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How to create the perfect pitch deck for an investor

11 July 2017

At Mercia, we’re privileged to receive a high number of fantastic investment opportunities every year. As a result, our Investment Teams have collectively reviewed thousands of pitch decks. We’re therefore in a great position to help entrepreneurs understand what works well, what doesn’t and how best they can prepare their pitch deck when pitching to investors.

A pitch deck is a brief presentation that companies use to provide potential investors with a succinct overview of their business plan. Creating the perfect pitch can be a challenge, but ultimately if you’re looking to raise funds for your company then making a great pitch deck is crucial.

The purpose of this Insights post isn’t to define the specific content, structure and style that you should adopt when preparing your pitch deck. It’s instead meant to give you a flavour of the general questions which your pitch deck should address, as well as offer some helpful tips and pitfalls to avoid when putting your pitch deck together.

The purpose of your pitch deck

It’s your responsibility to ensure that your pitch deck provides an investor with the ability to fully understand the scale of the opportunity and how their funding can help support your growth. Your pitch deck is an opportunity to effectively articulate who you are, what you do and why that investor should support your journey. You should aim to specifically tailor your pitch deck to each investor that you send it to, considering their investment focus, criteria and typical funding model.

Take Mercia for example - our Complete Capital Solution is a fantastic funding model that allows us to support entrepreneurs from seed through to exit, ranging from £50,000 through to £5.0million. We would expect your pitch deck to show how your company could benefit from this approach, given its importance to our investment philosophy.

What you should include

Imagine you’re an investor who has seen hundreds, if not thousands, of pitch decks throughout their career. Which would you prefer to see - a pitch that gets straight to the point and provides you with a clear and concise overview of a company, or a pitch that dances around the topic and doesn’t quite hit the mark? Just like a CV, where you highlight all of the amazing experiences that you have to offer a potential employer, a pitch deck works in exactly the same way. Here are the essential questions which your pitch deck should typically address:

  • What does your company do and what is its purpose? (Summarise in one sentence)
  • What problem are you solving?
  • How are you solving this problem?
  • What is the size of the market opportunity and “why now”?
  • Who is your competition and how are you unique?
  • What is your business model?
  • What traction have you achieved? (For example, customers, revenue, partnerships, key hires)
  • How strong is your team and why are they the people that will make this work?
  • What is your ultimate vision for the future?
  • What are your financial projections?
  • What is the funding opportunity and how will you use the investment?

Remember, the purpose of your pitch deck is to excite an investor and leave them wanting more - make sure it is informative yet concise. Your pitch deck is not meant to replace a business plan and you should therefore avoid putting together a 50-slide pitch deck cramming each slide with as much information as possible. Keep your pitch deck short and to the point, ideally under 15 slides. Given the ‘snapshot’ nature of your pitch deck, be prepared to follow-up with a detailed business plan, financial projections and a capitalisation table if requested by an investor to help them reach a decision. Make sure that you follow-up promptly and professionally.

Preparing a pitch deck can be difficult and often frustrating given the lack of an “industry standard” template or method of putting this type of document together. To help you along your way, here are some helpful tips and general pitfalls to avoid.

Some helpful tips

  • Be honest, clear and transparent. Investors understand that your company is unlikely to be perfect
  • Research an investor before you send them your pitch deck. Taking the time to consider how your company would fit into their investment portfolio could go a long way
  • Run your pitch deck by friends, family and ideally a professional advisor before you send it to an investor. A grammatical or spelling error could demonstrate a poor level of diligence and attention to detail, which investors are always on the lookout for

Some pitfalls to avoid

  • Don’t shy away from including points that you think will scare off an investor. If one of your competitors has just raised £25.0million, mention this and explain how you’re unique. Highlight the issues, don’t hide them
  • Avoid going overboard on the content front. Aim for simplicity and remember that each slide should always convey a single thought or idea, ideally in less than three bullet points
  • Don’t undervalue the importance of a well-designed pitch deck - it can be difficult to read red text in a Comic Sans font on a black background!

Although it’s just the first step in building what is hopefully a long-term relationship with an investor, never underestimate the power of your pitch deck. It’s your chance to share your passion, create a great first impression, and is often one of the only ways to secure that vital first meeting.

To get you on your way, check out YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and Airbnb’s original pitch decks here.

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