There’s a lot of information out there about what to include in a pitch deck. Because of all this noise, when you’re ready to create a pre-seed pitch deck, there are a lot of questions you’ll ask yourself. But answering those very questions before you begin is key to creating a winning pitch deck. After compiling results from our recent pre-seed fundraising research report, we know what’s important to put in your deck. Here’s a guide to some of the most important slides to put in your pitch deck.
But first, some rules of thumb to remember
Don’t expect investors to spend much time on your deck.
All of our research has found that investors spend less than four minutes on average on each pre-seed pitch deck. There’s a lot of information you need them to get in that amount of time, so make the most of it. This means being very deliberate about understanding what information you need them to know in order to get a meeting with them, saying no more, no less, and conveying it clearly and concisely.
Tie everything back to your problem and your solution.
Your problem and your solution need to be strong enough to support anything that comes up in your deck. If you get stuck on any one section, ask yourself how it supports the problem and or the solution you outline in the beginning of your deck, and go from there. The tie here should be simple and easy to understand.
Don’t forget, you are telling a story.
Your deck should have a narrative arc. Understand what this is and order your slides and include information to fit this narrative. Again, your narrative should support the problem and the solution that you outline at the beginning of your deck.
You’ll want to gather your thoughts and put them on paper
Or in a Google doc, whatever. It’s important to take a high-level look at what you are trying to convey to investors before you dive into building your deck. First and foremost, get to the bare minimum: What problem are you solving and how are you solving it? Answer this for yourself in a single sentence. Once you’ve got that down, begin to create a deck with the following steps in the order shown, then revise, revise revise.
The Company Purpose section: Tell who you are.
Percent of pre-seed pitch decks that include it: 85%
Average number of pages: 1.2
Your Company Purpose slide should be concise, clear, and compelling. This section shouldn’t take more than 20 words, and it really doesn’t need to be more than one slide. Think of this as your elevator pitch, or how you would explain to your uncle at a family dinner what your company does.
The Problem section (and the “Why Now?”): Explain what problem you’re solving and express its urgency.
Percent of pre-seed pitch decks that include it: 92%
Average number of pages: 1.9
In our pre-seed research, we found that 92% of successful decks globally — and 100% in the West Coast of the US — had a slide explaining the problem that the product or company set out to solve. That is to say: This is important. Your problem slide is one of two main pillars in your pitch deck. If you aren’t able to clearly define the problem that your business is meant to solve, it’s time to step back and re-evaluate your business.
While you should put some work into refining how you will explain the problem you’re solving, it doesn’t need to be complex — and in fact, it shouldn’t be. According to our recent research, successful decks spent an average of 1.8 slides on the problem they’re solving. Make it concise and make it clear.
The more challenging part of expressing your problem — and a larger barrier to entry for some investors — is explaining why the problem needs to be solved right now. Not only should you spend time coming up with an air-tight answer to this, but you should also devote a slide to it in your pitch deck.
The key here is to make sure your “Why Now?” slide isn’t simply a “Why?” slide. Your entire deck is meant to explain why investors should consider your business a worthwhile investment, so use this section to drive urgency and eliminate any reasons they can put off investing. Use any data you can to explain the market in its current state would benefit from your company entering into it.
The Solution section: You’ve got them hooked. Now, explain how you’re going to solve the problem.
Percent of pre-seed pitch decks that include it: 97%
Average number of pages: 2.4
Again, the solution to the problem is one of the two main pillars for your pitch deck. It should be clear, concise, and rock solid. 96% of pre-seed decks include this slide.
One slide is enough here. All you need to do is tell your company’s unique approach to solving the problem mentioned above. This should be a brief explanation of how your company is doing it differently. Go for a middle-of-the road approach here — it’s not the time to get into nitty-gritty specifics, nor should you explain high-level general concepts on how products of this type work. Stay focused on you and your product.
A good guideline here is to remember that it’s very unlikely that this is the first time your potential investors have seen this problem presented, so this is your chance to differentiate yourself right off the bat. Show that you have a clear differentiator and you understand why other solutions have failed. Why won’t yours?
The Product section: Show what you’re building.
Percent of pre-seed pitch decks that include it: 86%
Average number of pages: 2.7
It’s easy to get this section confused with the Solution slides. But this section is about showing investors what you’re actually building, whether it’s screenshots, mocks, a prototype, or a finished product.
