Startups

Pitch Deck Examples & Best Practices for 2019

Success at the seed stage and Series A stage turns a strong idea into a strong business—and it all begins with your pitch deck.
pitch deck examples

In this day and age, pitch deck examples aren’t particularly difficult to come by. Just take a look through Google or SlideShare. What is difficult, however, is determining what made these pitch deck examples successful.

Is it the imagery of these pitch deck examples? The slide order? How they present their products? Let’s take a quantitative exploration of the success behind some of the most famous pitch deck examples out there:

  • Airbnb
  • Buffer
  • Front
  • LinkedIn
  • Mixpanel
  • Revolut
  • Square
  • The Knot (XO Group)
  • WeWork

Maybe you’ve seen some of these pitch deck examples before, but you’ve never seen them like this. We’re walking through these pitch deck examples with best practices proven by quantitative insights from our latest fundraising eBook, “What We Learned from 200 Startups Who Raised $360M”.

Each of the following pitch deck examples does something uniquely right that any founder — regardless of industry or growth stage — can apply to their business. We even throw our DocSend seed round pitch deck into the mix.

Fundraising: What’s the Big Deal?

Before we dive into our pitch deck examples, let’s establish why fundraising is so difficult, particularly for early-stage founders. Growth advisor Geoff Nesnow lays out the fundamental paradox behind startup fundraising struggles in 2019: “Investors want more evidence that your business is going to succeed. But, getting that evidence takes time and money — which is usually why you’re asking for funding in the first place.”

All pitch decks — and certainly all founder fundraising strategies — are not created equal. We’ll go through Sequoia’s latest suggested pitch deck order and I’ll highlight a famous pitch deck that gets it right.

Investors who receive DocSend links are reviewing more pitch decks than ever before, so the stakes couldn’t be higher for nailing your pitch deck.


Nine Pitch Deck Examples that Show Us How It’s Done


Example #1: LinkedIn – Company Purpose

At 37 slides, LinkedIn’s pitch deck is an example of quite a long-form pitch deck (considering the suggested deck length hovers around 19 slides!). Nonetheless, this pitch deck is a great example of a solid, straight-forward, and clear company purpose.

pitch deck examples

Aside from starting with company purpose (as Sequoia suggests), there are a few things LinkedIn does right here in this pitch deck example. Of particular note is LinkedIn’s succinct description, “Professional People Search 2.0.” LinkedIn conveys a clear image of the idea and its intended execution without depending on an existing product for context (as tempting as a description like “Facebook for professionals” might be). You need to define your company in its own terms in order to maximize its authority.


Example #2: Front – The Problem

Next up in Sequoia’s ideal pitch deck order: Establishing the problem your company is solving. The Front team does an exemplary job with this pitch deck example. They use their problem slide to first establish the omnipresence of their product space (with compelling data) and then present painful shortcomings the industry faces today, which can be solved with the company’s product.

pitch deck examples

 

Example #3: Revolut – The Solution

Logically, an explanation of your team’s solution should follow your establishment of the industry’s problem. Revolut does a good job setting the stage for the exploration of their product. They present a streamlined solution that’s simple while inviting curious VCs to check out a deeper dive if they’re interested.

It’s critical to lead VCs or investors to your “Eureka!” moment and present the compelling reasons your value prop is unique. This is not the time to get caught in the weeds of product details.

Suffice it to say, there’s no need for complicated, convoluted explanations. Sometimes, less is more.

Revolut pitch deck

When it comes to the nitty-gritty details of your product, it’s helpful to remember that venture capitalists typically spend about 3.5 minutes checking out each pitch deck they evaluate. You don’t want them spending a minute trying to decipher intricate product-related details. In fact, DocSend data suggests that longer read-times are more common among failed decks.


Example #4: Square – Why Now?

Now that you’ve laid out your company’s purpose, the problem you’re solving, and your product’s approach to the solution, it’s time to consider the question: Why now?

The best answers to “Why now?” can include qualitative data, but they must include quantitative data. Trend data such as the below slide from Square’s pitch deck shows why the company is a good investment in a compelling way.

pitch deck examples

While you’re at it, solidify the market potential of your company so an investor can see dollar signs. Sequoia has listed “why now?” and “market potential” as two separate slides, but in this instance, Square has combined them.

