Top ten things to include in a startup pitch deck

We asked some of our River City Labs Mentors and Investors what their personal preference was for startup pitches. Below is a compilation of their individual lists of

'Top 10 things to include in a Startup Pitch Deck' 

Hope you find them useful.


STEVE BAXTER (Founder RCL & Investor)

Top 10  things you feel are are essential to include in a Startup's Pitch Deck.

(for a standard 5 -7 minute pitch to Investors)

1. Introduction which should include, if it is a pitch for investment what the invest is, eg - My name is Steve Baxter from River City Labs and I am here today to promote to you our investment event - River Pitch. I am trying to ask you for sponsorship of $20,000 in order to expose your business and brand to the early stage and startup, mobile and web community in Brisbane. RIver Pitch has conducted 2 events so far, we have received pitch entries from 58 companies, we have received pitches from 9, we have had 63 tickets sold to investors for the 2 events. 1 company that pitched has closed a round and another is in the process of closing a round with introductions gained via River Pitch (we will take that as an assist).

2. What is the problem, eg. Brisbane has a very nascent startup scene, we are a great city that typically has been the base of operations for businesses other than globally attractive mobile and web operators. This manifests itself across many areas such as investment attraction for early stage businesses. We have identified a gap in the current capabilities of local startups to be able to present a clear and consistent and INVESTABLE message to investors.

3. What do you do to fix the problem you have identified, eg - River Pitch is a series of events that culminate in high net worth pitch nights designed to increase the pitching skills of the target market. We want more businesses to get their foot in the door  with investors. River Pitch is an annual series of 16 investment and pitch preparation events held at River City Labs intermixed with 6 investment dinners held each year.

4. The Team. eg - River Pitch is an effort undertaken by River City Labs, the great team at the labs includes Peta Ellis and Jessie Roberts who organise the content for the events and the pitching dinners as well.

5. Competition. eg - Brisbane has very few choices for early stage funding and almost no programs that actively try to the improve the chances of early stage businesses trying to get investment. Brisbane angels runs a network of investors who typically invest up to $300,000 in syndicate on deals, they have a structured approach and deal with a wide range of deals (things other than web and mobile). River Pitch is tightly targeted at a specific community and is trying for specific outcomes, we do not require that any investor wishing to invest in any deal seen via River Pitch goes through any process - we are just investment introduction.

6. Business Model. eg - River Pitch is a combination of sponsorship in order to pay for the resources required to run the program and tickets sales for the 6 pitching dinners. Tickets to the pitching dinners are $176, we target 5 picthes for the night and try to get 30 paying investors in the room. Pitching businesses can bring up to 2 participants and are not charged entry, we actively move the entrepreneurs between tables between courses during the dinner.

7. Forecasts/Success metrics . eg. River Pitch will be successful if after 12 months we have dramatically increased the investment readiness of the businesses we are seeing and that more businesses are getting access to willing investors. Investment metrics are harder to forecast as the willingness of the community to invest relies not just on a good pitch but also a good opportunity and the general economic conditions at the time.

8. Closing - summarise what happens next and how to get in touch. eg. We would like to close this sponsorship round by 5 March 2013 and would welcome you onboard as a major sponsor.

Top 3 most annoying things to see in a Pitch Deck ( he needed 4 :) )

1. Other than exact treatment of numbers. They should know what they have spent to do, if they can't count their own money then they will get none of mine.

2. wild 'hockey stick' forecasts - where the forecasts from sales of (say) $100k this year to $15m the year after !

3. Anything that is hard to read.

4. Replicating your notes on the pitch deck is pointless and a waste of time, the pitch deck should summarise and/or add colour to what you are saying

The #1 slide a Startup Pitch must have and is often left out.

What you are asking for : $x for y%



Greg Beaver (Investor & RCL MENTOR):

Top 10 things you feel are essential to include in a Startup's Pitch Deck.

(for a standard 5 -7 minute pitch to Investors)

1. Has the business model hypothesis been tested

2. What is the ‘unfair’ advantage

3. Is there a ‘compelling’ need

4. Clearly identified market and channel strategies

5. Is the business lean, mean and able to ‘pivot’ with opportunities

6. The team’s experience and capabilities to execute

7. Passion and commitment of founders to hang in during tough times

8. Clearly articulated ‘use of funds’ linked to milestones

9. Realistic valuation

10. Follow on investment strategies

Top 3 most annoying things to see in a Pitch Deck

1. Too many market statistics

2. Over valued

3. Don’t really understand their market and channels to market

The #1 slide a Startup Pitch must have and is often left out.

1.     Value proposition



Pitch Presentation MUST HAVES:

Start with your elevator pitch in this structure:

My (our) Company, (company name) is developing (a defined offering) to help ( a target audience) solve a problem with secret sauce.

Problem (that you solve), so what?

Solution (your UNIQUE solution)

Product Risk (underlying technology behind your solution)

Market Risk (TAM specific to niche and how you can scale this to other verticals (their size) or markets, how do you know the market wants it)

Management Risk (how you will win above all others, team, who are we betting on)

Financial Risk (capital efficiency with time considered)

Competition Risk (winning against who)

Ask (how much and for what)

Go To Market: (how do you win, execution risk, yes this is a sixth and most important risk)

Milestones, use of funds, succeed by when

How much of your own funds committed to date

Summary reasons to invest

Common Errors in Presentation Materials:

  1. Grammatical and spelling errors
  2. Writing in narrative rather than outline format
  3. Misunderstanding the difference between total market and addressable market
  4. Approaching the financial model from the top down
  5. Leaps of faith (unsupported assumptions)
  6. Focusing on the technology and not the business
  7. Ignoring or dismissing the competition
  8. Projections that are too aggressive or too conservative
  9. Failing to provide your basic contact information

Overall Comments:

An investment pitch is not a sales or advertising call/opportunity. THIS SHITS ME TO TEARS MORE OFTEN THAN NOT. Laborious rants about the next facebook or Instagram make me glaze over. Get your head out of the sky and FOCUS on making money!

Investors are not looking to buy your product (the product or service your company makes/provides), they are looking to support your company for attractive financial returns

Investors are assessing the investability of your company and the impact that their money, time & network will have on achieving a positive outcome

Speak to the investors in terms of how you are the right people with the right idea and right roadmap for success

Do not try to sell the investors your product, they may not exactly understand the intricacies of your offering but may recognise you are an investable company through your investor pitch

Be clear and to the point with your investor pitch. Keep it focussed on how you are de-risking the investment opportunity for the investors (by addressing 5 fundamental risks 1. Product Risk, Market Risk, Management Risk, Competition Risk, Financial Risk + execution risk (go to market)

Stick to the investor presentation template. When in doubt, cover these areas above all others. This is what we all know and are looking for. Investors with deeper domain expertise will question you at the appropriate time.