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—usually, all it takes to find examples of successful pitch decks is a search through Google, LinkedIn, or SlideShare. What is difficult, however, is determining what made these specific pitch deck examples successful.

Is it the imagery of these pitch deck examples? The slide order? The way each product is presented? Let’s take a quantitative exploration of the success behind some of the most famous pitch deck examples you’ve seen around the web:

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

Maybe you’ve seen some of these pitch deck examples around the web 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’ve even got our very own DocSend seed round pitch deck to share as an example!)

Fundraising: What’s the Big Deal?

Before we dive into our exploration of 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 you’re 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—couldn’t be further from being created equal. With each one of the pitch deck examples we cover, I’ll be focusing on one particularly strong element of the deck, in accordance with Sequoia’s latest suggested pitch deck order.

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’s Pitch Deck

At 38 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’s Pitch Deck

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, by using 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’s Pitch Deck

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 by introducing their solution in a way that’s streamlined and simple while inviting curious VCs to check out a deeper dive if they’re interested in learning more.

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 up in the weeds of product details—in fact, DocSend data shows that over-focusing on product can kill your fundraising.

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

pitch deck examples

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—especially since DocSend data suggests that longer read-times are more common among failed decks.

 

Example #4: Square’s Pitch Deck

Now that you’ve laid out your company’s purpose, the problem you’re solving, and your product’s approach to the solution, let’s zoom out for a second and 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 presents why the company is a good investment in a compelling way.

pitch deck examples

While you’re at it, solidifying the market potential of your company can go a long way in helping an investor see dollar signs. Sequoia has listed why now? and market potential as two separate slides in succession, 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! I’m, of course, slightly biased, but the DocSend founders did an excellent job showing definitive, concrete evidence that DocSend’s seed-stage target markets were producing significant YoY growth.

pitch deck examples

 

Example #5: Airbnb’s Pitch Deck

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 — what’s most critical is 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’s Pitch Deck

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, state the assumptions you’ve made clearly, and still make a given VC say, “Why hasn’t anyone done this yet?”.

pitch deck examples

 

Example #7: WeWork’s Pitch Deck

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, reproduced below. The WeWork team did a great job of storytelling without a feeling of overcrowding and without too many words.

pitch deck examples

 

Example #8: The Knot (XO Group)’s Pitch Deck

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).

pitch deck examples

What does this suggest? Investors base their judgment of a company on the strength of their financials—so if you’ve included a financials slide and you’ve got some extra time, you might focus your attention 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 for younger companies, there are lots of ideas here for picking and choosing.

pitch deck examples

 

Example #9: Mixpanel’s Pitch Deck

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, and presentation of results is relatively seamless, assuming your team takes responsible attribution measures. Check out the vision slide from Mixpanel’s pitch deck below.

pitch deck examples

 

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

Based on your reaching this point in the article, it’s clear you care about 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).

pitch deck examples

What does this mean in terms of fundraising process and flow? When founders juggle high-intent fundraising leads, personalized communication and correspondence can quickly get cumbersome (not to mention overwhelming).

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—in real time.

DocSend offers founders the valuable opportunity to maintain control over their pitch decks while tracking investor engagement on 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 can nudge those who aren’t.

If you’ve fundraised before, you already know: gauging investor interest in your business is often one of the largest challenges of fundraising. Mixpanel founder Suhail Doshi puts it best in Business Insider: “It’s imperative for firms to be ‘founder friendly’ to stay competitive [yet] venture capitalists still struggle to reject a company directly, instead feigning interest and stringing entrepreneurs along.”

VCs seem to have all the advantage when it comes to fundraising, but that’s not always true. DocSend was created in order to empower founders to illuminate the black box of fundraising.

You can click here to learn more and get started with DocSend for free. If you have any questions, our support team is always happy to help.