I’ve seen a lot of examples of successful startups’ investor decks and they’re not exactly works of art. We don’t really have a design expert on our team so the deck we’re making is nothing to write home about — aesthetically speaking. It does have all of the right ingredients and some impressive growth stats and charts that we’re prepared to talk through. Can we fall back on this and let the design slide?
No, but not likely in the way you think. Guy Kawasaki advocates all decks be black background and white font so graphics are not distracting. Build the deck with no design first to not let the message be balled up in the colors and pictures. Be clear about the message you are delivering in the setting it is delivered. A pitch deck, where you are in the conversation, will have a different structure than a deck sent where you will not be guiding the conversation. Clarity of message is critical in both and heavily weighted to the first three or four slides. Pitch decks should not be more than 10 slides. Full decks, not more than 20. Pitch decks should have a minimum font of 30 pt. They should have fewer than 10 words per slide. Pictures should be relevant to the message. Core is the problem, solution, and why you (team, uniqueness, product/market direction) . Do not explain the technology in depth if at all. Investors do not care how smart your system is if there is no well understood product/market fit, or market size. Non-pitch decks should have no more than 3 points pert slide, and no more than three sub points. Charts are fine, but only as support for the message. All the other information should be in your head and ready for questions. You are not writing a novel; you are getting the attention of people that see 1000 a year and have limited time. They have no shortage of opportunities. They have a substantial shortage of teams that can articulate quickly, are not in love with their technology because they know it will change, and have done the competitive research in depth so are ready to answer relevant questions.
Investors want to see numbers and there is no way to make a spreadsheet "sexy". That said, a coherent presentation that avoids the "bomb-bast" and focuses on the bottom line is always best. A clean, professional presentation with type large enough to read is usually all you need.
Are you going to be selling something to someone as part of your business? If so, design matters. It's a proxy--and a good one--that you understand how to set the quality bar to execute on sales and marketing.
I had to join to answer this question which hints at following too much "Shark Tank".
The investor deck needs to clearly communicate your value proposition and market potential. While good design can help boost the excitement in your startup, it can also get in the way. It also changes importance based on the demographics of the audience.
You may need multiple versions of the deck for:
(1) the first contact email to an investor;
(2) a first live presentation, without an introduction, to an investor;
(3) a pitch contest of various lengths from 3 minutes to 15 minutes;
(4) a second meeting with the investor;
(5) introduction to a potential partner, customer, team member;
(6) open audience presentation.
Considerations on messaging include:
(1) Translation requirements, for example when presenting to Chinese investors;
(2) Geographic location of investors makes a difference on their expectation of messaging;
(3) Do you expect the audience to know something about the technology, business climate, business opportunity, competitors, or industry?
Another thing to note is that the nature of the investor deck has changed over the last 25 years, and continues to change. About 20 years ago, Ernst & Young taught startups to use a deck with 12 (I think) slides. This was the standard prior to the dot com boom and bust. Today, all of the content it required is still required, but much of it may be in an addendum for the Q&A section, or if you are presenting in a VC's office instead of a public venue.
When you are presenting live, you need to keep the number of words on the slide to as small a number as possible and use lots of pictures. I include two videos in my standard deck now because our message is that we are developing a platform for commercial robots, and not just a single niche solution. So we show two different, but aligned, apps on our demonstration robot, one is common to many competitors while the second is something that none of our competitors can do with their robots. Seek out your differentiation, and make it exciting.
Very important for wider range of interested people.
It depends on what you're defining as design. Of course your presentation should look professional, be free from errors, and be easy to read. But if you're talking about graphics and images, only include those that are easy to understand (don't require interpretation), and move your arguments forward. When you're talking to investors, they primarily are interested in reducing risk and reaping financial returns. As long as you aren't sloppy, you don't have to have bold and enticing graphics. You must "design" your presentation to be succinct and credible. That's still design, just not graphic design.
If you have a consumer facing startup your design needs to be great. A major VC once said to me, "You spend millions of dollars getting your product ready and then you charge customers $50 dollars a month. You're asking me for $2 million. Your deck better look great."
If you're in the B2B space or enterprise or otherwise not facing consumers directly, a simpler deck will suffice as long as the value prop of your business is clearly evidenced and your story is told in a compelling way.
If you go to my site you can get a free course on how to build a great deck that doesn't require a lot of design. Keep it simple, use the right slides, lean heavily on the traction you have, and find investors who are a good fit, and the design can take a backseat.
As a graphic designer, I always advocate on the side of good design. It doesn't have to be complex, just clean and easy on the eye. Would you go into a business meeting in your old blue jeans? When a house if being sold, a staged house works better than dirty, overly furnished one. Would you go on a date without shaving or taking a shower? Of course, playing devil's advocate, surgeons always advocate to cut...
I wouldnt really think of it as "good design" as much as good user experience and how the information is presented.
It's like increasing your conversion rate you want them to focus on specific information so that you can lead your narrative as much as possible
I support the idea but there were some design that suppose to be in use with the concept