It’s never been easy to fundraise, but what it takes to raise has definitely changed. Seven to ten years ago, a MVPP (Minimum Viable PowerPoint) was enough to get you into a room with investors. But as companies have become more sophisticated, VC expectations have changed, as we’ve seen in our startup fundraising research, with data derived in-part from our weekly Pitch Deck Metrics. There’s also been a boom in the number of startups looking for funding. Like it or not, you’re competing with every other founder out there for that next check. Pitch decks have become one of the most important aspects to getting you that initial meeting. Let’s face it — it’s unlikely this is the first time investors have seen your idea…maybe even this week. We took the original pitch decks of some startups that went on to become tech giants and household names and ran them through our Pitch Deck Analyzer.
Read on to see how each of these notable pitch decks scored and to find out what each one did well and what they would need to improve if they were to try to get funded in 2021.
Table of Pitch Decks:
Facebook’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 50%
What the Facebook pitch deck did well:
- Effective product slides. This deck included slides that showed their actual product and didn’t go overboard on information, which some founders tend to do when talking about the specifics of their product. Most importantly, they tied the product functionalities to the problem they highlighted.
- Good use of transition slides. They used these slides as they are meant to be used — to enhance their narrative and create natural pauses — while also using them to show traction with the media.
- Purposeful use of information. The deck didn’t have the exact number of slides that our research suggests is optimal (20), but the information they included within their 24 slides was portrayed clearly and concisely — everything had a purpose, and there was no fluff.
What the Facebook pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- Less time and space on traction. Facebook (or thefacebook.com, as it was then called) did have quite a bit of traction for the stage the company was in, so it’s not totally wrong that they leaned on that. But if they were pitching now, it would be best to condense this information into fewer slides.
- More slide categories. One example is a “Why Now?” slide to let investors know exactly why now is the right time for them to invest their money. They would also need to include a team slide — that contact page with Eduardo’s face wouldn’t cut it. A good team slide now includes photos of the founding team, bios relevant to their roles, and LinkedIn profiles.
- A better narrative. There are so many companies now that have traction — investors want more information to let them know why any given company is a sound investment.
Uber’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 43%
What the Uber pitch deck did well:
- A good idea with a clear understanding of the market. For Uber’s original deck, they had a clear idea of what they wanted the product to be and had a clear idea of the market. They spent a lot of time on this in the deck. Their ideas were good, and they conveyed them relatively clearly and concisely.
- A clear problem and solution. One of the major strengths of this deck is that they had a good understanding of the problem and the solution, which is always really important. They drove these points home, and since there wasn’t much competition at the time, investors were able to see the clear need for this solution.
What the Uber pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- Better organization with a clear line of thought. Looking through this deck, you get the sense that there are simply a lot of ideas. Luckily, the strengths above served Uber well, because the deck really didn’t have much of a narrative. And these days, if you have 25 slides in your deck, you’d better have a good sense of your story. Investors see so many pitch decks with viable ideas nowadays that they want more from a deck than Uber got away with.
- More slide categories. The deck is missing a lot of the sections that are considered fundamental in 2020. There was no mention of “Why Now,” the team, nor a fundraising ask (although the ask is always something that should be thought through strategically).
- More thought into how to work certain slides into the deck. The slides themselves are sparse on information and seem to be someone’s stream of consciousness. For example, the slide titled “Marketing Ideas” has good ideas, but it would’ve been better to weave these ideas into the Solution and Business Model slides.
Airbnb’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 36%
What the Airbnb pitch deck did well:
- A straightforward message. This deck managed to get a message across, despite being really short. Even though the deck was only 11 slides, it was very clear, straightforward, and visually appealing. They took advantage of the time that investors would spend on their deck. This is important now, because investors spend less than 4 minutes total pitch decks.
- A clear product section. Again, albeit sparse, the product section of this deck was clear and explained what the product actually does. They didn’t go overboard highlighting all the bells and whistles that the product offers. They kept it simple, as product section should be.
- Being deliberate about what to include. Generally, this is an example of a pitch deck with an idea that is good and straightforward enough that they managed to get by with few words and few slides. But these days, it’s best to offer investors more information. Airbnb’s deck is a good lesson in being deliberate with what you put in your deck.
