As a newly minted Venture Partner I’ve seen a few hundred pitches and pitch decks the past 12 months. While this is nothing compared with some of my peers, I’ve noticed a few clear patterns start to emerge. Patterns which, if founders were better prepared, would significantly increase their chances of securing investment.
It’s worth pointing out that none of the advice I’m about to give is new. In fact there are tons of articles out there listing all the things that should go in a successful pitch. However, coming from a user-centred background, I thought it could be helpful to explain what’s going through an investor’s mind when reviewing your pitch. Because if you’re able to understand the narrative that’s building up in their heads, and can address their questions and concerns before they’ve been expressed, you’ll have a much higher chance of making the right impression.
Setting the Context
Before we jump into the pitch itself, it’s worth setting a bit of context. First off, the most active Partners might see a dozen pitches a week, while their associates — the ones who are tasked with selecting which start-ups get to pitch — are likely to review many more. In fact it wouldn’t be uncommon for a Venture Fund to receive over 3,000 pitch decks a year, of which 150 would be invited in to pitch and maybe 30 make the cut. That’s a lot of pitch decks to sift through.
As a result, Partners and Associates learn to make decisions very quickly. In fact a recent study by DocSend suggested that the average VC will spend just 3 minutes and 20 seconds looking at your pitch deck. In order to be able to assess a start-up that quickly, VCs will often fall back on a set of personal (and often subconscious) heuristics. Essentially patterns they look for in order to quickly evaluate potential. As such, understanding the key heuristics VCs use to assess deals can be super helpful.
First Impressions Count
As I come from a design background, I’m obviously primed to appreciate a nice looking deck. This is the first experience your investors are likely to have with your brand, so what does it communicate about you? Is the message clear? Does the structure make sense? Are you showing attention to detail? Or is everything a bit of a mess?
The design of the deck doesn’t need to wow people. In fact I think an overly designed deck can be…