Should I start with a framework or start from scratch?

You have a great idea, your rock star startup team is all lined up and your business plan is ready to be executed. What you need next is a solid financing round from smart money business angels or venture capitalists. So you are working on your pitch deck, but the big question is how to structure your pitch deck to get the maximum impact?

The good news is: There are frameworks and pitch deck templates that are widely accepted throughout the industry, so you do not have to start from scratch. The bad news is: There is more than one template and it is hard to find information about which one is THE BEST template for your perfect investors pitch deck. So this is where this article comes in handy.

The Best Pitch Deck Templates for Startups

Out of the hundreds of pitch deck guides you can find on the internet, three are widely recognized as thought-leading in the investors space: The Sequoia pitch deck template, Guy Kawasaki’s pitch outline and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups’ Pitch Advice.

Sequoia Pitch Deck Template

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Sequoia Capital is a huge name in the startup industry. The portfolio is full of big names and ranges from industry giants like Apple, Google and Cisco to today’s unicorns like AirBnB, WhatsApp and Square.

The Sequioa Pitch Deck Template is a one-page overview article about the 10 areas you have to cover in your pitch deck. Often it is misinterpreted as a 10-slide presentation, but the framework actually recommends to cover these ten topics in a pitch deck of 15 to 20 slides.

Key Facts about Sequoia Capital’s pitch deck template:

  • Slide Titles:
    1. Company Purpose
    2. Problem
    3. Solution
    4. Why Now
    5. Market Size
    6. Competition
    7. Product
    8. Business Model
    9. Team
    10. Financials
  • Released in Year:  ~ 2007

Guy Kawasaki Pitch Deck Template

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Guy Kawasaki is one of the leading voices when it comes to marketing and investing in technology companies. He started his career at Apple inventing the role of technology evangelist and today is famous throughout the world for his books and speaking about marketing, tech and entrepreneurship.

 

The Guy Kawasaki’s pitch deck outline is a clean framework that is very strict in its structure: a 10 slide pitch deck. Actually the concept goes even a step further implementing the 10/20/30 rule of PowerPoint:


The pitch should have 10 slides, take a maximum of 20 minutes to present and all text on the slides should have a minimum font size of 30.

 

Key Facts about Guy Kawasaki’s pitch deck template:

  • Slide Titles:
    • Title
    • The Problem / Opportunity
    • Value Proposition
    • Underlying Magic / Technology
    • Business Model
    • Go-To-Market Plan
    • Competition
    • Management Team
    • Financial Projections / Key Metrics
    • Milestones / Use of Funds
  • Released in Year: 2005

 

Dave McClure’s 500 Startups Pitch Deck Template

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Dave McClure is founder and CEO of 500 Startups, one of the most famous and successful seed accelerators and investment funds for early stage internet startups. He is also internet entrepreneur, blogger of the famous 500 hats blog on entrepreneurship and ex-employee of Facebook, Skype and Microsoft.

The pitch deck template proposed by Dave McClure and 500 Startups  in his famous presentation “How to Pitch a VC (or Angel)” is actually an entertaining 28-slide presentation in itself. Compared to the other frameworks its focus is more on a live pitch on stage. Nevertheless, it is also used widely in email-attachment pitch documents.

Key Facts about Dave McClure’s 500 Startups pitch deck template:

  • Slide Titles:
    • Elevator Pitch
    • The Problem
    • Your Solution + Demo
    • Market Size
    • Business Model
    • Proprietary Tech
    • Competition
    • Marketing Plan
    • Team / Hires
    • Money / Milestones
  • Released in Year: 2012

Which pitch deck outline works best for me?

Take a look at the three frameworks and decide which one is best for your needs. In case you need a little help with making your choice, here is our suggestion:

What are you pitching for?Which outline to use?Why?
Live on Stage, Pitch CompetitionDave McClure 500 StartupsThis is an entertaining format for a short, live pitch. This was designed for presenting on a stage.
Seed FinancingGuy KawasakiA short, 10-slide pitch format for early stage companies. You will be able to fill in most of the slides, even if you have just started your company.
Series A or later financing roundSequoiaThis outline goes into a lot of detail on all aspects. So it is a good choice, when you already have a running machine and deep insights about your startup.

 

The best of all worlds – the perfect startup pitch deck

So there you are with three frameworks for your pitch deck, while what you really are looking for is the single best pitch deck template for you to raise money for your startup. So we have taken the time to analyze what these decks have and in common and where they differ.

