If you’ve read our pre-seed and seed pitch deck best practices, you know successful pitch decks are equal parts art and science. But while the science behind slide content and order appears straightforward, the art can be anything but. In our Freshworks Live Pitch Teardown, we asked VCs across the industry to weigh in on seed pitch decks from different founders. From what they liked, disliked, and everything in between, here are their biggest takeaways.
Make it easy to see value and dig deeper in your team slide
The team slide is one of the must-have deck sections at every fundraising stage. VCs spend about 46 seconds reviewing these slides in early-stage pitch decks. While it may not seem like it at face value, this is a lot of time considering that VCs spend just under two and a half minutes, in total, looking at decks. In the earliest stages, VCs are investing in the teams as much as they are in good business ideas, so you have to make a really good impression here.
After looking at team slides from four different pitch decks, the consensus among VCs was clearly aligned. The team slide should not only make it easy for investors to quickly see your team’s value, but it should also dig in deeper. “You don’t want to have too much information that the investor doesn’t have time to read,” Sid Trivedi at Foundation Capital began. “But at the same time, you don’t want so little information that the investor doesn’t know whether the logos on the page are valuable enough.” Company logos are a great way to highlight past experience but they’re rendered meaningless without enough context. Expand on the work your team did so it connects with the company you’re building now.
Sid also shared that even small additions, such as adding hyperlinks to LinkedIn profiles, go a long way in making life easier for VCs. “Searching for the founders on LinkedIn is the first thing I do when I’m excited about the company,” he shared. “Being able to do that from the deck directly is super helpful and even more valuable for me since it reduces time.”
Finding creative ways to work in how your founding team met was another ask from the investors. “While it can be hard to portray in a pitch deck, I love seeing how the founding team met. If it was the other week at a hackathon, I’m going to dig into that a little more,” explained Saba Karim at Techstars. “But if you met four years ago and two other companies? Then it’s a lot easier for me to know you already gel well together.”
Focus less on big market numbers (and more on the approach behind them!)
In one to three pages of market analysis, the market size section outlines your current business conditions and future growth potential. Investors spend around 30 to 40 seconds scrutinizing the market size sections in early-stage decks. Surprisingly, VCs shared that numbers in these sections matter a lot less than the approach a founder took to get to them.
“When investors look at market slides, they’re less concerned by the numbers on the page and more by how those numbers were derived,” said Sid. “They’re trying to get into the heads of founders to understand how they think about the market and why their perspective is so unique.” In other words, he explained that VCs want to know what the rest of the market isn’t seeing that you’ve managed to figure out.
He also shared that one mistake founders make is assuming that big, splashy numbers on a page will get people excited. “Seeing a $10B, $100B, or even $1T market, alone, doesn’t get you more excited about investing in a company if you don’t know what those numbers really mean and how they’ve been derived,” he continued. “Understanding the reasoning behind the numbers is what gets you excited.”
Clearly outlining the rationale behind market calculations is an especially critical part of establishing trust with investors at the early stages. “The earlier you invest in a company, the more you have to rely on the entrepreneur and the less you can rely on traction,” explained Thibault Vanvincq at Joyance. “So it’s important to understand how crystal clear the entrepreneur’s thought process is, how well they know the market, and what assumptions they’re relying on.”
Reviewing your business model section? Kill your darlings
Your business model section gives investors a clear understanding of how your company will make money by summing up your monetization plan and go-to-market strategy in two to three pages. In terms of time spent, a strong business model section can add up to $150K more funding— VCs spent 94% more time on business model sections of decks they went on to fund.
One of the biggest takeaways for founders? Say as much as you can in as few words as possible. “I want to see two things in a business model section: how you’re going to make money and why you went with the business model you did,” Pranavi Cheemakurti at Forum Ventures said. “But even when those pieces are communicated, it can be hard to glean that if I see a lot of words packed on the slide.” Jaclynn Maxwell Hudson at Black Girl Ventures agreed, sharing, “When I look at business model slides, I’m looking at the whole thing so I can pull out as much information as possible at one time. If there are too many details on the slide, it’s easy to miss the critical information I might need.”
Your business model section should help investors quickly understand how you’re going to make money, so the group suggests charts and graphs as helpful ways to explain the flow of money between who’s selling and buying. Keeping a critical eye on edits and clarity during the final review of this section is another best practice for founders here. As you’re reviewing your slide content, ask yourself: “Do I really need this sentence or word or is it already self-explanatory?”
If you couldn’t catch the teardown in person but want to catch the next one on Thursday, June 9th, 2022, make sure you register here. Plus, don’t forget to download our free pitch deck template, which includes a step-by-step guide for building your pre-seed or seed deck.