What startups need in their Series A deck
With a busy fundraising fall underway, we’ve been highlighting the things that startups need to successfully raise a Series A. We started with a relatively neglected topic, the data room. Today, we’re looking at the pitch deck, and we’ve even created a template that you can browse below or download as a PowerPoint.
Most founders are much more familiar with the deck than the data room, and they probably have one prepared already. But that familiarity doesn’t make it any less crucial. After all, your deck is how many investors will form their first impression of you, before you get a chance to pitch them in-person or over Zoom.
In fact, one of the most common requests sent to our Ask a Seed VC advice column is for feedback on pitch decks. Unfortunately, it wouldn’t be feasible to provide a detailed critique of every deck, but we can provide some tips on how to do it right.
At a high level, the Series A deck should paint a clear picture of your long-term vision for your company. It should describe your current product and progress towards this goal, as well as provide detail around the reasons that you’re raising additional capital.
While it’s easier to sell a grand vision or dream when you’re putting together materials for your seed round, Series A investors will be more focused on data. At the same time, be careful not to overload the deck with too much information. The deck itself should be around 20 slides, so it’s better to think of it as more of a high-level outline of your full presentation. If and when you get a chance to pitch live, this will also allow you to take the time to engage with the investor, rather than feeling pressured to rush through 30 or 40 slides in a 30-minute conversation.
The deck does still need to function as a standalone document, so you should also prioritize readability. This means trying to distill complex ideas into concepts that can be readily understood by investors and defining any language/terms that might not be widely used by the mainstream.
We’ve gone into additional detail below about the key slides (pictured below) and information that every founder should include a Series A deck:
The team slide: Investors often argue about where you should put this one, but we believe that it should probably be slide 1 or 2. That’s because investors want to become familiar with the people behind the product early on, whether we’re flipping through the deck or you’re pitching us directly. When the team slide is second, it also gives you a great opportunity to walk investors through your background and impress upon them why your unique set of experiences makes you and your team the best one to build and scale the product.
The team slide should only feature people who are building the product and company — it should not include advisors. It’s best if the people on the team slide are also all full-time or could be potentially full-time once you raise the next round. This slide doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be informative. Highlighted team members should have photos and their roles should be clearly displayed.
As the team gets larger, less also becomes more when delving into the experience of key team members. Instead of painstakingly writing out all the prior roles of current teammates, you might just want to use logos and highlight one or two team leaders like the CEO and CTO, or the CEO and Head of Growth.
The problem slide: This is integral for framing the market gap that you’ve identified and the niche that your company/product is trying to address.
The market slide(s): Talking about the problem naturally flows into describing the market. Investors want to know how big of an opportunity this could be. However, it’s important to strike the right balance between describing a market whose size is attractive, while also being realistic about how much of that market the solution you’re developing will actually address.
For example, if the total venture market for beverages is $1 billion, and you’re making a specialty organic golden milk with turmeric, your TAM is probably actually a much smaller subset of the consumers who are into healthy alternatives like the one you’re developing, or the ones whose tastebuds could be swayed.
On another slide, you can talk about trends in your product’s market. This is where you get a chance to discuss some of the secular factors that support the “why now” for building this product. You can talk about macro drivers, technological innovation, and the cultural zeitgeist that are providing winds for your company’s sails. (We wrote a bit more about market size in Ask a Seed VC .)
The product slide(s): Now that you’ve convinced investors that there is a real problem and that now is the optimal time to enter the market, you should talk about how your product provides a solution. You can use anywhere from 1–2 slides on this. If you do go the two-slide route, the first slide can be more high-level answers to how you are solving for the issue and the second can provide a bit more granularity.
The traction slide(s): You should summarize traction across 2–5 slides. This is the best place to highlight the key performance indicators (KPIs) that investors want to see, and to make the case that your company has achieved product-market fit.
Some examples of questions you might answer on this slide include: How many customers/users does the company have? What’s the average customer value (ACV)? What’s your customer acquisition cost (CAC)? How is user acquisition trending? How frequently are customers using the product? What’s ARR? What does churn look like?
Whatever you end up showcasing, take advantage of the opportunity to present your data visually here by adding graphs and infographics. A simple bar graph of your monthly customer growth or revenue has the potential to be very impactful in helping investors to conceptualize your company’s outperformance. If you have some brand-name customers in your portfolio, don’t be afraid to name-drop by adding their logos, this also provides investors with a quick list of potential referencing points.
The product roadmap slide(s): At this point in the deck, investors know what you’ve built and hopefully understand the product, but they don’t know where you’re going yet. This is the slide where you get to address all the possibilities for the company in the short and medium term. If you have an idea for how long it will take to roll out additional product features or have key milestones that you’re planning on hitting, you can put these into timeline format. If you have more abstract long-term goals, you may want to add an additional slide with more detail on these as they probably don’t have a clear timeline yet. The product roadmap provides a good segue into the fundraising slide and will help to serve as a reference point for why you’re raising money.
The fundraising slide: It may seem counterintuitive to have this as one of the last slides in your deck, but it’s pretty much standard for this to go last. You should reiterate key uses of fundraising capital succinctly. This will then allow investors to dive into questions about allocations, syndicate formation, your fundraising timeline and all the other nitty gritty.
Again, you can also view the full deck template or download it as a PowerPoint. (We built this in Pitch.com and used one of their visual templates.) Hopefully, this should provide a solid foundation for creating a Series A deck of your own. If you’ve got other questions about your deck, you can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll try to answer as part of Ask a Seed VC.