Which are the most important slides?

All three investment deck frameworks have large overlaps in the slides they contain, but there are some differences when it comes to the details. This can help you in building the perfect pitch deck. We have analyzed in how many of the three frameworks each slide appears and used this as an indicator about the importance of each slide: 3 appearances = must-have slide, 2 = should-have slide, 1 = nice-to-have slide.

Must have slides

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These slides are present in each of the three templates and can be considered a must-have, even if you have to cut down your pitch to an absolute minimum, for example for a 90-second or 3-minute elevator pitch contest:

  • Overview
  • Problem
  • Business Model
  • Competition
  • Team

Should have slides

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Each of these slides are included in two of the frameworks and can be considered a should have. They are necessary in order to give a full overview about your startup and no investment decision will ever be taken by an angel investor or venture capital funds if you do not include these. So if you are preparing a full pitch deck, please make sure to add these slides to your presentation:

  • Solution
  • Demo
  • Market Size
  • Product / Tech
  • Financials / Forecast
  • Status / Milestones

Nice-to-have Slides

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These slides are a good add-on to give some more background information about your company. Some investors might find these essential, others will see them as not relevant in a first pitch deck. So if you are already fighting to cut down on the number of slides for your deck – like most startups do – start with removing these from your main deck. But keep them ready for follow-up questions from the analyst or for presenting to the investment committee.

  • Company Name / Title Slide
  • Unfair Advantages
  • Why Now
  • Sales & Marketing

What should be included in these slides?

So after you have selected which slides you want to include in your deck, it is time to put them into a story line that flows nicely and to fill them with content that sells. Make the content as short and concise as possible, but make sure that you include important points that investors will be screening for:

  • Company Name / Title Slide: Company name. Direct contact details of main contact person for investors (e.g. CEO/CFO).
  • Overview: What does your company stand for? Condense it into a punchy, single sentence.
  • Problem: What is the customers’ pain? How are they solving it today?
  • Solution: How do you make the customers’ life better? Some examples help to understand. Show how you are providing a pain killer, not a vitamin.
  • Unfair Advantages: What are your unfair advantages? Tech? Team? Intellectual Property? Market Access? Something else?
  • Demo: In a live pitch situation, it is always a good idea to include a short demo of your solution. Be prepared for the case that the demo fails, the internet connection is lost, etc.
  • Why Now: Why has this not been solved before? Why is it possible and important to do it now?
  • Market Size: Show the market you are targeting as well as its size. Try to use external, trustworthy sources. If not possible, make your own market size approximation. Important terms are total available market (TAM), serviceable available market (SAM), serviceable obtainable market (SOM).
  • Competition: Who are your competitors? What are your and their competitive advantages? Provide some detail about KPIs etc. that you have from your competitors and how you compare to them.
  • Sales & Marketing: How are you approaching the market? How are you currently gaining your customers? How will you scale that in the future? Who are your important reference clients? What is your current sales pipeline?
  • Business Model: What is your revenue model and pricing? Provide some KPIs to give insight into your “machine”: Average account size, Customer lifetime value (CLTV), Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)
  • Product / Tech: What is your Product now? Do you have intellectual property / proprietary technology? What is your product roadmap for the future? If you do not include a live demo, this slide can also be shown earlier in the pitch. Make it visual, use less text.
  • Financials / Forecast: Actuals and planned financials, including revenues, costs, cash burn. Also include details like cap table and terms of the proposed investment deal.
  • Team: What is your rock star line up? Include founders, key hires, advisors and important existing investors.
  • Status / Milestones: What have you achieved so far? Where will the new investment take you?

Our cheat sheet is summing it all up

There are a lot of pitch deck outlines, templates and frameworks available. These frameworks frameworks by Sequoia, Guy Kawasaki and 500 Startup’s Dave McClure have been in place for almost a decade now and so you can be sure, that the effort you put into mastering them is wisely invested. Sometimes you can get lost in the template jungle. That is why we have put together the “Unicorn Pitch Deck Cheat Sheet” for you:

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Feel free to share it with your startup friends.


Posted by Dennis von Ferenczy

Dennis von Ferenczy is serial-entrepreneur, business angel and co-founder of amiando (World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer; trade sale to listed business platform XING), co-founder of IDnow (www.idnow.eu), a leading provider of identification technology and most recently backer of Unicorn Pitch - startup pitch deck design service (https://unicornpitch.com).