When you meet a VC as an early-stage startup, your pitch deck is one of the most important tools you have to present yourself, your idea, and your company, save a smile and a firm handshake.
Your company does not yet have history, financial data, operational metrics, or any kind of visibility.
At this point you are asking a VC to bet millions on an idea and your vision, so you better make that idea crystal clear. And that is what your pitch deck is for.
After being in the VC world for over 20 years, and now, as a founder and Managing Partner of F2 Venture Capital, you can say I have seen a good few pitch decks in my lifetime and also some pretty terrible ones.
This experience has left me confident to say there are two slides that are all I need to see in order to help me make my decision. In my eyes, these can absolutely make or break your chances at scoring funding. Two slides that are so essential, I’d wager that if you don’t have them, there is a high chance you won’t receive an investment.
I like to call these slides: 1) The Hockey Stick Slide and 2) The 2X2 slide.
The Hockey Stick Slide
Everyone aims to experience hockey stick growth, and yet, hardly any startups think to present it as a physical slide, preferring tables and charts of budgets and P&L growth (also important …) But the hockey stick slide tells so much more than just a general curve of exponential growth.
The Hockey Stick Slide is a simple slide that includes essential information to visually demonstrate which milestones the company can achieve over time and thereby reduce a significant risk with each milestone.
It also captures when the company will raise additional capital, how this capital will fuel the company’s growth, and what are the drivers that will enable the company, after a few years of linear like growth, to hit an inflection point and experience exponential growth from there on.
Presenting this slide is exceptionally telling of a startup team as it shows that the team believes in their ability to reach exponential growth. Furthermore, it demonstrates that the team has thought about, and deeply understood their product and market as well as their potential to disrupt the market in a way that enables them to visualize their path to exponential growth.
Equally as important, this slide is a testimony of a well-thought-out plan and a team that has foreseen the challenges they will need to overcome step by step until they reach that inflection point.
As an investor, I want to see and believe that a company will experience exponential growth, and this is the graph that aligns our interests.
The 2x2 Slide
The second most significant slide in your pitch deck shows your positioning, differentiation, and competitive landscape.
This will visually map out the market, showing clearly why your company is the best based on two specific axes, and present how emerging competition maps out against you.
But the most important thing it should enable you to show is how and why you will be the winner in this market.
This relatively simple-looking graph provides investors with a sea of information. With this, I can learn why you believe these two chosen axes are the most important in your market, why you have the capabilities to be positioned at the top right corner, who is your competition, how they fare against you and why. The main challenge is which axes you choose. There are usually several dimensions to choose from, and deciding which of them to focus on is not easy.
Showing your positioning and differentiation is enough for me to see an attractive market and understand why your company has the ability to be the best. It proves to me that, not only have you researched the market, but that you understand your industry and the respective challenges and possibilities.
So, if you are an early-stage company preparing a pitch deck for your next meeting with a VC or investor, ask yourself if you have these two slides. They will not only help you sharpen your own understanding of your company, but they could mean the difference between walking away empty-handed or with the funding you deserve.