One deck, two deck,
Red deck, blue deck.
Pitch decks come in a lot of flavors. We’ve seen five pages, we’ve seen fifty. We’ve seen them sparsely punctured with bullet points, we’ve seen what might have happened if David Foster Wallace wrote a novel in PowerPoint. Where’s the golden mean? What can you throw away and what sparks joy?
At Social Starts/Joyance Partners, we review dozens of pitch decks every week, so here are a few suggestions from our perspective that can help you put your best foot forward to help us give your company its best evaluation.
Take it from the top
• Avoid short teaser type decks. They do not create an air of mystery so much as frustration for lack of information. Send us enough to fully understand the story of your company and data to back up your core claims.
• The Executive Summary should be the first slide. Let us know what problem you are solving, what your core technology is/how it’s differentiated, how much money you are raising, and what you need to do before the next round.
• The Team slide should be in the front. The team is of critical importance to the company so it’s a shame that often we find ourselves scrolling and clicking frantically to find this slide. Putting the team near the front also helps to give context to the rest of your deck. Make sure not to shortchange this slide, either! We don’t need full-on academic CVs, but do include enough information about each team member so that we understand their background and what strengths/experiences they bring to the company. Simply writing “CEO or CSO,” tells us very little and forces us to search for it on Google or LinkedIn. Did you invent the tech? Tell us. Did you sell three previous diagnostic companies for $1B? By all means, include it. And include your extended network of advisors, consultants, BoD members, and the like. These types of folks often play critical roles in fledgling companies and we want to see that you are actively thinking about and filling your blind spots.
• Use exactly the number of slides you need. There isn’t a magic number. Clarity is more important. Focus on the core aspects of your technology/business and give us enough detail in those areas to grasp why those aspects have the potential to be transformative.
• Make one major point per slide. A good rule of thumb is that if the content of your slide cannot be summarized in a short declarative sentence (preferably at the top), then it should be broken up into multiple slides. (Use Hemingway for inspiration.)
• The document should be readable. This one is important. If you send us a deck to read, we should be able to understand it without a presentation. This might mean adding some extra language or wording to help us understand what you usually cover verbally.
• Don’t spend too much time on obvious market sizes, medical needs, etc. This is a common complaint of life science investors. We understand that Alzheimer’s is a large unmet medical need, that cancer is deadly, and that a balding cure would have a huge market. Skip it. Instead, spend those valuable megabytes telling us:
Why your approach is different
Why your data are compelling
Why your team is world-class
What milestones you need to do to gain that partnership, next funding round, or market traction
That said, use your judgment. If you are working in a space we are probably not familiar with, a niche area, or something quite specific and technical in nature, do spell it out (in a concise and simple way).
• Yes please, and lots of it! We like data. We need data. We’re investing in deep science, and as such, the data are the foundation of your business. Make sure your core claims are backed up in the central part of the deck with any additional data of interest placed in an appendix at the end. Think of each figure as an abbreviated figure that you would publish in a peer-reviewed journal: include the necessary controls, study design outline, doses, routes of admin, and any other relevant information on the methods
Style, format, and graphics
• Make it look nice. We would love to able to say that we are immune to the aesthetics of your pitch deck and that we can see past sloppy formatting, overzealous italicization, minuscule font sizes, and Ju$t GENeral VIoL@tions of TaSTe, but we aren’t. We are human, we have eyes, and for better or for worse the level of polish in your pitch deck is a proxy for how detail-oriented you are in other aspects of your company. This doesn’t mean each slide needs to be a work of art. It just needs to be clean and clear, and show us you care to a reasonable extent about how your company is presented publicly. Stick to standard fonts as well. Times New Roman, Arial, Georgia, Helvetica, to name a few good options.
• Send it to us! Finally, don’t forget to actually send us the deck ahead of time for our first discussion with you. It’s always helpful for us to review your materials in advance, including any relevant publications. It allows us to gather our questions, do our homework, and make the most of an in-person (or virtual) meeting.