Fundraising · Venture capital

Should you pitch investors with a deck?


September 20th, 2015

There’s a trend lately to pitch investors without a deck. I fully believe you should have a deck in your back pocket, but I’ve had better luck having a conversation to start and sending the deck after. it's more natural and has yielded better results. From others experience, should founders pitch with or without a Deck? What have others found most success with? 

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

September 21st, 2015

They always say about a committee meeting that you should know the result of the vote before you walk in the room. 

The same applies with pitch decks. Walking into a room full of strangers, hoping your pitch deck will win the day is just naive. 

Do your research. Find out the bio of everyone in the room. What interests them, what they have invested in previously and how well it went, where they were educated, even whether they have a partner and children.

Put these bios together. Work out common themes - what will get general enthusiasm, what will only get one or two. And look for the likely power dynamic - who will defer to whom, who will take opposite positions etc.

Ideally you should have some insiders... people who are on your side and can turn negative conversations to your advantage. People who can explain key points and build on your ideas (it works better when they do it than you do).

This takes a lot of work. But then, you aren't simply making a single sale - these are going to be your partners if you are accepted. 

One of the hangovers of the industrial age is the idea that sales is purely a numbers game. That neither party can or does do research beforehand. And that you can afford to pitch and accept a failure rate of 1 in 10 or whatever.

The Pitch is the end game - the "are we all on the same page and agreed about what we are going to do together" moment. The trying out, seeing if there is a fit etc. happens long before.

Sutha Kamal Investor - VP Technology Strategy

September 20th, 2015

Use a deck. The best way to tell a story is to *deliberately* craft and tell that story. There's a reason that Jobs' keynotes were so carefully designed, choreographed and rehearsed. If a deck makes you really uncomfortable, that's fine, but remember that a VC is generally trying to answer a bunch of big questions about the market, product, team, etc. in a short amount of time. A well designed and rehearsed pitch should be able to cover a lot of these quickly, giving you more time to have that free-flowing, natural conversation you mention.

Peter Johnston Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.

September 22nd, 2015

There is a 20th century way of presenting here and a 21st century one.

The 20th century one is flat file. Show them a slide, with no opportunity to interrogate it, drill down or manipulate the data.

That forces people into a personal evaluation. They must decide whether you personally are credible, are being devious with the data, or know what you are doing. Often it means half an hour's interrogation to get the true data off a single slide.

Or there is the data visualisation presentation. Here the recipient is able to not only see an item such as a graph, but see for themselves what happens if, for example, customer numbers move by 10%. It also allows 5-Whys style drill down where they can see the assumptions made, the data sources and how the top-line figures are constructed.

This means they can see the quality of the people and thinking for themselves - not just the presenter but the whole team.

Personally I wouldn't accept a 20th century presentation any more. I'd assume the person was stuck in that century and incapable of mastering the data capabilities they need to run a modern business. I'd rather have the spreadsheets and construct my own graphs and projections to verify their proposition. But if a presenter has a live link to the sort of visualisation I've just described, I'd know these guys had the data capability to run a 21st century business. And I'd be able to spend time to work out for myself whether their idea had legs or not.

Alexander Ross Head of Business Development at Verifide

September 21st, 2015

Short version... use the pitch deck to guide the conversation to the story you want to tell. Don't be a slave to the deck, of course, but it helps focus the overall conversation.

Jeffrey Weitzman Consultant at Space-Time Insight

September 21st, 2015

In my experience, you need a pitch deck. You need to create it to hone your pitch, as others have advised, and you will often be asked to send it in advance of a meeting. There are tons of resources online about what makes a good pitch deck, and some contradictory advice. I think the most important thing is that it be concise, cover the most critical information for your stage (e.g. for a seed investment, the go-to-market slide is going to be key), and look good.

I think that last bit is often overlooked. You will see examples of some very big companies that had pretty awful early pitch decks. But you won't see the thousands that failed. So spend time, energy, and yes, some money, on a really great deck. Good design can have an impact, and you should agonize over the wording on every slide. Always try to use fewer words if you can. Don't create slides that you will read. Create slides that complement what you intend to say. Make sure you have articulated the problem/solution or value proposition so clearly that you could stop right there. If the investors believe you at that point, then the only thing left to figure out is whether you are the right people to solve that problem. If they don't buy the premise, the rest of the deck won't change anything.

