I try to avoid raw pitches at all at this point. Send me the deck ahead of time, with as much detail as possible. I promise to read it carefully, and have questions.
Still, the pitch is part of most processes.
Here’s what I love, that I don’t see enough. That make a good pitch and deck … great.
- A one-slide deck. OK, I know this is controversial, but it shouldn’t be. The best verbal pitches are “elevator pitches”. The best PowerPoint decks and PowerPoint pitches IMHO are “one-slide decks.” This doesn’t mean literally one slide, but it means the first slide can totally stand on its own. What (you do — one line). Who. Why. Where (you are in terms of Progress). Next (you are going). If you can make an amazing 1-slide deck, you can also make an amazing 10 or 20 slides deck. But often not vice-versa. And also. If you can do a great 1-slide deck. You can do a great email intro & summary of the opportunity, too.
- Precise understanding of the next 12–18 months. There’s no excuse not to know all your hires, your ARR goal, your product goals for the next 12–18 months. If I don’t hear that, I’m out. If you don’t know … then there’s a lot more basic stuff you don’t know, either.
- Clear path to $300m ARR. Tell me why, ideally with some simple bottoms-up data, why you’ll get to $300m in ARR and beyond. TAM is great, but that’s not enough. Tell me why this is a pre-pre-unicorn. The best SaaS companies don’t IPO at $100m any longer, they IPO at $200m-$300m ARR. If you can tell a VC how you’ll get there for real, that’s impressive. The best can, even at seed stage.
What I hate, but can tolerate if CEO is great:
- Crappy design. Outsource it. Get the deck looking decent. It sends the signal you have a world-class product. But it’s OK to have no design at all if the business is on fire.
- Rambling intro on The Market. No one needs 5-10 slides on how The Cloud is Changing Everything. These pitches are almost always No.
- Impractical operating plan, projections, and financials. This just creates lots of anxiety. But I can work through it if I have to. But 100% gross margins? Crazy numbers? A projection that makes no sense? Then … I’m out. Have someone smart that has done a venture-backed start-up stress test it for you.
- Anything less than super-crisp analysis and discussion on the competition. We all have competition. The crisper you are here (and the less emotion you have in it), the more I know you may be a winner. Condescending views of successful competition? The opposite. I am pretty sure you will fail.
Thing is, many of the investments I’ve made had terrible pitches. You do get better.