We’ve talked about how to make your application to 500’s accelerator stand out, and one of the key points we mentioned was ensuring you have a solid pitch deck. But what does a good pitch deck look like? We’ve looked at thousands throughout the years, so we’ve got a few pointers on what makes a good one, and what mistakes to avoid.
We typically only spend a few minutes reviewing each deck, so keep it brief and don’t overload it with excessive text and images. A well-crafted pitch deck doesn’t need more than 10 slides and will have all of the following key elements (get our free template here):
Slide 1: Your Logo & Elevator Pitch
You only have seconds to make a great first impression and introduce your company, so how do you get us (or any VC) excited about what you’re doing? We recommend using the following format to introduce your company:
“A [product type] to help [target customer] with [#1 problem] by [#1 benefit] using our [secret sauce/differentiator].”
No expert jargon, no buzzwords—explain it like you would to a 5 year old. It should be simple to communicate, and at the end of those few seconds we should know who your customer is, how you solve their problem, and what makes your product unique.
Slide 2: The Problem
After the introduction, the first thing you should do is talk about the problem you’re solving. Explain it from the point of view of your customer, rather than the global problem. For example, if you sell remote monitoring software to hospitals, instead of saying, “40% of patients are not getting the help they need after discharge,” say: “Hospitals are losing $30B by not having the resources to monitor patients remotely.”
Slide 3: Your Solution
Now that we know the problem, it’s time to tell us your solution. It’s important to introduce your product at this point, or you risk losing your audience’s attention. Tell us about your product’s key features and list the top benefits to your customer, and explain how you plan to solve the problem you presented in slide #2. This is a great time to show off some screenshots if it applies.
Slide 4: How it Works
Here you can go into more of the nitty gritty about the user experience and how the tech works. This is a great place to showcase any proprietary or differentiating technology as part of your product. This is also another good opportunity to show off a few screenshots or workflows if they apply.
Slide 5: Traction
The best way to get our attention is to show us user or revenue growth; so if you’ve got it, put it right after your product explanation. Typically, you would only show one metric of growth and put it in a chart. Highlight the current state of this key metric, such as last month’s Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR – if you have a subscription business), or Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV – if you have an ecommerce or marketplace). Another metric to highlight is your growth rate Month Over Month (MOM). If you’re a B2B company, put a few of your more notable client’s logos next to your graph if you’ve got them.
Slide 6: Business Model
How are you making money? And if you aren’t making money yet, how do you plan to in the future? Use this slide to tell us about your top sources of revenue, and prioritize them by size. Examples of common revenue models are:
- Direct: e-commerce, subscription, digital goods
- Indirect: advertising, affiliate, lead generation
Slide 7: Competition
You can’t avoid competition, whether direct or indirect, but you can show us how you’re different from them. The last thing you should do is say you have no competition—there’s always competition, and saying you’re the “first” to do something often shows a lack of knowledge about your space. Be honest, and show us where you excel in areas that they don’t. We like to frame this as:
“Unlike [existing alternatives], [your product] [primary differentiator] and [secondary differentiator].”
Your product should be the only one to offer this combination; and if you put it in a quadrant, your product should be in the upper right corner while your competitors would be in the other (lesser) quadrants.
Slide 8: The Market Opportunity
We’re looking for markets that are BIG, so there should be either a market size of >$1B or an expansion plan that will get there. Two methods for calculating market size:
- Top Down: Find research that has been published by a third party.
- Bottom Up: Calculate users against transaction value and frequency.
- X customers in your market
- $Y average transaction size
- Z number of purchases per year
- X * $Y * Z = >$1B
Slide 9: Progress to Date
Showing major milestones in your business tells us how much progress you’ve made so far, and where you are in the business. Examples would be when you launched (or when you plan to launch), when you landed your first customer, and if you gained any sort of recognition or award. This is also where you can show when you received any previous investments.
Slide 10: The Team
Here’s your chance to highlight your team’s unfair advantage. Many VCs will tell you that the team is the most important part of the company, and that couldn’t be more true—especially at the early stage. Ideas often change and businesses pivot, but the founders stay the same, and it’s the founders that we’re betting on. Here’s a few ideas that will help you stand out:
- Experienced entrepreneurs: Have any of you built and sold companies before? This shows that you have an execution advantage.
- Deep product or tech experience: This shows that you have a product or differentiation advantage.
- Deep industry experience: Show that you have insider knowledge, and possibly a network to leverage as your advantage.
- Sales or customer growth at a relevant company: This shows that you have customer acquisition advantage.
Be careful not to be too verbose here—too much text will likely be forgotten, so highlight only notable achievements. One or two brief callouts per key team member is the perfect amount.
Ten slides is all it takes to show us what makes your company great. If you follow this guideline, it will greatly increase the chances that your application will get noticed. And if you’re still struggling with where to start, we’ve created a handy 500 Startups Application Pitch Deck Template to get you going.