Finally, having a great deck doesn't mean you have to use it every time. Have it ready, but if you can dive into a discussion with a potential investor, even better. You should know your pitch cold and be able to give it without any visuals. If the conversation goes well, the investor buys your problem/solution proposition, and things are clicking, then feel free to pull up a slide with details that you want to get into. It's all about connection and energy.

Linda Plano Life's a pitch. Make yours amazing!

September 21st, 2015

My guess is that this trend comes from investors who are sick and tired of looking at pitch decks, especially poorly done pitch decks. 

As a pitch coach, my experience is that the first thing investors ask for before offering to have a formal meeting is to see your pitch deck. It's a reality check for them and a marketing doc to interest their partners in coming to your pitch.

Even if you didn't need to send a deck ahead, I think it's a very bad idea to present *anything* without visuals. People take in information and learn in different ways: some do better when they can read, others when seeing visuals, and others by listening. Usually, it's a mix of all 3 but, for instance, if you pitched to me, a very visual learner, just by talking, chances are that I'd miss important information. 

Assuming, as Andrew Lockley said, that you are doing more than an informal elevator pitch, you need a deck. You never know how people learn when you are first pitching to them, so having no deck, i.e., no visuals nor writing, is a risky move, IMO.

You are also making your life more difficult in the long run: If you are going to pitch without visuals, then you have to have memorized your pitch - which is always a good idea. If you don't, the chances of your forgetting important ideas is very high. Heck, that happens all the time even with well-prepared decks!

Finally, when I am retained to develop a pitch (visuals and script), I invariably find that creating the visuals forces me to be more accurate in telling the story than when I just write a script. 

Scott McGregor Advisor, co-founder, consultant and part time executive to Tech Start-ups. Based in Silicon Valley.

September 22nd, 2015

What investors  know or believe coming into a meeting colors their expectations as to what is interesting. And their knowledge, beliefs and interests very a lot, vary a lot from person-to-person.  If you do  not have a tailored deck to those expectations you can spend too much time going over old, obvious or irrelevant material for the investor, and lose their interest, before you get to the parts that they are most curious about.   

Often they are not really listening to what you have to say until you address some primary concern. Then you can move on to their secondary concern. And so on, peeling the onion. The chance that your deck will be in the right order for their concerns if you do not know them well is low. If your slides are used as backups to a conversation and you can jump from slide to slide, this is not a problem. But if you stick to a canned presentation that you use over and over with many investors chances are it will be ill-suited to most of those meetings. And generate suboptimal results. 

Many complaints by entrepreneurs that investors did not listening to their presentation, can be explained by their own unwillingness to adjust their presentation to the order of questions in the minds of their listeners. A pitch is a kind of dance, and needs to be adjusted to the interests and abilities of both dance partners.

For this reason, I recommend using your slides as just back up to a conversation that follows the investor's current interest from moment to moment, rather than forcing, or hoping, the investor to follow your predefined canned presentation. 

Wayne Barz

September 22nd, 2015

My first reaction is..."why are you asking us?"  If you've been invited to pitch, I'd ask your host if they have a preference. Investors each have their own styles, so know what they want.  Always, always, always have a short (10 slide?) deck ready to serve as a discussion guide and have lots of backup slides available in case the conversation gets deep.

Andrew Lockley

September 20th, 2015

Depends entirely on context. If it's a literal elevator pitch, or during a dinner, then no. If it's a formal meeting or presentation, then usually. But your deck is probably rubbish and a good investor is probably quicker than the deck if you just let him ask the questions (should he want to). A

David Beatty Entrepreneur

September 22nd, 2015

Do whatever you need to do to achieve your objective for the pitch, (which is most often to get the next meeting).  Thats all that really matters.  And if the investor/investors have a hard rule on what you have to do, they are probably not the people you want as investor partners in your company.