Creating a good investor deck is hard – an excellent investor deck even harder.
We look through many applications every single day here at APX. A lot of them are great, some of them… not so much. Why? One of the main reasons is that the pitch deck is incorrect or incomplete.
We’d like to share with you a few hints and guidelines based on what we expect from an investor deck when you apply at APX. That way, you can up your chances of leaving a lasting impression. First of all, by the end of your pitch deck, we should have answers to the following questions:
Why this, why you, and why now?
A successful startup is one that has come to an understanding of many things: the problem they’re solving, their customer persona, their solution, the steps needed to get to it, and the existing competition, naming a few. From ideation to implementation, let the investors understand how your business model is aligned with market trends to convince them why this a good idea to invest in.
A good idea combines more granular as well as macro dimensions. You need to test, iterate, learn from your mistakes, and make incremental improvements to your product and business. If you cannot test, how do you make progress? What validation do you have? Still, don’t forget about the higher-level, long-term goal: you are building a billion-dollar company. Is the problem you solve painful enough? Does your idea allow you to build a (successful) company around it?
Chances are, you are not alone in having identified a problem that is in need of a solution. After all, if there is no competition, there is likely no market. Your pitch deck should walk the investor through why you and your company specifically are the right people to solve the problem you’ve identified. At APX for example,— we’re extremely team-focused, and we want to know why we should choose you. We’re looking for smart, ambitious, and complementary teams that want to lead, execute, and ultimately, win.
It rarely (if ever?) happens that you set out with an initial idea, and all things fall into place. From our experience, more than 60% of our startups undergo at least a small pivot during the first three months with APX. We distinguish between pivots from a position of strength and pivots from a position of weakness. You want to be part of the former, not the latter. Great teams and average ideas can still become great, valuable, and sustainable companies; vice-versa, not so much.
Take 2020 and its pandemic as an example: only a great team that is resilient, creative, complementary, and able to adapt to the prevalent conditions will weather the storm. In this early stage, this is why we value a team above anything.
Timing can be everything for a new innovation to be successful. Your investor deck should make clear why now is the right time to tackle the issue your company is solving.
Timing would deserve its own blog post, but here are some timing-related dimensions to consider: time-to-market, product maturity, regulatory changes, acceptance of technology (i.e. “bleeding edge vs. leading edge”), awareness and education of market participants, and many more.
Timing is also closely related to momentum. The right momentum will help you close rounds as it creates FOMO (= fear of missing out) for the investors. Be able to demonstrate momentum on one or more dimensions, e.g. product retention, download numbers, investor commitments, or others, and your likelihood to raise funds will surely increase. However, be aware that the impression of losing/lost momentum can have the opposite effect and kill your story.
The perfect investor deck
That’s easier said than done, of course. We often see simple mistakes, such as missing information, overcrowded slides, a lack of research, confusing or contradictory statements, typos, etc.
Take extra care to avoid these blunders! This will help the investor and, especially, you. How can you avoid this? Do your research and create a sound structure for your pitch deck. Take the audience on a journey. Show all the aspects of your company that they want to and should know about. A great place to start is to include the following dimensions and answer these sample questions:
- Problem → What problem are you addressing?
- Solution → What solution do you offer?
- Product → What is your product?
- Vision → What’s your vision today, in a year, in five years?
- Market size → How big is your (addressable) market?
- Competition → Who are your competitors (direct and indirect)?
- Business model → How does your business work? How do you plan to make money?
- Status and roadmap → Where are you today? What key milestones do you want to achieve in the next 12 months?
- Team → Who are you? Why are you the right team to build this?
- The investor → Why APX? Why are we the right partner to win this?
It has to look good
Last but not least, your pitch deck design matters. We don’t expect you to have your corporate identity completely figured out – or even to have a logo yet. Just prove to us that you have a good feeling for form and function. After all, an image is worth, spoiler-alert, a thousand words. How you design your pitch deck gives tons of insights into how you plan on building your product, even if you’re not a designer.
These are the essential tips for creating a beautiful pitch deck from APX designer Jasmin Zimmermann:
- Keep it simple. One of the most important things is not to overwhelm the viewer with your presentation. Using as little text as possible will help with keeping the information short and streamlined. You can also visualize information with the help of images or try reducing text with the use of icons.
- Use impactful images. When using images, try not to fall back on generic stock images. Instead, use actual photos of your team and product. If you face the challenge of not having a visual product, try to represent it in other ways, possibly through an illustration or diagram.
- Think about your message. It’s important to keep the message and focus of your slides in mind — what do you want to convey, and how can you manage to do so? Not only content but also design-wise, this means to keep it simple and honest.
- Be consistent. Consistent branding helps to make investors remember your startup. Make sure that your investor deck incorporates your brand colors and include your logo on the slides.
- When choosing fonts, try not to use too many and be consistent when using different font sizes. It’s also usually helpful to create a hierarchy for your text before designing your pitch slides. This hierarchy should at least include the presentation title, header, a subtext, and the main body text.
- Be consistent when choosing icons for your presentations. There are different types of icons, such as ‘flat icons’ or ‘line art icons’ and it is important to stick to just one style to ensure the consistency of your design.
- Use whitespace – the so-called blank space between different elements. It can be a great help to make the slides easy to read and lead the eye. Instead of cluttering your slides with text, making it feel claustrophobic, try to use whitespace effectively and intentionally. A way to do this is by prioritizing the information you want to convey and arranging it, respectively.
- Always guarantee readability. Make your slides and information as easy to read as possible by always maintaining legibility. This means big, simple fonts on a contrasting background. Generally, sans-serif fonts are the best choice.
- Visualize your data. To make your presentation easier to understand, you can use charts and infographics whenever you want to present data-heavy content. This helps to understand complicated statistics more easily. Keep in mind to not make these infographics or charts overlay complicated since that would defy their purpose.
That’s it! Easy, right? Hopefully, this will help you get your investor pitch deck just right, and we look forward to receiving some beautiful pitches.