Ben Pidgeon knows a good pitch deck when he sees it.
He should. As the executive director of VisionTech Angels, one of the Midwest’s most active angel investing groups, Ben is responsible for screening up to 400 startup companies a year. Ben and the selection committee then choose the 18 or so that get the privilege of presenting to VisionTech Angels investors. Over the last three years, he’s seen approximately 1,200 pitch decks and is always looking for more to keep the group’s deals flowing.
I recently sat down with Ben to discuss the five things that differentiates a pitch deck that’s a deal maker rather than a deal breaker. Here’s what he shared:
ONE: On message pitch decks are deal makers.
Ben says winning pitch decks tell a startup’s story in a concise and engaging way, starting with slide one. Take for example, Airbnb’s original pitch deck. The opening slide said simply: Book rooms with locals, not hotels. Ben gives this approach a thumbs up because investors understand the company with little or no effort.
Additionally, winning decks don’t have endless lists of bullets, big blocks of text and overly complicated graphs and charts. Why? Because wordy decks force the audience to choose between listening to the presenter or reading the deck themselves and most people can’t do both.
TWO: Pitch decks that don’t speak to the audience are deal breakers.
It’s surprising how many pitch decks and their presenters don’t understand who they’re talking to. Investors aren’t scientists and a pitch that works at an academic meeting won’t work with investors. Pitch decks should stick to what investor audiences want such as an the market overview, the problem the startup solves, go to market strategy, momentum to date, and who’s on your team. If you want to make a deal with investors, present key information in business terms and save the technical details for the Q&A. If the audience wants it, they’ll ask.
THREE: Pitch decks that connect are deal makers.
A startup can solve the world’s biggest problem, but if the audience isn’t convinced, the pitch is likely dead on arrival. According to Ben, a good pitch deck has a hook that connects the audience to the product or service, giving them a reason to believe. Say for example, the startup has a new drug that may cure a rare childhood cancer. Instead of leading off with a complicated chart that shows the number of rats that have responded favorably to the drug in early stage trials, lead with the photo of a child. That’s it. Just. One. Kid. Make it clear that she could be the audience’s child and the drug candidate may save her life. Ben guarantees angel investors will walk away with a connection and compelling reason to seriously consider an investment.
FOUR: Pitch decks that don’t keep it real are deal breakers.
By that, says Ben, the startup overstates basic information like market size and market potential or include an unrealistic valuation. By contrast, a good pitch deck includes exactly what’s in it for investors such as how the company gains explosive growth from investment, leading to an acquisition and the ability to return capital to investors.
FIVE: Presenters who use their pitch decks as support are deal makers.
At the end of the day, winning presentations are about people, not pitch decks, says Ben. People who are passionate about their startup, understand how best to present the opportunity, and enjoy telling their story are more likely to win over investors. Ben’s advice? Use a pitch deck as a visual script to support the presentation of a compelling story and all the information investors need to take it to the next level.
Want examples of great pitch decks of startups that received funding? Check those recommended by Ben here. If you need a pitch check or your existing deck needs a tune-up, connect with Lux-Writes. And, if you’d like to join Friends of VisionTech Angels, let me know and I’ll sign you up!