A pitch deck is the first communication tool used by entrepreneurs to reach out to potential investors – either through emails or in person. It acts as a sales pitch for a business looking to gain investment and allows potential investors to understand the business, know as much about it as they can, and understand the future potential of the business.
It’s really important to have a pitch deck that stands out, gets your message across and gives investors a reason to come on board - the startup world is highly competitive and your pitch deck is one of the first steps of getting ahead of your competition.
We spoke with Aaron Solomon, co-founder of startup company Ambl, who has already received huge investment - before the launch of their app has even taken place - to find out his advice on how to build a successful pitch deck.
Firstly, how did you know where to start? And did you have any resources or advisors that you lent on to help you build your pitch deck?
“When I started my pitch deck, I already had experience in making presentations for businesses, so I was kind of aware that you need to make a story rather than just showing an end product.
“When it’s for your own business, there is so much you’ve got to add to it, in the same amount of time. You’ve really got to make it clear, so what I did was research different pitch decks, identified styles and other bits that I liked from companies I admire and then developed them in my own way, making it aligned with my brand. From that, I came up with something that was my own.
“Once you get the foundations right, you start to mold and build - because you’re not going to get a finished deck on your first go. It may take 30, or 40 iterations until you say, okay. I’ve got it, and this works - practice makes perfect.”
So, what would you say are the key elements that need to be included in any pitch deck for a business to stand out to potential investors?
“When you know you’re pitching to someone as friendly as Mark (our seed investor), include as much information as you possibly can. Add the nice flashy, stand-out stats, and put in all the copy because it’s very likely they will take the time to read it. When you start to move up to investors that receive 30, 40, or 50 pitch decks a month you’ve got to be absolutely clear and concise about what the problem is, how you’re proposing to solve it, and demonstrating how you are different to everybody else doing that.
“The first question investors will ask is ‘how are you different, what’s the problem, and where’s your solution?’. If you can get all those three things ticked off, it sets you on a good path to getting your point across, and achieving investment.”
When presenting your pitch deck, it’s important you show data and analytics, but it is just as important to get your story across. So, how do you make sure that your business’s personality is coming across and how important do you think this is?
“I would say it’s important to include some of your own experiences. Like how did the idea come about in the first place?
“A lot of people have bought into the story of how Ambl was founded, which is three guys experiencing the same problem day in, day out, and no one thought to do anything about it until we had this light bulb moment. We then showed how we came up with the business idea, what we were doing on our lunch breaks, and how we were using annual holidays, and not going out after work, just to try and build this business. That story gives people a better understanding of why you’re here, and why what you’re doing matters.
“Then it’s time to back this up with data - proving there is a problem, and how your product or service can help. For example, for us, it was - ‘I know that out of 1,300 venues, roughly only 20 to 25% of them have a no-show cancellation rate. If you’re a venue turning over £1 to £2 million a year, that is a huge amount of money lost. Across the UK, that’s nearly 17/18 billion pounds lost in revenue.’ Including this data, along with our story, and our stand-out USP is what helped us achieve investment.”
Lastly, for those building a pitch deck, what would you say are your top Dos and Don’ts?
“DO know your numbers!”
“Keep it really simple and make it five minutes max, because you might not have that long to hold their attention, and you don’t want to leave all the good stuff to the end, as they may not see it. If they’re interested they’ll ask questions, and that’s when you can have a longer conversation. ”
“DON’T guarantee anything!”
“I’ve seen people guaranteeing unachievable numbers, ultimately killing all of the work you’ve done because you can never guarantee these things. Don’t overcomplicate the business model or revenue streams, or assume that you’re going to achieve other revenue streams - just keep the business what it is, and what you’re trying to achieve..”
“If you’re a really early-stage business with no metrics as of yet, what you can do is build a reliable method of how you can get to a number, with stuff that you do know. For example, we know there’s X amount of people in London, X amount of this age, X amount are eating out this much, this is how many restaurants there are, and this is how much people are spending etc.. Knowing this allowed us to be able to present numbers and showcase how we were going to achieve them.
“Despite an amazing pitch deck and sound idea, it’s important that you have substance - and that comes from having the numbers.”