Startup founders would need many lifetimes to consume every piece of advice on how to craft the perfect pitch deck. But with the rise of solo general partners, we need the same quality of advice for emerging fund managers.
When I started VC Stack, it was to create the educational resources I wish I’d had when I was building my experience on both sides of the VC aisle – first as a founder and now as an investor.
With this in mind, I interviewed Jan Sessenhausen, general partner at Cusp Capital, and Wiz Abdulla, co-founder of Spacecadet, to discuss creating the perfect primer for your fund pitch deck.
Fund pitch deck basics
Before you can run, you need to learn how to walk. Here are some fundamentals to keep in mind when you’re building your pitch deck.
1. Understand the purpose of your deck
Jan says his first deck was made up of 50 slides, which was totally unnecessary.
“We made the typical mistake,” he says, “of building a slide deck that tried to answer every question before that question was even on somebody’s mind. But what you want to achieve with a pitch deck is to trigger a conversation.”
Your pitch deck is the beginning of a conversation, not the whole thing. Focus on the most important information about your fund (more on that below) and don’t be afraid to leave out content that can be discussed during the Q&A period with potential LPs.
2. Take three months to develop your content
“Move fast and break things” doesn’t apply to pitch decks.
“The biggest piece of advice [for emerging fund managers],” Jan says, “is to take your time in developing your story for your pitch deck. We all feel an urgency to get out and talk to people with something that’s halfway done or not well thought through. So take the initial time and get some feedback from people you trust who aren’t in the business of telling you everything is great.”
Wiz recommends taking a full three months to develop your pitch deck. “Our deck was easy-ish after we’d done all the front work,” he says. “It’s the content of the deck and figuring out the strategy and the things you want to highlight that are the most difficult parts.”
3. Cover the basics
When you meet with LPs, they want to know about:
- Your team
- Your thesis
- Your traction
Team: Elaborate why you, as an emerging GP fund manager, are the right person to get this fund off the ground and drive returns. Highlight your domain expertise and unique access to deal flow.
Thesis: Your thesis answers the question, “Why now?” Elaborate on why the market needs a fund with your focus. LPs also want to see that your fund can be the best in its geography or vertical, so show them why that’s the case.
Traction: If you’ve syndicated deals before or invested as an angel for another fund, show the returns you’ve seen in the past. This is proof you can deliver results.
4. Be responsive, not rigid
Build your pitch deck for flexibility. Every investor will want to know something different, and you’ll have to develop your “go with the flow” skills to give each person what they need.
“We had conversations where people mostly wanted to talk about us as people and our experience,” Jan says, “while [others wanted] mechanical discussions about how we deploy capital. Don’t try to force-feed your message — be open and responsive to what other people want to talk about.”
How to make your fund pitch deck stand out
If you’ve seen Spacecadet’s pitch deck, you’ll understand why I asked co-founder Wiz Abdulla for advice on how to make one stand out. Here are some of the things he learned when he was putting together his pitch deck:
1. Tell a story … but don’t skip the basics
“We used a comic book theme for our deck and thought the deck would mainly be focused on our story. The feedback we got from more experienced GPs about talking to LPs is that you still need some key slides. You need to talk about portfolio construction, your existing portfolio, your team, and the themes you’re interested in.”
2. Prioritize social proof
If Wiz could send only one slide to potential LPs, it would be for the markups of previous companies he invested in.
“We’ve got one slide that shows eight of our highlighted markups in big font. That’s probably the slide that does the most work. It shows a snippet of your portfolio, some track record of success, and the type of co-investors you’ve invested with. There’s a lot of social proof on that slide.”
3. Differentiate through design
Design matters. Wiz knew that if was going to set up a marketing VC, his deck needed to look marketable — so he designed a familiar interactive game LPs can play when they reach the end of the deck.
“[At the end of the deck], we included a Duck Hunt-style game [called Unicorn Hunt], which a lot of people love. I’ve been on many LP calls where I’ll hear the Duck Hunt music come on because they’re scrolling through the deck while we’re chatting, and it’s always been a pleasant surprise for it to pop up.”
Find out how DocSend can give you x-ray vision into how potential investors are interacting with your pitch deck.