What the Airbnb pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- More slide categories. Despite being clear and straightforward, this deck receives a low score because it’s missing a lot of important information. There’s no “Why Now?” slide or team slide. In 2020, these slides are essential. This is how investors know who they have the opportunity to work with and why it’s important to start now.
- More slides overall. This is a major weakness of the deck, and it’s another case where they’re lucky this idea was relatively new at the time. Unless you have a completely groundbreaking idea, it’s best to offer more information than Airbnb did in their original deck. Even then, the harsh truth is that your idea is likely not as groundbreaking as you think, so it’s best to use those other sections to let investors know why your idea is different — and better.
Foursquare’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 48%
What the Foursquare pitch deck did well:
- Smart use of slide categories to show the product. They thought clearly about how they would use their slides to convey their narrative. They showed the product throughout the deck. What’s good about this approach is that it’s easy to see how the product directly affects their solution. That said, ultimately, they showed their product a little too much — the screenshots start to lose their luster.
- Easily digestible. They had a clear idea of the narrative the deck was meant to tell, and they did so effectively. The structure made sense, and there was a good amount of words per slide.
What the Foursquare pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- More slide categories. This deck was also one that didn’t include a “Why Now?” slide or a team slide. In 2020, this deck would need to include these slides. This would also likely solve the problem of having the product on too many slides.
- Hone in on important major points. Though the deck was easy to understand and there was a clear narrative, some of the important points still got lost within that narrative. For example, market share and competition slides should be very easy to delineate (perhaps using visuals). This did not happen in Foursquare’s deck.
- Remove or reorganize superfluous slides. This deck had a slide at the end labeled “Trivia.” While we can’t say for sure that you shouldn’t add “fun” or miscellaneous slides to your deck, this slide actually wasn’t trivia — it contained what would now be considered essential information about the founding team, the product, and the market. If including slides like this, they need to be intentional and less of an afterthought.
Tinder’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 33%
What the Tinder pitch deck did well:
- Clear problem and solution. The biggest strength of this deck is the clarity of the problem and the solution. They showed it in a way that was creative and could easily grab investors’ attention. That said, it did take several slides to make a point that they could’ve made in fewer slides. But, they made their point nonetheless.
- Conservative use of screenshots. They included a good amount of product screenshots and didn’t go overboard with them.
What the Tinder pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- More slide categories and information in general. The strengths outlined above are pretty much a description of the entire 10-page deck, save for a single “Revenue Opportunity” page at the end. Especially since there are countless dating apps now, they would need to add more in order to get a meeting.
- More explanations. The problem and solution are clear, but there is no information beyond simply identifying them. Also, a lot of decks tend to take up slides with just visuals. It’s the founder’s job to make it clear what they mean. Tinder’s deck definitely could’ve done a better job of this. Explaining how the screenshots tie back to the problem and the solution would’ve been a good way to go.
Castle’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 53%
What the Castle pitch deck did well:
- A clear story. One of the best things about this deck is that not only is it clear what each slide is meant to convey, but they are also strung together in a cohesive narrative.
- Visual appeal. Castle’s pitch deck uses a good number of words per slide. They’re organized in a way that gives enough information while being easily digestible. Overall, being visually appealing in this way removes a lot of barriers to comprehension in your deck, which is a good thing.
What the Castle pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- A better team slide. While the current one contributes to the story, they would still need to have individual bios and LinkedIn profiles. The decks in our pre-seed research averaged 80 words per Team slide — you want to let them know why you’re the best person to build the company you’re building.
- A “Why Now?” slide. There are so many startups nowadays that investors want to know what the urgency is to invest in yours over any others that they have the option to invest in.
Mint’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 47%
What the Mint pitch deck did well:
- Business model. The creators of this deck clearly wanted to show investors how they were going to make money. The business model and GTM strategies are very clearly laid out.
- Defensible moat. Mint was clearly worried about the competition. There are several slides here dedicated not only to how they’re different, but also to how they’re going to defend against some big players moving into their territory.
What the Mint pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- Outlining the problem for the customer. This deck goes goes to a lot of trouble to show who their competitors are and how they’re going to offer value for partners, but they only spend one slide showing any benefits to their customers. A good deck should highlight a clear problem at the beginning of their deck and show how they’re going to solve it.
