Crafting the Perfect Pitch Deck: 10 Essential Tips for Fundraising Success

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Fundraising is a critical part of being a founder, yet it can be intimidating and stressful, especially when combined with running a business. What founders often struggle with is zooming out from the day-to-day grind and articulating their vision and business strategy in a coherent, cohesive way. 

Putting pen to paper to write the pitch deck for the business you live and breathe everyday sounds simple but in practice it can be challenging. At Presentation Mode, we specialize in creating killer pitch decks for startups by combining business strategy, storytelling, and design. Having partnered with companies from seed stage to Series F on many successful fundraises, we’re sharing the most valuable tips that we’ve learned along the way.


  1. Keep It Concise

   Aim for a pitch deck that’s no more than 12-15 slides, and avoid packing each slide full of dense data and information. Investors have limited time and are inundated with pitches, so don’t overload them with so much content they won’t be able to digest your main message. Remember that this is an introduction to your business, not a deep dive. Leave investors eager to ask questions so they can learn more.


  1. Use Each Slide to Make a Point that Investors Care About

   Put yourself in the shoes of the VCs who’ll be reading the deck and cater to their need to build conviction about your startup. Ensure that each slide addresses a point investors care about by focusing on points that help them make an informed investment decision. Ask yourself, “If I was investing in this business, what would I want to know? And what wouldn’t I care about?” Build your deck accordingly.


  1. Start Building Your Narrative Before Your Presentation

   Many founders start building their pitch deck by creating slides. This can be a long and inefficient way of doing it. Instead, focus on your narrative first and the slides later. Begin by developing your story in bullet point form in a Word document, answering the big questions you know investors will have. Refine it until it feels crystal clear and has a natural flow, and then move on to designing the slides. Visuals can’t mask a weak story, but a strong story overcomes weak visuals fairly easily.


  1. Use Action-Based Headlines

   Action headlines are a remarkably simple yet powerful technique I learned early in my career at McKinsey – but many decks miss this. Rather than non-descript titles such as “The Problem” and “The Market,” use your headlines to convey a point, takeaway, or insight. For example, we worked with a pet care startup whose first slide powerfully stated: “While pet ownership is booming, the veterinary industry is breaking.” This set up a robust pitch about how their remote pet telehealth model would solve the lack of vet services in many American cities.


  1. Don’t Bury the Lede

   I once had a teacher who would write “ATQ” on essays that didn’t “answer the question” adequately. This taught me the value of getting to the point quickly. It’s the same with pitch decks. Within the first three slides, it should be extremely clear who you are, what your business is here to do, and why this is a compelling opportunity for investors. Early clarity sets the tone for the rest of your presentation. A pitch deck is not the place for suspense or a grand reveal. Leave that to the fiction novelists.


  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Lean Into Emotion

   Many pitch decks come across as academic. While it’s important to have a strong basis of facts and analysis, remember that the human brain is much better at remembering stories than data. In fact, a founder’s personal story can often help VCs understand their passion and unique insight behind the company. For instance, highlighting those late nights painfully spent manually solving a problem you’re now solving with AI communicates how you, as the founder, are both uniquely qualified and driven by a burning desire to solve this problem.


  1. Nail the Problem-Solution Setup

   A strong problem-solution setup makes the rest of the deck easier to write, follow, and be persuaded by. Is the problem compelling (i.e., obviously painful, unsolved, and likely to lead to a large TAM)? If so, then investors will be interested in your solution and how you plan to build a business around it. The start of the story is the most important part to nail, so it’s worth investing the extra time and effort to make sure it really hits home. Common mistakes here are describing an overly niche problem that doesn’t feel like a venture-backable opportunity or describing a problem that’s unduly vague and hard to connect with.


  1. Don’t Hand Wave at the Market Sizing

   Many companies don’t take market sizing seriously enough. Often, it’s left to the last minute, resulting in numbers that aren’t fully thought through and cause a founder to lose credibility. Conduct a logical, bottoms-up analysis of your market opportunity and avoid using random numbers from market research reports or adjacent market sizes that don’t reflect your business model. For example, if you’re a takeout delivery company, your TAM isn’t all food–or even all food sold by restaurants; it’s specifically the portion of orders you’ll capture as revenue via service fees. Apply your business model to the market size to hone in on the specific revenue opportunity. Remember, VC firms have in-house analysts and they will double-check your math! 


  1. Highlight Real Traction

   The later the stage of your fundraising, the more you’ll need to demonstrate real signs of traction. The earlier the stage, the more traction might need to be leading indicators. While revenue is the ultimate form of traction, it’s not the only one. Other measures could include early customer logos, the pipeline, product launches, key hires, partnerships, or any major accomplishments that demonstrate momentum. Early-stage startups can use customer quotes or early usage data to show evidence of being on the right track.


  1. Be Clear About Your Ask (and Be Bold!)

    After all this hard work to build a product, build a company, build a deck, and get investors in the room to listen to you, you must stick the landing and be clear about what you want from them. Be really specific about your ask and proposed use of funds. Why do you need this money? How will you use it to accelerate progress? What milestones will you hit over the next 12-18 months? You’ll be surprised how hard it is to say no to a clearly and convincingly delivered ask.

Finally, don’t be intimidated by the process and try to enjoy it! Remember that VC pitches are tremendous learning opportunities for you as well. Each time you pitch, you should take something away that helps refine both your pitch and your company’s strategy – think of it as free advice from experts who have looked at countless businesses in your space! By following these tips, you’ll be better prepared to craft a pitch deck that effectively communicates your startup’s value proposition and sets you up for more – and more successful – investor meetings. 


Best of luck to all GBx founders in your fundraising journeys, and do let me know if we can help!


By Carl Fudge,

CEO, Presentation Mode