Not too long ago, we posted an article containing some tips and tricks to keep in mind when writing a Pitch Deck. We explained what a Pitch Deck is, why you would need one and which items must be included.
In this article, we return to the topic of Pitch Decks. But this time we won’t tell you how to write one, we are going to have a look at some awesome Pitch Decks. After all, why would you try to invent the wheel, when you can learn from best practices in the field?
A short recap
If you haven’t read the article, shame on you! You definitely should read it! But in the meantime, a short recap: a Pitch Deck is a presentation with no more than 20 slides that present potential SaaS investors with all the information they need to be able to decide whether they will fund your (SaaS) startup.
Whether you are pitching to get US$100,000 seed capital or a capital injection of several million, your Pitch Deck should be concise, to the point, honest, and always up to date.
Learn from the best
In 1675 physicist Isaac Newton said: “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.
Now, almost three and a half centuries later, this phrase still contains the truest of truths. If you want to learn, it’s a good idea to look at the best. That’s why we will have a look at the humble beginnings of some modern-day giants: the Pitch Deck of some well-established tech companies.
When looking at these very successful examples, you will notice that most of them do not follow the perfect template of modern-day Pitch Decks. But remember, we’re constantly learning, and some of these Pitch Decks date way back, all the way to the Dawn of the Internet. But in each and every one of these presentations, you can see glimpses of the perfect presentation of today.
Imagine you want to pitch a social network for professionals. But it’s 2002, so when you talk about a social network, people think about their bowling club, the book club, or perhaps the local Rotary. This is the challenge that LinkedIn faced. The founders came up with a revolutionary concept, which hardly anyone understood.
If you are working on a SaaS startup that is not an improvement on something your investors are likely to know, you will have to find analogies that they do know. Start with something familiar.
The LinkedIn Pitch Deck does this perfectly. Remember, in 2002 the only way to find people was with search engines such as Yahoo and AltaVista. Nowadays, startups often describe themselves as “We are the Uber for lawnmowers”, Linkedin described itself as “Professional People Search 2.0”, the net-gen tool which would replace Lexis Nexis, Monster, and similar recruitment tools.
But here’s the catch: had they done this on the first sheet, the impact of this claim would have been limited. Instead, the Pitch Deck gives some next-gen examples investors would know about: Internet 1.0 versus Internet 2.0, selling goods using the (online) classified in the local newspaper versus E-bay or paying through online banking versus PayPal.
The big difference between all the 1.0-versions and the 2.0-versions? The old way of doing things looked at claims of the individual, while the 2.0-version was all about networks and relationships.
Once the concept had been communicated, the LinkedIn Pitch Deck continues with a tsunami of facts and numbers. Honestly, nowadays the LinkedIn Pitch Deck would probably be rejected due to its large number (37) of slides. But at the time, not long after the 1997 dot-com crisis, investors were somewhat cautious.
Why include a Pitch Deck which wouldn’t make the cut these days? Again, because of the way it familiarizes the audience with a revolutionary concept.
It is hard to imagine a world without Facebook. If there ever was a giant amongst tech companies, Facebook is it. When Mark Zuckerberg decided to look for investors, he created a Pitch Deck that broke some of the rules. For instance, it contained 26 slides, which is more than the theoretical maximum. Still, in 2004 he managed to convince Peter Thiel to invest US$ 500,000 in the company (which at the time was still called TheFacebook.com.
Technically, the Facebook Pitch Deck wasn’t really a Pitch Deck. Zuckerberg used a format that was often used in offline media, the so-called media kit. When we are talking about the evolution of Pitch Decks, the Facebook Pitch Deck is somewhat like the first fish that decided to explore the lands. It’s not a media kit, it’s not a Pitch Deck, but something in the middle.
The Pitch Deck starts with a quote from a newspaper that clearly shows that Facebook, which was still a new and somewhat hard-to-understand concept, was remarkably successful. The Pitch Deck focuses on numbers such as user engagement, traffic, and growth prospects. At the time, this was the way to go. And, as we all know, it worked.
Have you ever heard of AirBnB? Of course, you have. Even if you have never used it you will have heard news stories about how Airbnb has caused hotel chains to have nightmares. Airbnb is a true unicorn and an amazing example of a SaaS platform.
Just like Airbnb has become the worlds’ largest provider of accommodations, so has the pitch deck become the example to follow for many start-up entrepreneurs.
Airbnb, like Facebook, was completely new. Yet, the original Pitch Deck had only 10 sheets. It would be hard to find a presentation that is more to the point.
The Pitch Deck starts with the problem, offers a solution, provides a quick overview of the market, summarizes the business model and market adoption, and shows how the company positions itself.
The amazing thing about this Pitch Deck is that it does exactly what a Pitch Deck does. It summarizes a revolutionary concept in a way that makes it seem so obvious that you’d be stupid not to invest in it. No frills, no distractions, just a lean and perfect presentation that anyone could understand. It sparks your curiosity, making you eager to find out more. This is the perfect Pitch Deck.
I’ll be honest. In our earlier article, we discussed how a Pitch Deck should clearly describe a problem and offer a solution. With Buzzfeed, that’s kinda tricky, because for many of us, Buzzfeed…well…it IS..a problem.
BuzzFeed doesn’t really solve any problems, but it manages to distract us from our problems. And BuzzFeed is very successful in distracting us. But it has also managed to turn itself into a valuable platform for content advertising.
What makes the Buzzfeed Pitch Deck so great is that it bombards the audience with social proof. The first sheet just shows numbers that make the average marketer exalted.
Add some future prospects and the many ways that Buzzfeed developed to monetize on this huge userbase and it is easy to understand why Buzzfeed managed to raise US$ 3,5 million with their first pitch deck (and US$ 496.3 million in total so far).
As a SaaS entrepreneur, you are probably most interested in the Pitch Decks written by your peers. Gusto, founded in 2011, was one of the first cloud-based companies helping small and medium-sized companies with their payroll.
At the time, Gusto was still called Zen Paydesk. Their Pitch Deck, which follows most of the conventions of modern presentations is living evidence that these rules “work”. With their presentation, the founders raised US$ 6 million. More funding rounds followed, bringing the total amount raised to US$ 516,1 million.
Sadly enough, their original Pitch Deck has been lost in time (or perhaps hidden in a safe, guarded by a fierce NDA), but the template of their presentation can still help you become at least as successful as them. Follow the template and you will have the perfect deck to pitch your own startup to potential investors.