The Pitch Deck: Structure, content, and examples
Updated: May 11, 2021
Pitch decks are an indispensable tool in the startup world.
And rightly so: a pitch deck is your startup's business card and concisely tells investors everything they need to know. While the outline of pitch decks are pretty similar, their audience may vary: The conventional pitch deck is typically tailored towards exciting and engaging potential investors.
However, it may also serve as a source of information for potential partners, co-founders, suppliers, and customers.
The following applies here: A one-size-fits-all pitch deck does not exist.
While it is definitely helpful to have a basic framework, each company presentation should be individually adapted to your intended target audience, pick up on their level of comprehension, and provide the correct focus.
Let's take the classic example of the investor pitch: less than 1% of all entrepreneurs manage to get financed. This means that the first impression counts and has to be right! We explain below what a pitch deck actually is and provide you the most useful tools you need to prepare your pitch deck.
Let's take the classic example of the investor pitch: less than 1% of all entrepreneurs manage to get financed. This means that the first impression counts and has to be right!
The Pitch Deck - the business card of your company
A pitch deck (aka. pitch presentation, investor deck or startup deck) is a brief, to-the-point presentation that startup founders and entrepreneurs prepare.
This presentation is supposed to present a detailed overview of your company to various stakeholders, such as investors. Always remember - your audience is not as deep in the subject matter as you are and is hearing your idea for the first time.
Consequently, even complex content needs to be presented in a comprehensible fashion. Also, keep in mind: The creative aspect is equally crucial!
Imagine yourself as an investor having to go through a dozen new pitch decks every day. A good design with meaningful graphics not only increases comprehension but is also much more pleasant to look at.
If someone simply leaves the business card of his "business baby" out, it says a lot about the person behind it and his motivation.
How will your Pitch Deck be viewed?
Think about how your audience will receive the content before you build your presentation. Do you plan to send the deck out into the world, and thereby secure prospects?
If so, it makes sense to include a bit more text - after all, your presentation needs to be clearly understandable even without an audio track. Do you have a live conversation coming up where you need some visual support? Then it is recommended to have very little text per slide and have a higher slide count instead.
Moreover, it is impossible for a 3-minute pitch to have the same number of slides as a 20-minute pitch! So it may be beneficial to have different variations of a deck, depending on the setting.
Tip: Start with a longer read deck and cut it down systematically. (e.g. by removing the description text under icons, so that only the icon heading remains).
Our suggested structure of your pitch deck
Please note: Before you adopt our tips on how to structure a pitch deck, please keep this in mind: Our advice is merely meant to guide you and give you some direction.
There is no structure that you have to "blindly" follow when creating your pitch deck. For example, Airbnb's and LinkedIn's pitch decks could hardly be more different, yet they were both successful. Try to adapt the wording, design and sequencing of your slides to the background of your audience, the topic and your brand identity.
At the end of the day, individualization is key, as you're telling YOUR individual story. Here you have plenty of room to get creative and convey the identity of your brand, as well as your own personality.
Slide 1: The title
The title slide should at least include the following:
● Your startup's name and logo
● An engaging, meaningful, and concrete tagline
● Strong visual that introduces the topic.
It's best to choose an image and design that immediately sets the tone for the upcoming slides.
The easier it is to grasp your concept right away, the better!
The slide is the very first point of contact with your audience, and because of its "lack of content," it's the ideal opportunity to strike out visually.
Slide 2: Vision and mission
This slide gives you the means to create an easy introduction and to briefly and crisply inform potential investors about the mission and vision of your company.
Take note: Your vision statement states the desired long-term position of your start-up and is future-oriented. Your mission statement explains the business, your goals, and your approach. Both can (and should) be very concise. Even just one sentence per statement may be sufficient
Slide 3: The Problem and the Opportunity
This slide often doesn't get the attention it deserves, but it is incredibly important. Just because you have a problem, doesn't mean everyone does. While that may be the case (just like with all-too-familiar topics like meetings), it's often not. Especially if your product appeals to a very specific industry.
While to you, as a co-founder, the problems solved by your product or service may be apparent, you cannot expect that from your audience at any given time!
Make sure you clearly explain the "pain points" of a particular target demographic- sometimes this requires an introduction to the respective industry status quo.
If you can't pick people up here, the rest of your presentation will be useless.
Also, use the slide to convince people of the fundamental potential of your ideas.
Slide 4: Your solution
Now it's finally about your idea! Since you have now "warmed up" your audience by describing the common problem in the targeted industry, you can now show them the solution to this problem.
Be careful not to be too specific: Here you should (still) avoid actual data, functions and technical details, but only describe "high-level" how you can profitably solve the previously mentioned problems.
Tip: If the solution to the problem is a bit more complex and contains several steps, you can also include demo videos or infographics instead of boring your audience with several paragraphs.
Slide 5: The product
In this slide of your pitch deck, you can delve more into detail about how your product functions. Present the most important features and functions of your product and check if they validate the USP of your startup.
Do you already have a proof-of-concept, in the form of a mock-up or first user interface? You’re welcome to share it with us!
Slide 6: How it works/ "The underlying Magic"
This slide shows the value chain/backend/technology of your business and strongly depends on the industry. If you are offering a tech product, you can convince investors by demonstrating your sophisticated backend. If you offer a service, you can visualize the customer journey of your potential customers here.