If you’re looking for a good example of an isolated market potential section, look no further than DocSend’s seed pitch deck. The DocSend founders did an excellent job showing definitive, concrete evidence that the company’s seed-stage target markets were producing significant YoY growth.

pitch deck examples


Example #5: Airbnb – The Competitors

Next up in Sequoia’s suggested pitch deck order is your product’s competitor and product alternative slide. This slide doesn’t need too many frills. It’s critical that you present an accurate assessment of your product’s standing in its greater industry, and that you prepare for questions. Take a look at the competitors slide from Airbnb’s pitch deck, if you’d like an example.

pitch deck examples

This point is important, so it’s worth repeating: it’s important to interrogate every slide and prepare bulletproof answers to expected questions, but it’s especially important to build iron-clad understandings of your product’s advantages over legacy options, services, or providers.

Square took this point a bit further and delineated product advantages over competitors in the space on its competitors slide (seen below). Whether you choose to pursue this route or the more conventional, simplistic route of Airbnb, definitely spend time refining your presentation here.

pitch deck examples

 

Example #6: Buffer – The Business Model

Your business model is next in line, and if done right, it’s venture capital eye candy. The key to nailing your startup’s business model is a whole area of expertise. Entrepreneur has some good general tips here, while The Business Channel has a good guide. When it comes to representing your business model in your pitch deck, however, the key is feasibility.

The goal should be to make conservative estimations, clearly state the assumptions you’ve made, and still make a given VC say, “Why hasn’t anyone done this yet?.”

pitch deck examples

 

Example #7: WeWork – The Team

It’s time to talk about your team. The team slide is not a pitch deck slide you should take lightly. In fact, to the contrary, a study of 200 companies using DocSend to fundraise shows that the team slide was the only slide included in every single successful deck.

The most important element of a good team slide is storytelling — that will make your team’s collective experience and industry knowledge pop. Take a look at the team slide from WeWork’s pitch deck. The WeWork team did a great job of storytelling without a feeling of overcrowding or too many words.

WeWork vision and leadership slide

 

Example #8: The Knot (XO Group) – The Financials

We’re almost there! The penultimate section in Sequoia’s recommended pitch deck order is financials. It’s interesting to note that the same DocSend study that revealed that every successful pitch included a team page also found that only 58% of successful decks included a financials page. In other words, it’s entirely possible to fundraise without financials — but the study also revealed that when the financials page is included, more time is spent in that section than in any other section (on average).

DocSend 2015 fundraising research time spent per page

What does this suggest? Investors base their judgment of a company on the strength of their financials. That means if you’ve included a financials slide you might want to focus some time here.

When it comes to examples of good financials slides for your pitch deck, look no further than The Knot/XO Group. The Knot has dedicated an entire section of their pitch deck to financials, which makes sense seeing as they’re further along in their development. But young companies can still take note of their presentation.

The Knot financials page pitch deck

 

Example #9: Mixpanel – The Vision

The final section of Sequoia’s recommended pitch deck order is the vision. There are many different ways to structure and approach your vision section. What’s most important is that you give VCs and investors a lens into where you’ll be, if all goes right, years down the line.

Sequoia suggests mapping out and presenting a look at your company over the next five years. Mixpanel only maps out the following two, but we nonetheless love the data-driven specificity of their plan. As we all know, data-driven goals are far easier to track. Check out the vision slide from Mixpanel’s pitch deck below.

Mixpanel vision slide

 

Sending Out Your Finished (or “Finished”) Pitch Deck

So what can you expect when you send out your pitch deck? It took the average founder included in “What We Learned from 200 Startups Who Raised $360M” 58 investors and 40 investor meetings over the course of 12.5 weeks to secure the funding necessary to close their rounds (an average of $1.3M per startup).

DocSend 2015 fundraising research - best pitch decks

What does this mean in terms of fundraising process and flow? It can become quickly overwhelming to juggle high-intent fundraising leads and personalized communication and correspondence.

Founders must create and maintain a set routine for communicating with investors. Since no set of best practices will work well for every founder, it’s essential to test and track what works for you and your pitch deck.

DocSend offers founders the opportunity to maintain control over their pitch decks while tracking investor engagement on a slide-by-slide basis. With DocSend, founders can apply and disable link-based permissions, password protect access from those links, enable or disable slide deck downloading, and even track forwarding activity and resulting engagement. Founders can then follow up with investors who are engaging with their pitch decks and nudge those who aren’t.

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