Before you start designing your deck, remember to take the time to think about what message you really want to convey to investors. Focus on the big picture: the purpose, the solution and the reward.
In many startups, entrepreneurs are so eager to establish a project, put together the necessary legal paperwork, or acquire the right talent to back up the idea, that they overlook arguably the most important aspect of the venture: how to effectively attract capital from investors.
No matter how good your idea, if you do not have the right tools to attract investor capital, your project is doomed. This is why fundraising decks are so important.
Specifically, two types of decks are essential for raising the necessary capital to fund your project: a pitch deck and an investor deck. What’s the difference, you ask? You’re not alone. At BX3 Capital, we have helped clients put together more than 100 fundraising decks. While our clients’ goals, sectors, and visions are varied, they share at least one commonality: They want to wow their potential investors. With this thought in mind, we would like to share this handy guide to get your decks in a row:
The Pitch Deck
A pitch deck is a presentation that entrepreneurs put together when seeking a round of financing from investors.
- A pitch deck is a tool that should be used to complement your presentation of a project.
- On average, pitch decks have fewer than 15 slides.
- The pitch deck, which includes more visual graphics than an investor deck, should be used in face-to-face presentations.
If presented as a PowerPoint presentation, on brochures, or on similar marketing materials, it should contain the essential information of a project, broken down into bullets and short sentences, and include many supplemental images while excluding as much text as possible.
The point of a pitch presentation is to have the audience pay attention to you. A successful pitch deck provides points of references that the audience can easily follow (or to make notes on or refer to back later if handed out as a brochure or other marketing material). The less text you provide, the more your listeners will listen to you.
The Investor Deck
The investor deck, similar to the pitch deck, also provides essential information about the project but in more detail. It generally covers more aspects of the project such as:
- The financial projections and the terms of the investment opportunity.
2. It should also provide an executive summary of the project, and answer two essential investor questions:
- How your project will generate revenue and
- What kind of return on investment they should expect?
Now that we have made the distinction between the two types of fundraising decks, here are some considerations to be made when creating them.
Content that Leads to a Conversation
It’s important to first consider the big picture when deciding what type of information to place in each deck. More often than not, the project itself gets lost in an over-explanation of the technology behind it. You can explain the nuts and bolts of how everything works later.
Fundraising decks are a “foot in the door”-tool to get the conversation going. The likelihood of getting a check from an investor immediately following your presentation or receipt of your investor deck is slim to none. The key goal instead should be to interest prospective investors enough to get a conversation going.
That being said, every fundraising deck should address three key points, and a good way of doing that is to consider the following questions:
- is the purpose of your project?
- What is the issue you are trying to solve?
- What need are you trying to meet?
- What is the investor investing in?
- What is your solution to address the purpose of the project?
- What does the road map look like?
- Address your competition and how your solution is superior.
- How will your solution work? Explain your secret sauce.
- What are the projected costs?
- What stage is your project in? What milestones has the project achieved? What market traction has it made?
- Who am I investing in, and what makes this team qualified to build a business?
- Highlight your key achievements: Did you save millions of dollars for your client? Have you surpassed 100,000 average daily users on your app?
- What are the terms of the deal?
- What is the expected rate of return?
- How will investors exit?
- Are there non-financial (e.g., social) incentives?
- What is your roadmap / projected income for the next 1–2 years?
This is entirely arbitrary depending on your project but in my experience, the most successful decks typically have been between eight and 13 pages or slides. And regardless of whether sending the decks via email or presenting in person, the length — both in terms of text as well as time needed to present each thought — varies.
For the pitch deck, less is more. Keep your deck short and sweet, and your presentation even shorter and sweeter. Spend anywhere from two to four minutes on each slide or page and keep the audience engaged. If you keep on droning, you will lose your audience and muddle your message. Be sure to tell a good story; order matters.
For the investor deck, think of it as an audition or submitting a resume for a job: Some investors see as many as 300 different presentations and fundraising decks a month. You could have the greatest project in the world, though if presenting the investor deck takes two hours or the deck has 40 slides, odds are you are going to get overlooked. The average venture capital or investor spends some 12 seconds per slide, meaning an average of 3:44 minutes. That’s not a lot of time to hold investors’ attention.
If you effectively illustrate the big picture, your presentation should not exceed 30 minutes, nor should your investor deck exceed 15 slides or pages. That should be plenty enough to spark your prospective investors’ interest.
Continuity and Branding
Both decks, website, app (if applicable) and whitepaper should all belong to the same color pallet. All supplemental tools help strengthen your brand identity when they have a similar look and feel. In a time where new projects are popping up every day, your deck is the segue to the rest of your collateral. Make sure prospective investors connect all of the dots.
Everyone is used to black and white. Switch it up by having a dark background with contrasting light-colored text. Not only will it help the text stand out, but it will also break up the monotony of white backgrounds coupled with black text that everyone is used to seeing on websites, documents, etc.
Size and Format
The size and format of fundraising decks get overlooked more often than not. Make sure your deck is easily accessible in a read-only format. Keep it professional and easy for people to access.
Whether it be a pitch deck or an investor deck, preview it several times on different computers and through different applications. Make sure all of the pictures load and everything is clear. Pixelated photos and improper formatting look sloppy. You could have only one shot with certain prospective investors so make sure the odds are stacked in your favor.
Mix Up the Color and Format of the Text
Utilize the power of color and formatting. Bolding, italicizing and underlining different phrases helps the most important information jump off the page. Use bright, bold colors and larger fonts to help investors remember important numbers, statistics and facts. It helps to set off key figures with big numerals. You may be surprised just how powerful a well-thought color and formatting strategy might become. Do be mindful of your color scheme, however: Stick to a maximum color palette of four letters.
Keep your word choices, both orally and in writing, at a level advanced enough to command respect and display confidence but still simple enough to seem approachable. Make sure that the content is broad-based enough to remain applicable to your target audience, but the message is well-honed so that your game plan is clear.
While some investors may only see a few presentations and/or decks per month, others see hundreds. Regardless of your audience, make sure your deck has its own identity to help your project stand out.
If your deck looks mainstream — or, for a lack of a better term, boring — your project is more likely to fall through the cracks. As a designer, I space out my time when creating different decks to make sure that each has its own feel specific to the project it represents. Lastly, don’t forget contact information. Your efforts are completely for naught if that VC doesn’t know how to reach you.
Get to the Point
Before you start designing your deck, remember to take the time to think about what message you really want to convey to investors. Focus on the big picture: the purpose, the solution and the reward. It is only when you have narrowed down the essential aspects of your project can you move forward with the design. The design elements of your deck should harmonize to complement the information that will attract investors. Make sure that your deck is as clean, interesting and organized as it is thoughtful.
Give investors the information they care about. Do not get caught up in minutiae such as the finer details of the technology of your project. Instead, focus on the five W’s: what, who, where, when and why. Your pitch and investor decks are essential parts of your project’s identity and may ultimately determine the fate of your project. As cliché as this may sound, if you fail to plan, plan to fail.