Storytelling is the Key to a Great Fundraising Deck

Building a compelling fundraising deck is one of the most deceptively difficult things to do. It’s still the case in 2021 that a founder can really stand out from the noise with a really good deck, as the vast majority of those that we see as investors leave a lot to be desired. I can point to decks we’ve seen that caused us to lean in on a company that we otherwise might not…and of course the opposite as well. The number one key to success here? Creating an ultra-clear and concise narrative.

This is something that Chris and I spend a lot of time with founders on. We both started our careers in consulting, so whether we like it or not, our brains were weirdly and irrevocably molded to enjoy building decks. At its core, a great deck is just a great story. So how do you make sure you get this right? Here’s my favorite trick: write the title of each slide first before filling in anything else. Only once the slide titles by themselves can be read as an easy-to-follow, standalone narrative should you go ahead and fill in the supporting body content.

And when it comes to filling in the meat of the slides, channel your inner Marie Kondo and keep things to a minimum. It’s good practice to operate with the assumption that investors are easily distracted and will only skim your deck. Make sure that the information you need them to see pops off the page by throwing out everything that is not essential; you should be asking yourself “do I absolutely need this?” over and over again. The purpose of your deck is to hook the reader’s interest and get them to lean in and ask for more information; at that point you can provide all of the details. We were recently working with a founder on their Series A deck, and helped them consolidate three detail-filled slides into one that had the headline along the lines of “Faster, better, and cheaper” with only 3 large numbers on the slide – one speaking to each attribute. That’s all an investor needs to see to know whether or not they want to dive in further.

The last point for founders to remember is to make sure that your story is tailored to the most important questions facing an investor at your stage. I was recently talking to a seed-stage founder who had a number of slides breaking down detailed early metrics and projected multi-year pro forma financials. This kind of material might be helpful at the later-stage (Series B+), when more financial-oriented investors are underwriting an established company. But at the very early stage, it’s all about betting on a big market, a unique insight, and a killer team. Ensure that your story clearly speaks to “why this”, “why us”, and “why now.” This should be 90%+ of your deck.

While a great narrative will help you stand out from the crowd in a positive way, my next post will cover an even more fun topic; some of the red flags we see in pitch decks that make us run the other way.