Published on
16/11/2022

What Makes a Good Pitch Deck?

Lessons we can learn from going through the early pitch decks of multibillion-dollar businesses

A laptop screen showing a pitch deck
Market Insights

What can founders and investors learn from the early pitch decks of start-ups before they became billion dollar companies? Quite a lot!

Our Senior Investment Associate, Sam Barton Bridges, took a look at some of them, including Coinbase and Airbnb, as compiled in this fascinating article from CB Insights.

Below, he gives his personal takeaways from the article, based on his experience as an investor, and lists the top three tips that founders can learn to make their pitch decks stand out in a competitive market...

Going through the early pitch decks of multibillion dollar businesses is a fun opportunity to see where these companies started out. It’s like being in a time machine, getting a glimpse into a successful founder’s early vision for their business, and what they thought it would be before it grew up into the success it is today, writes Sam.

There are so many lessons that we can learn from these pitch decks, both as founders and as investors. Here are my personal takeaways from this article based on my experience as an investor.

As investors we often get asked what makes a good pitch deck, what we look for and what big mistakes founders should avoid. For me, the answer is always the same: “Be a storyteller”.

While not everyone is a Scorsese or a Nolan, I think there are a few key tips that are important to remember when it comes to creating a compelling story, and a powerful pitch deck. This is certainly not an exhaustive list, but three tips that I have picked up from people much smarter than me:

  1. Build a clear storyline. Persuasive storytelling/pitching is about introducing the reader to a world where you and your business are the hero. A world where there is a clear problem that you already know how to solve. If you can create a flowing story that takes a reader on a journey and convinces them that this world is a reality, then you’re halfway there.
  2. Use hooks continuously. In the case of pitch decks this isn’t about having a ton of unanswered questions or cliff-hangers but rather about using anecdotes and oddnesses to grab and keep attention. In today’s world where pitch decks are a dime a dozen, it’s so important that you create enough intrigue throughout your story to keep the reader hooked.
  3. Above all, keep it simple. What really struck me about all the decks in this article was how simple each one was. These storytellers were clearly focussed on cutting the fluff. They focussed on clear slides, short sentences, and interesting graphics, all using data sparingly but purposefully, remembering that “numbers tell but stories sell”.

While I‘m sure many founders will pour over these pitch decks, trying to absorb any small lesson they can, I think that it’s important we do the same as investors.

Our job is often to go against the old adage and “judge books by their (15 page) cover” but flicking through these decks I couldn’t help but wonder how many I would have discarded. In today’s world where everyone has a pitch deck my overly critical mind often jumps to the “why nots” rather than the “what ifs”.

I thought it was important to pause and think of the lessons I could learn and the theme I keep circling back to is “let the main thing be the main thing”. In each of these pitch decks if you focus on the main thing (whether it be disrupting the hotel industry or digitising financial services) you get excited immediately.

So, the next time I’m reviewing a pitch I’ll be making sure I focus on the main thing, because I’d hate to be the VC investor that scoffed at a unicorn because I thought there weren’t sufficient barriers to entry.


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