- Where’s the product? While it used to be common for companies to raise with an MVPP (minimum viable PowerPoint), our research finds that’s no longer the case. Investors are no longer interested in funding product development. They want at least an alpha or beta version of the product before they invest in a startup.
Intercom’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 50%
What the Intercom pitch deck did well:
- A Clear Problem Slide: They did a good job of explaining the problem they’re tackling. It’s an easily repeatable problem on one slide with a few bullet points. No fluff, no long-winded explanation. If you can succinctly communicate the problem you’re addressing, it’s much easier for potential investors to understand how you’re planning to solve it.
- Product Demo: Looks like they have a link to a demo video. Great! This is an awesome way to clearly show what their product does. But be careful of going overboard with demos. Keep them short. No one wants a potential investor getting bored or confused in a long video that gets too into the weeds. And just because they have a demo doesn’t mean they should neglect including a few more product slides. They should use a few slides to convey what their product is with some screenshots, gifts, or wireframes.
- Clear Fundraising Ask: They end their deck with a slide that lays out their fundraising ask as well as a few details about how they intend to use their funds. Including a simple slide like this ensures that a potential investor will be on the same page as they are once they sit down for a meeting together.
What the Intercom pitch deck would need to improve to raise funding in 2021:
- More Visuals: It’s 2020, which means we’re in the age of the image. Not only do images add visual appeal, but they can often convey more information — a picture’s worth a thousand words, after all. They should definitely include more images of their product, but should also take advantage of visuals such as venn diagrams or charts to illustrate how they stack up to competitors on their competition slide.
- Add “Why Now” and “How” Slides: The two main categories they’re missing are a “Why Now” slide and a business model (“How”). And while a fully thought out business model isn’t the most significant component in a pre-seed deck, it still is important that they make it clear how they’re going to make a profit.
- More Info about the Team: A good team slide has a photo, title, LinkedIn link, and a concise blurb of bio experience for each team member. Intercom’s deck gives some biographical info but doesn’t attribute it to any one member, which makes it confusing to get to know the team
Postmates’ pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 81%
What the Postmates pitch deck did well:
- Clear competition slide. Postmates called out relevant competitors and highlighted three differentiators: cost, time, and effort. They clearly explain why they are better than existing shipping options as customers no longer have to choose between cost, quality, time, or effort.
- Strong opening slide. This deck succinctly captures what Postmates does in four words. From the get-go, investors are able to understand Postmates’ value proposition. If a VC cannot understand what your business does, they will pass on your pitch deck.
What the Postmates pitch deck would need to improve to secure funding in 2021:
- Address Covid-19. Obviously, when Postmates created this pitch deck, the world wasn’t facing a global pandemic. However now more than ever, it’s critical to address current macroeconomic issues and how your business fits in the current landscape.
- Team slide. While we caution about having too many words on a slide, our research has shown that the Team slide should be your most dense slide at around 85 words. The bios on this team slide are too brief and could use another bullet point (or two) to showcase relevant experience and why their team is the right team for the job.
- Include a clear fundraising ask. This slide has become a standard of 2020 pitch decks. While this information can be included in your email to an investor, we still recommend including a fundraising slide. One page with your round, amount, and use of funds will suffice.
Fyre’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 61%
What the Fyre pitch deck did well:
- Right amount of Traction: Fyre’s deck is unique in that it’s pitching two big ideas — first, an app, and secondly, a festival that serves as a marketing strategy to accompany the app. This deck provides the right amount of traction for the festival—they show off a strong media presence and a number of partnerships—but there’s not much traction for the app itself. How many people have downloaded the app? How much revenue have they generated? If a company lacks strong numbers, they should instead consider including letters of intent and positive customer reviews. Just whatever you do, don’t lie about your revenue and exaggerate your numbers like Fyre did—we all know how poorly that played out.
- No “Why Now” slide: According to our data, a seed company doesn’t need a “Why Now” slide. Fyre did themselves a favor by leaving this slide out and letting their product and traction speak for themselves. However, if they were sending their deck to investors in 2021, they would need to include a “Why Now” slide to show investors that they are thinking about COVID-19’s impact on their company.