You don’t need to get too into the weeds here. In our pre-seed research, we found that founders used an average of 2.8 slides on this section. Remember, the Product section should still tie back into your Problem — it’s the manifestation of your Solution. So, what are the specific features of your product that are meant to directly address the problem? Show them, but you don’t need to get into the intricate details of how they work at this point. If investors want to know, they will ask, and you can provide that information then.
The Traction section: Show what you’ve accomplished so far.
Percent of pre-seed pitch decks that include it: 59%
Average number of pages: 1.7
The Traction section may look different based on what stage your company is at. But it’s best to try to address this — we’ve found that about 60% of companies include this section in their decks. This isn’t necessarily Financials, either (there’s another section for that information). Traction can include current customers, customer quotes, or even Letters of Intent.
What you want to address in the Traction section is simply that your company has gained any level of momentum with outside parties. Investors will take into account the current stage you’re at, so be honest, but you’re better off showing that your idea has legs.
The Competition section: Tell them who else is addressing the problem.
Percent of pre-seed pitch decks that include it: 69%
Average number of pages: 1.3
This slide should be pretty simple. You just need to outline who you’re competing with and where your business falls in that landscape. Your Solution and Team slides (as you’ll see in the next section) should do the work of explaining why you and your company are more equipped to solve this problem, so you don’t need to get into that here. Some founders choose to explain this visually with a competitive matrix. Using an x-y axis is a good way to position your company visually in the landscape while also explaining the merits of your solution in relation to your competitors. It’s important to be clear here – we’ve found that investors spend about 12% more time on this section in unsuccessful decks than in successful ones — you don’t want them spending a lot of time here trying to understand what you’re actually conveying.
If you happen to be in the rare position of carving out your own category and you don’t have clear competitors, use this section to explain the gap in the market that your company fills. The answer here should not simply be that there is no competition — while that might be compelling, investors know better, and they want to see that you’ve thought about potential barriers.
The Team section: Tell who you are and why you’re best equipped to solve the problem.
Percent of pre-seed pitch decks that include it: 93%
Average number of pages: 1.4
While the vast majority of decks include the Team slide, we actually see a lot of founders skimp on the information in it, but it is actually really important. Just as you should feel comfortable working with the right investors, they want to know who they’re potentially working with for the long haul. Not only that, they also want to know specifically why you should run this company. This is a slide where investors spend a lot of time — second only to Financials and Fundraising Goals (The Ask) — so give them something to work with.
Our past research has found that the average word count of the Team slide is almost double that of the other slides, and that’s okay. This slide should include each founding member’s photo, name, title, and a description of their experience and how it specifically pertains to your company and the role they play in it. You should also make it easy for investors to investigate more by including links to the team’s LinkedIn profiles.
The business model and financial slides: Give them the data (maybe).
It can be tricky to know exactly which of these slides to put in an early-stage pitch deck. You may have a little bit of traction, which you should absolutely show if you do. You’ll also need to show them your business model. They will want to know how you plan to monetize your business, but they don’t expect you to have it all figured out at this point. So how much information do you actually include? And what about your financials? What do they want to know, and should you include a specific fundraising ask? For more specifics on these slides, download our slide-by-slide guide to creating a successful pitch deck.
Pre-seed research reportDownload the report
Now, work on your narrative.
It’s a story, remember? Once you’ve got all the pieces in place, take a look back at your deck, and try to be as objective as possible. Are there spots where you could adapt the order of information to make an idea more clear? Does the amount of information you included require investors to do too much decoding to figure out what’s actually going on in your deck? While we really recommend that you do the above steps in order, every pitch is different, and the most important things to remember are: 1) that your problem and solution resonate throughout your deck and 2) that everything should be clear, concise, and it should logically follow — don’t waste any of the precious time you have of an investor’s attention with them confused. If something is going unexplained, explain it, but briefly. If a graphic is unnecessary or doesn’t help clearly convey a point of information, chuck it — don’t make them look at something that won’t provide any value.
The information you share in your deck should all logically follow and you should try to optimize and enrich your deck with information that is helpful, new, and related to your company’s purpose and narrative.
Want more insights on how you can improve your deck? Try our free Pitch Deck Analyzer to get personalized advice on what you can do to make your deck more likely to succeed.