The pitch deck is arguably the most important document an early-stage founder will create for their startup. In most cases, the pitch deck is the founder’s first chance at introducing themselves to investors. The founder needs to convey an immense amount of information in the space of a single document — who are the founders, what does the startup do, what problem does the startup solve, why will this work, will these founders be able to succeed? A well-constructed pitch deck can be an early-stage startup founder’s greatest tool. However, a bad pitch can spell doom even before anyone sets foot into an investor meeting.
1. Your deck is too long
All pitch decks need to be 12–15 pages including the title page and a final “Thank you” slide if you choose to use one. No exceptions. If I had a dollar for every startup pitch deck I’ve seen that is far longer than it needs to be, I’d be a very rich woman. No one wants to sit through a 25 page slide presentation. I’ll even say that if you are unable to create a clear, concise pitch in 12–15 slides, you aren’t ready for your next funding round. Being able to condense complicated ideas into a short format demonstrates mastery and a full understanding of the business.
2. Your slides have too much information
Not only does the overall pitch deck need to be clear and concise, each and every slide needs to be clear and concise as well. Cramming as much information as possible into each slide in order to keep a pitch to 15 pages defeats the purpose. A person’s inclination when they see a crowded slide is not to hunker down and read every piece of information; they will either zone out or get frustrated.
3. Your deck does not cater to your audience
Pitch decks need to be adjusted and personalized for every single investor meeting. This does not mean creating a brand new pitch for every meeting. But it does mean that certain slides may need to be adjusted depending on how much industry knowledge or technical knowledge the investors in the room will have. A biotech startup meeting with a seasoned life science investor should feel comfortable delving deep into the biology of their product. However, the same startup meeting with a generalist investor who traditionally invests in consumer products may need to add a few definitions and background to their slides.
4. Your deck is boring
This is simple. If I’m bored, I’m not listening to you. If I’m not listening to you, I’m not writing you a check.
5. You made your deck last night at 2am, and it shows
I get it — the early days of a startup are hard. There are never enough hours in the day to do all the work that needs to be done, let alone getting it done well. And yes, everything is important. However, certain things, especially the pitch deck, require special attention. Investors have come to expect well edited, polished decks from even pre-seed stage startups. Sloppy work will make investors wonder about the quality of work across the rest of the organization.