Raising capital can be tough, especially in the competitive B2B SaaS space. Some of the most common challenges founders face include
- building a compelling narrative
- telling an authentic story
- focusing on selling an investment opportunity rather than just their company.
We'll address these challenges and provide guidance on how to overcome them.
It's important to recognize that your company's perceived value– rather than its intrinsic value– determines its worth. The goal of fundraising is to build the perceived value of your company. Factors such as market perception, your team's expertise, and the 'Big Idea' factor all contribute to your company's perceived value. Keep this in mind as we move forward.
To increase your perceived value, consider elements such as
- What other VCs think of your company,
- The perception of your market,
- Your team's traction, and
- How well you package yourselves
Now, let's discuss the purpose of a pitch deck. Contrary to popular belief, it's not to raise money directly. Instead, its purpose is to generate enough interest from potential investors that they want to learn more and schedule a second meeting. Your pitch deck is often the first impression investors have of your company, so it's crucial to make it count.
Create a Strong Narrative
A successful pitch deck tells a clear and concise story that convinces investors you can build a company with $100 million in revenue within seven years. In order to achieve this, focus on building a case for your company, communicating your vision, and leading with your strengths.
Think about Steve Jobs and his “2 guys in a garage” narrative. That's pretty compelling and tells the origin story of Apple in a way that connects you to the vision and the solution they were trying to solve. It also uses a common “rags to riches” narrative which is empowering to listeners.
Choose a narrative arc that best frames the 'why' and 'why now' for your company. This will help investors understand why your team is the right one to bet on.
One of the best ways to craft your narrative is to lead with your strengths. Showcase what sets your company apart from the competition, such as
- Unique founder skillsets (Did your founders work for Google? Do they have impressive domain experience in the industry?)
- Impressive customer traction (Do your customers love your product?)
- Groundbreaking technology (Maybe you’re the next ChatGPT?)
This will capture investors' attention and demonstrate your competitive edge. I can’t tell you exactly what your strengths are, but whatever is unique to you and sets you apart from the competition, make sure you lead with that.
Buffer, for example, showcased its impressive user base and revenue growth in the early days. Their pitch deck effectively highlighted these strengths, capturing investors' attention.
Mission and Vision Statements
Your pitch deck should begin with a clear and concise statement of your company's mission and vision. Your mission defines your company's purpose, while your vision highlights your long-term aspirations. By articulating your mission and vision, investors will immediately understand what drives your business and why it's worth their attention.
You should be able to articulate your vision in a sentence or two and use it to grab an investor’s attention. This is the lifeblood of your pitch.
For example, Airbnb's pitch deck led with their mission to "revolutionize the way people travel" and their vision of "creating a world where you can belong anywhere."
Keep it Simple!
Remember that the primary purpose of your pitch deck is to secure a first meeting with potential investors, not to close the deal. Use simple language and straightforward visuals to communicate your ideas effectively. Investors are busy, and a concise, well-organized deck will leave a lasting impression.
Intercom's pitch deck is a great example of using clean, minimalist design and straightforward language to convey its message effectively.
Showcasing Traction and Proof Points
Use your pitch deck to showcase your company's successes, such as user growth, revenue, partnerships, or product milestones. This demonstrates your ability to execute and helps build credibility with investors.
You should provide evidence for every statement you make in your pitch deck. Some ways to do this include
- Third-party validation
- Anecdotal events, such as a sale.
By providing proof for your claims, you'll create a more persuasive argument for investors.
Crafting a Cohesive Story
You don’t read a story from the end. You are drawn in with a hook, then you back up a bit to get more context, and then dive into the rest of the plot. This is the same for pitch decks. VCs love to be taken through a story that hooks them from the beginning. Make sure your pitch deck flows logically, guiding investors through the problem you're solving, your solution, the market opportunity, and why your team is best positioned to succeed.
I cannot stress this enough – get a designer! You’ve put so much work into the deck, now you need to make it look nice. It is the ultimate first impression. Just like you wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) show up to a meeting with a wrinkled shirt, you shouldn’t show up to an investor meeting with an unpolished deck.
A polished and visually appealing deck can significantly affect how your message is received. Consider hiring a professional designer to help you create a consistent and visually engaging presentation.
Essential Pitch Deck Slides and Order
For the most part, the below slides are the essential ones you should include in your deck. As mentioned already, the order of this could change depending on what your strengths are and what proof points you want investors to see the most. Either way, this is a general structure to start with.
- Mission and vision
- Traction and proof points
- Market size and market opportunity
- Problem statement
- Team slide
While every business is different, these slides tend to be the most effective in generating interest from potential investors.
Conclusion and Final Tips
I want to remind you that crafting an effective pitch deck is crucial for any B2B SaaS pre-seed or seed-stage founder looking to secure investment. By following the guidelines and examples we've provided, you'll be well on your way to creating a compelling pitch deck that can help you secure the funding you need to grow your business.
Thank you for joining me. I hope you found the information valuable and that it will contribute to your success as founders.
Jonah Midanik is the General Partner at Forum Ventures and a contributor to the Early Stage Fundraising Guide.