Slide 7: The market potential
Time to stir up a little "FOMO" (fear-of-missing-out)! One of the most challenging, but at the same time also the most important slides. It's now time to show that your idea has the potential to bring in a lot of money.
A well-known and popular concept is the TAM, SAM & SOM system, which enables you to show both the big picture and the specific market that can be tapped. Important: If you use statistics, cite your source!
Often you won't find the exact data, but don't worry: feel free to present your own forecasts and projections. No matter how optimistic they may be, they look especially credible if you add the assumptions and the calculation method of these figures and explain them if necessary.
It can also make sense to outline your target demographic here (or on an extra slide in advance).
Again, be specific!
Slide 8: Your competitive advantage / USP
Make sure you will show investors how your product will set you apart! And remember, this slide can contain both direct and indirect competition. For example: you're launching a new coffee product - in addition to other coffee brands, highly caffeinated teas or energy drinks are also possible substitutes.
So if there is no similar product on the market yet, think outside the box and explain how you can keep your product from being copied.
Slide 9: Your business model
Now that you've demonstrated the potential of your idea, it's time to move on to ways to monetize it. How will your startup generate revenue?
There are countless business models and sales channels. Online sales? Retail sales? Subscription? SaaS? Paar? There may even be multiple revenue streams for your startup. In this case, you should focus only on the most essential ones to underpin a clear approach.
You can always refer to other potential sources of income during the interview. Make sure you show who your paying customer is here! This doesn't necessarily have to be the end consumer, especially in B2B2C models.
Slide 10: Go-to-market and customer acquisition
Now that you've managed to quantify your market and have mentioned your revenue streams, it's time to start telling your investors how you're going to capture the market! What will you do to reach your first customers?
Have you already done competitor research or surveyed potential customers? If so, share the results. A timeline can also be helpful to visually show how you plan to scale.
What sales channels and advertising are you using? Influencers, TV ads, industry partners along the supply chain?
Slide 11: The team
This slide is also essential and sadly often forgotten!
For early-stage startups in particular, investors primarily look at the team behind an idea. It's about credibly selling that you have the right background and motivation for implementation.
Consequently, you don't just want to see a promising idea, but also the faces behind it. Don't be shy! Show what you can do and why you are the right people for the project.
Listing your team creates transparency and credibility. Beneficial content for your team slide:
● Portrait photos
● Role in the company
● Brief summary of work experience (A collage of logos from previous employers can also be integrated here to save words and space).
Slide 12: Timeline and traction
Show us your status quo! Do you already have sales and customers to boast with? Give it to us!
But don't worry: Even if you're still at the beginning and only in proof-of-concept or prototype phase, a timeline slide is a good way to convince. In this case, it makes sense to focus on future steps and mention important milestones. It also shows that you have a clear plan!
Slide 13: Finances
Here you reveal your current financial situation and the future outlook for your startup. If you are skilled in design, you have the opportunity to use various graphics and diagrams to present your statistics and data in an informative and reader-friendly manner.
Avoid slide-filling tables (but ideally you have the business case with corresponding assumptions in a spreadsheet somewhere) and instead use charts with color coding.
Show the most relevant financial matters: Revenues, various expenses (e.g. marketing, R&D, etc.), profit and break-even point.
Note: It is vital that the financials fit your business model and go-to-market strategy and are not unrealistic. Also avoid calculating five years in advance to 3 decimal places and rather work with rounded values
Slide 14: The need for investment
Now it's about your request (For example, this slide only makes sense if the presentation is really focused on investors. If you're in a different setting, a different kind of Call-to-Action at the end makes sense.
This slide suggests to potential investors how you will use their cash injection. Key questions you should answer:
● How much do you want and how do you plan to use the funds?
● How will the investment help you reach the next milestone in your timeline?
● Optionally, depending on the status of the talks (as there is a need for discussion): How much participation will the investors get for it?
Slide 15: Contact / "Get in touch!"
You never know who will end up seeing your pitch deck. So don't forget to ensure there's an easy way for them to get in touch with you. Email, phone number, website are a must. Ideally, you have a specific personal contact instead of an info@ e-mail address.
You now have a toolbox, which you can utilize in the development of your pitch deck. And while the order makes perfect sense, it doesn't necessarily have to be optimal. Often, for example, it can make a lot of sense to show your team at the beginning. Especially if it explains complex content and your team has a special background, this can bring a completely different perception of the idea from the beginning.
I also recommend including a high-level Investment summary in the beginning, highlighting the most important points:
Tip: Imagine you are the investor, customer, or potential business partner. What would you want to know to give you your money?
Design or wording isn’t really your cup of tea?
We'll gladly help you out!
As you can see, even minimalistic-looking pitch decks are sophisticated presentations that play with the psychology of the audience to persuade. In the 10 minutes of your pitch, million-dollar decisions could be made. That's why you should never take shortcuts and scrutinize every sentence when creating your pitch deck.
Need help? Just ask! We'd be happy to help you with your presentation - whether you're just starting out, need some polish, or are just looking for professional feedback. We specialize in creating pitch decks, offer both content work and design, and know-how to leverage your input to customize a deck to reflect your brand's identity and the personalities of its co-founders.