What the Fyre pitch deck would need to improve to secure funding in 2021:
- Reduce number of pages and transition slides: A deck with over 40 slides isn’t working to their advantage. Remember, a pitch deck is really only meant to pique a VC’s interest, so you don’t want to burden them with too many slides and too much unnecessary information. They can begin slashing their page count by removing transition slides. Having one to two transition slides is useful to demarcate different sections in their deck and build a clear narrative, but including too many doesn’t add anything. Clear slide labels work well enough to get the job done.
- More info in the fundraising ask: In addition to listing the amount of capital they’re looking for, they should include their round, some info about how much they’ve already raised, and a few more details about how they intend to use their funds to build out their product. Our data shows that the most successful decks are more up front about this information.
TransferWise’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 66%
What the TransferWise pitch deck did well:
- Clear slide labels. This deck is clear and to the point. The viewer knows exactly what information each slide is trying to convey. The bright yellow color of the transition labels and the large font make each label easily readable and obvious to the human eye.
- Good balance of words and graphics. This deck had the right amount of information per page to convey their business. They included relevant visuals that enhanced their story. VCs on average spend less than 4 minutes per deck, so it’s critical to nail the word/visual balance.
- Didn’t include an appendix. Our research shows that VCs spend the majority of their time in the appendix. If you include additional information in your pitch deck, you’re potentially answering questions your investor didn’t have and giving her a reason to pass. Include the information required in a deck to pique an investors’ interest and get a meeting, and then you can begin diving in deeper and divulging more.
What the TransferWise pitch deck would need to improve to secure funding in 2021:
- Market size section. Investors want to know the market you’re targeting and how big it is. In fact, it’s common for VCs to pass on a deck simply due to a small market. So be sure to explain your market size and the customer you’re targeting.
- Adding differentiators to the competition slide. This slide is all about highlighting your competitors, where your company fits among them, and emphasizing your differentiators. TransferWise didn’t include differentiators on its competition slide.
Coinbase’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 54%
What the Coinbase pitch deck did well:
- Clear use of slide labels. This deck used a large font for its transition tags, which makes it obvious to readers what each slide discusses. Clarity in deck is a founder’s best friend.
- Smart selection of traction slides. Coinbase put forward metrics that portrayed their business in a positive light. They chose to highlight user signups and transaction volume. Founders, if your financials don’t tell an inspiring story, it’s best to skip them and include other forms of traction (such as waitlists, MAUs, customer feedback, etc) that benefit your narrative.
What the Coinbase pitch deck would need to improve to secure funding in 2021:
- Include a business model. Investors want to know how your company will make money. You don’t need to include every single source of revenue, but it must be clear within a quick glance who you’re targeting and how you intend to earn revenue.
- Add a Team slide. VCs are not just investing in your business, they are investing in you. Therefore, it’s critical to highlight who you are and what relevant experience makes you suited for the job. A team slide is a must!
Buffer’s pitch deck
Pitch deck score: 53%
What the Buffer pitch deck did well:
- Focus on Market Trends: Buffer’s deck opens by identifying market trends that make their product relevant and significant. Emphasizing favorable, forward-looking market trends in the first couple of slides makes the rest of your deck more compelling.
- Traction: They included two solid pages of traction. Our data shows that around two to four pages of traction are ideal. Spreading traction over a couple of slides (as opposed to condensing it all into one slide) also encourages an investor to notice that a company has made some real progress and that others are excited about their product.
What the Buffer pitch deck would need to improve to secure funding in 2021:
- Additional Product Slides: Buffer’s deck does not make their product crystal clear. One slide with a UI screenshot is not going to get the job done. Before they rush into their traction and business model slides, they should spend at least two to three more slides showing off screenshots or other visuals that explain their product’s key features.
- Identify Differentiators: Their competition slide does a good job of mapping out the competitive landscape, but it remains unclear how they rise above other companies. The goal of a competition slide is to set yourself apart by citing at least two (preferably more) specific differentiators that prove you have something unique to offer. In this case, giants like Google and Facebook are irrelevant. Instead, Buffer should focus on comparing themselves to companies that they’re directly competing with, like SocialFlow or Yoono.
Looking for research on what it takes to raise startup capital? Dive into our Startup Fundraising Playbook for a one-stop-stop to learn about raising a pre-seed, seed, and Series A.