James Quigley on August 1 2008 and is headquartered in Reston, Virginia.

Currently, Canvas has replaced over 30 tons of paper for businesses and automated millions of manual processes, which has made it one of the fastest growing apps in the world.

The Company is still privately owned and has annual revenue of $16.6 million and an employee base of 55 personnel.

The Canvas pitch deck starts by mapping historic trends of the shift from analog systems to digital ones in order to prepare the audience for the proposed evolution for businesses to shift their models from paper to digital, which is an excellent way to start.

The startup pitch deck then moves on to demonstrate their traction in terms of Canvas’ market penetration and rapid growth.

Even though the Canvas pitch deck isn’t particularly attractive, it clearly brings out these illustrations. The pitch deck proposes an easy and affordable shift from paper-based processes to easier-to-use mobile apps.

Canvas has raised a total of $24.8 million in startup funding. It most notable round was in its February 2016 Series D funding where it raised $9 million.

Canvas’ Business Model: Audio, Market Research, Android, iOS, Wireless, Location Based Services, Video, Mobile

Key Learnings from Canvas’ Pitch Deck

#1 Choose a pitch deck that defines your business.

What Canvas did: Notice that since Canvas encourages the transfer from a paper-based system to a digital one, the pitch deck design places more focus on illustrations, uses fewer words, and especially avoids bullet points.

This was done purposefully to give the presentation a more digital feel and subtly nudge the audience towards the acceptance of the Canvas idea.

What you should do: This is quite subjective; therefore, ensure you choose a pitch deck design that subconsciously pushes your audience towards your idea. If your idea is content based then a mixture of illustrations and words is not a bad idea.

However, if your idea is meant to push a more digital way of thinking like Canvas’, then illustrations should be the preference.

#2 Your pitch deck evolution has to be natural.

What Canvas did: If you look closely at the Canvas pitch deck, it transitions gradually and organically. Nothing feels rushed and nothing feels left out, it all just happens naturally, leading you to a great conclusion.

For example, it starts with the problem, then the solution, market opportunity, value proposition, why businesses love Canvas, all the way to the current and forecasted growth.

What you should do: When creating your pitch deck, make sure your points are in order; that they flow and are not all over the place.

This will help your audience transition through your pitch deck step-by-step, eventually understanding your idea in the end. If your points are all over the place you risk leaving your audience partially confused and not fully convinced of the workability of your idea.

What have been your biggest lessons when creating a winning startup pitch deck for raising money?

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