Trying to Write the Ideal Deck
Blog post by ELP student Nishant Patel (Computer Science/Data Science | Class of 2021) Interning at Kode Labs
At Michigan, I am involved in UpRound Venture Capital, a student organization that helps startups get venture funding from firms all across the country. In the club, members are asked to research startups in various industries and then do due diligence reports based on their findings. One of the best ways to quickly understand what a startup does is to read through its pitch deck. This is the set of slides that gives a venture capitalist a high-level understanding of everything about the company and helps them make the decision of whether or not they should invest.
In UpRound, I have read through several pitch decks from various startups which in turn has helped me understand how to better evaluate a company. When I first joined UpRound, I had very little knowledge on how to analyze a deck. However, as I began gaining experience by reading more decks, I started to come up with this rubric in my head of what a deck should look like and what information it should portray. From this, I thought I had a good understanding of how a startup should present themselves in front of venture capitalists for the best chance to secure funding.
Getting the project:
During the final few weeks of my internship at Kode Labs, I was given a project that did not have anything to do with product management. Kode was looking to raise some venture funding and needed a pitch deck to show potential investors. The CEO of the company thought that since I had experience with pitch decks that it would probably be best to give the task to me. I was thrilled about this project since I could really demonstrate my knowledge of venture capital and provide even more value to Kode.
When I sat down to write the deck, I began by creating a template of the overall content I wanted shown and putting it in order. This part was pretty standard since the overall purpose of most decks is to highlight the successes of the company and convince investors that you will give them a high return. However, it started getting a bit more complicated when I dove deeper into the content I was trying to show.
Kode Labs is a smart building platform that works with large commercial building portfolios to get all of its buildings’ information and data in one centralized place. Given that I had worked on implementing new features to the platform and had learned a lot about the smart building space over the summer, I thought that I would have a pretty easy time writing the deck. I wanted to show the vision of Kode through the deck but also make sure the investors would have a clear understanding of basics such as the product, team, and traction.
Starting the Deck:
I began by entering the information I already knew into the template. I talked with some coworkers throughout the day and by the end I had all the content I needed for each slide. However, when I decided to read through the deck, it wasn’t even close to how I expected it to be. The deck didn’t read as well as I thought it would, and from slide to slide there was very little connection. Any venture capitalist would have been confused by the third slide and even though I had given them all the information they would have wanted to see, the vision of Kode was not coming through.
I wondered for a while why a template that I myself used to analyze pitch decks was not working to create a pitch deck for the one company I actually knew the most about. The issue I soon realized was that I was trying to look at the deck from a VC perspective rather than a startups perspective. I wasn’t showing the story of the company through how it came to be and everything it had done to date but instead I was just presenting set facts about the company. So I decided to start over from scratch but this time approach the deck from a new perspective.
Starting the New Deck:
I began by outlining the purpose and vision of Kode that I was trying to present. I still wanted to include most of the same information that I previously had on the other decks but lay it out in an order which made more sense to the investor reading it. After I finished outlining the vision, I put all the information I had gathered in an order that would make more sense to the reader. I also added in more information that did not pertain as much to the finances, product, or growth but more to what the company’s mission was and the value it sought to provide its clients.
By the end, I had created a deck that I was happy to read. Going through it, any investor would be able to tell how Kode began, how it evolved, and what it is today while also learning about how our team, product, and traction all influenced our decision making. I figured out how to showcase Kode to investors the best way possible.
I learned from this experience that there can never be a set template for a pitch deck. Every startup has a different picture to paint for investors and no ideal template will allow all of them to do that. Instead, you should first write down the facts of the company that a traditional investor would look for. Sequoia has a pretty good outline of the basics you would want. After you do that, outline the vision of the company and the story you are trying to tell investors. Try and find the best fit for the information that investors want to see in your outline and fill in the gaps with slides that help transition from one topic to the next but don’t be overbearing on the amount. In the end, you should have a deck that you can be proud of.