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Karol Oponowicz
11.01.2023 | 6 min

How to sell your idea to investors? Guide to startup pitch decks

Karol has participated in creating many investor pitch decks, and today he will share his knowledge on how to do it properly. A must-read for startup CEOs!

How to sell your idea to investors? Guide to startup pitch decks - 2024 25
Table of Contents
  • 2 types of startup pitch decks
  • What are the two most critical things in a startup pitch?
  • How to pitch a startup? 5 steps

We have recently returned from Oslo Innovation Week, where we spent 5 days with founders of startups and scaleups who were looking for, are looking for, or are planning to look for investor funding.

We had dozens of conversations with them and advised them on how to present their idea to get funding (like the one that Kyotopia got with our help in 2021. Spoiler alert: they got $17,000,000).

We've also seen hundreds of new pitch decks, which inspired me to share my knowledge on creating successful startup presentations. So let's get to it.

2 types of startup pitch decks

There are two basic types of pitch decks.

The first is a short presentation, with no more than a dozen or so slides containing the essential product information and a few simple graphics and charts. Startups use it as a background when they present their idea f2f with investors.

A classic example of such a presentation is the 12-slide iPhone pitch deck by Steve Jobs.

The second type is a much more extensive pitch deck where you describe your product accurately and in detail. Here you're not afraid of long texts because investors will definitely read the whole thing if they are interested in the idea. You usually e-mail this type of pitch deck straight to VCs, business angels, etc.

As a rule of thumb, you want to prepare both of them, but eventually, it comes down to the type of funding and applying rules.

What are the two most critical things in a startup pitch?

Before I get to how to create a pitch deck step by step, I want to consider two significant things in selling startup ideas that aren't discussed so much.

First, be honest. When you talk about the stage of the project, what kind of team you have or what research you have done with users so far – don't lie. The first one to invest in you will thoroughly check your background and will definitely catch all distortions and overselling, so simply don’t waste your time.

Secondly, the presentation's beginning and end are the most important. The opening inspires investors and encourages them to carefully read or listen to the following fragments. Your last slides are supposed to leave them on fire, intrigued. You won't be the only startup to check out, so you must stand out and leave a mark in their head.

If you meet these two conditions, the rest will more or less work itself out. :)

How to pitch a startup? 5 steps

The Startup scene is over 15 years old, and tens of thousands of pitch decks have been created since then. There are already specific standards of what and how to present, and on the Internet, you will find thousands of pitch decks that have been successful and can be a source of inspiration.

There are many online guides and even online pitch creators like that walk you step by step through creating a good pitch. We use them with our clients too, and I must admit they're really helpful.

Nevertheless, before building a pitch deck, it's good to know its basic structure, which is the starting point for every successful funding. So let's break this structure into 5 parts.

  1. What problem do you solve?

Your pitch should start with your idea, the problem you want to solve, or the gain you want to bring to the people. Therefore, at the beginning of the pitch deck, you define a specific use case; real-life examples of how your product can change the world.

You must also describe your target audience concerning your future product at this stage. For example, how big is the potential recipient group, where are they located, what are they characterized by, and what are they struggling with?

Especially for VCs and business angels, it will also be necessary to provide financial data: how much is this market worth and how you intend to monetize your idea. At this point, however, you want to avoid diving too deep into details; the time will come for that.

2. How do you solve the problem?

Next, you go to your solution and show investors how it looks and works.

Visual presentation is critical at this stage. Although there are situations where you don't need any graphics (mainly EU funding and startup incubators), if you count on money from VCs, you definitely need some sort of visualization.

The bare minimum you want to show at this stage is a simple, clickable graphical prototype that showcases the basic user journey.

Personally, however, I recommend investing heavily in UX, a designer, or even a development team to show investors a graphically refined proof of concept. Something clickable and tangible that you can send to investors so they can use it, or you can present it as a demo.

3. How are you different from the competition?

You can be sure that investors will ask you about your competition and how you differ from them. Therefore, I recommend being one step ahead and describing the unique value of your idea in the presentation, preferably with nice and clean comparison graphics of some sort.

However, at this point, you're not yet to analyze your competition too deeply. It's more about the fundamental, most important differentiator from other solutions.

4. Project roadmap and monetization

In the next part, you focus on the current state of your startup, how you see its success in a couple of years and what you need to get there. So here you describe:

Your team. Who is behind the product, and what competencies and experience do you have/

The current state of the product. Do you already have a prototype, proof of concept, or the first version released for use?

Monetization. This part will likely be of great interest to investors. So, how big is the market of recipients, and how will they pay for your idea? All kinds of market analysis, statistics, and charts will come in handy.

Product roadmap. How do you predict that the app will evolve in the short term, a few quarters, and the long term?

The amount of the investment and its purpose. How much money are you applying for, what do you want to spend it on and in what time frame? It must be a realistic, well-thought-out plan, consulted with business, industry, and technology specialists who would be involved in implementing the product.

A vision of success. At this stage, you also want to present your vision of the world after your startup is successful. What will change in the market? What will happen to the competition? How users' behavior will change.

5. Summary

After the financial part, it's time for a summary; as I mentioned, this is the most critical part of the presentation. We remember life events primarily based on how they end, which is no different from a startup pitch deck.

That is why you avoid any financial details and the project roadmap in the last part. You aren't appealing to investors' brains but to emotions. So you focus on the main idea and how it's supposed to improve the world.

This is when you need to sell a vision of the world, not the product itself, because it's just a tool to achieve a higher goal. You need to describe and tell about it in an encouraging, inspiring, and engaging way.

You want to leave investors with shivers down their spines, thinking that their money can change the world for the better.

And, in the meantime, fill their investment portfolios with some juicy money. But not a word about it in the last couple of minutes of the presentation, please! :)

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