Perfecting Your Pitch Deck? 10 Practices For Entrepreneurs

3 min read

Pitch decks are a topic of permanent debate, no matter how much has been written about them. As such, this article will focus on 10 guidelines we advocate for entrepreneurs. Hopefully they can be good reminders, with emphasis on the word “guidelines” i.e., they are good but not guaranteed.

1) Size – Given today’s norms and fundamental limits on human attention, we believe strongly in 12-15 slides, with anything else in the Appendix. Also at most three points per slide. Typically for data graphs / pictures > tables > sentences. Can you do something different than this? Absolutely, just make sure to gauge who you are sending to and why you choose a different format.

2) Core Slides – Should cover Team, Market, Traction, Technology, Competitive Positioning, Fundraising and potentially Go To Market and Financials (more on that later). Not necessarily in that order but oftentimes you want Team first especially if the deck is reaching primarily people who don’t know you. In fact, we are believers in Team being always the most important, especially at the earliest stages.

3) Competition – Or Competitive Positioning, is often about similar startups, incumbents, and also potential future threats, say companies in adjacent spaces that could become fast followers. Many startups structure this as a quadrant or as a table.

4) Fundraising – You want to cover Past History, Current Ask, Use Of Funds and potentially Next Rounds. One good way is to put these as a timeline. If you don’t want to disclose all the information here upfront that’s fine, but have a good reason for it and make sure to manage your online footprint around fundraising.

5) Go To Market – If you are pre seed and seed then you definitely want to focus especially on Go To Market. LOIs from customers, pipeline with percentage probability, annual contract value, total contract value – everything to show early indications of product-market fit.

6) Financials – If you are series B and beyond then you definitely want to focus on Financials, since that’s when the business model really starts taking off. For consumer-oriented companies it’s often about engagement (monthly active, daily active, time per session etc). For enterprise-oriented companies it’s often about CAC (customer acquisition cost), LTV (lifetime value) and churn. Cohort analysis is a plus.

7) Audience – Adjust the slides whether you will be primarily presenting live or expecting it to be read. If you have very different audiences for the deck then consider having different versions, such as an intro and full deck. Another way is to keep a single deck but copy / paste in emails the most relevant slide for a particular investor.

8) Key Risks / Challenges – Want to go beyond a traditional pitch deck? Then address head on in a slide what you see are the top risks / challenges and how you are / will be mitigating them. Most likely you want to keep to at most three items. Entrepreneurs who do so have a better chance on setting the narrative and at Tau we believe the upside of addressing these upfront is much higher than the downside. Let Exit Strategy be a point of debate rather than spelled out in slides, unless you are a more mature company, typically post series B. After all, raising venture is about the next few years rather than a quick flip.

9) Tracking – Put your deck on a platform like DocSend / Google Drive / Dropbox / Box. That way you can share a link, update the deck behind the scenes, and for those who prefer having a local copy you can just allow for a download. Many platforms also have analytics i.e., track who opened, when and for how long so you can judge how real is the investor interest.

10) Mindset – Think of your pitch deck as your business card. It will rarely guarantee you an investment outright, but a bad one will cost you not getting a meeting. Also, VCs get flooded with decks and follow up with a fraction (for us the ratio is 10%). So there are very good chances you won’t get meetings everywhere – what matters is getting enough of them. At Tau we advise entrepreneurs that if they have been (p)itching for a month and not getting close to a term sheet, check whether you need to change substance or style.


Originally published on “Data Driven Investor,” am happy to syndicate on other platforms. I am the Managing Partner and Cofounder of Tau Ventures with 20 years in Silicon Valley across corporates, own startup, and VC funds. These are purposely short articles focused on practical insights (I call it gl;dr — good length; did read). Many of my writings are at https://www.linkedin.com/in/amgarg/detail/recent-activity/posts and I would be stoked if they get people interested enough in a topic to explore in further depth. If this article had useful insights for you comment away and/or give a like on the article and on the Tau Ventures’ LinkedIn page, with due thanks for supporting our work. All opinions expressed here are my own.

Amit Garg I have been in Silicon Valley for 20 years -- at Samsung NEXT Ventures, running my own startup (as of May 2019 a series D that has raised $120M and valued at $450M), at Norwest Ventures, and doing product and analytics at Google. My academic training is BS in computer science and MS in biomedical informatics, both from Stanford, and MBA from Harvard. I speak natively 3 languages, live carbon-neutral, am a 70.3 Ironman finisher, and have built a hospital in rural India serving 100,000 people.

One Reply to “Perfecting Your Pitch Deck? 10 Practices For Entrepreneurs”

  1. Great article, Amit. I am putting together a deck right now and this was a good reminder of the basics. I’m curious how you would handle a medical technology company that has been in business for ten years with minimal revenues. It was one guy running it with minimal business experience (a lawyer), and spent most of his time getting patents (4) and approvals from all the agencies which he got (FDA, EPA, USDA). Key Risks and Challenges? It’s actually a great technology with a strong market need.

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