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mistakes in pitch deck
13 May 2021·11 min read

Olga Chechłacz

Editor, Vestbee

Common Mistakes In Startup Pitch Deck To Avoid During Fundraising

Raising funds for your startup might be quite challenging, so it’s important to focus on your pitch deck and treat it as a key element to successful fundraising. Before jumping into the topic on how to avoid most common mistakes in presenting your startup, check out what should be included in the perfect pitch deck and how to pitch your startup to investors. 

Of course, every pitch deck is unique, but there are some basic guidelines to follow and elements that require more accuracy and diligence from entrepreneurs. In order to support your startup in fundraising, we have asked investors from active VC funds - Ewa Chronowska, Partner at Next Road Ventures; Agnieszka Poznańska, Partner at Shape VC; Michał Rokosz, Partner at Inovo Venture Partners; Basar Yenidunya, Vice President at 212; Dilek Dayinlari, Managing Partner at ScaleX Ventures - to share their experience, remarks and tips on how to prepare the best pitch deck for investors, and what are most common mistakes in startup pitch deck every entrepreneur should avoid.

Making your pitch deck too long

Investors appreciate professional, straightforward and well-structured presentations. In your pitch deck, focus on the key elements and leave everything else behind. Your aim is to spark interest and show why your idea is relevant. Instead of making too many slides with too much information, keep it short and clean - underlines Michał Rokosz from Inovo Venture Partners.

It’s understandable that you want to present every detail of the startup project to make investors feel its real purpose and your strong commitment. Most startups tend to provide every piece of information they can to emphasize the hard work and comprehensive thought-process they have been through. This ends up being too broad and confusing, considering the limited time you have - adds Dilek Dayinarli from ScaleX. - Ask yourself questions:  what you are doing, why you are doing it now, and why you are the one who is doing it, as these are three major items to include in your pitch deck - simplicity is the ultimate sophistication. 

Prepare answers to these questions, as they include information definitely worth mentioning in your pitch deck that investors are looking for. A thorough understanding of the market, competitive landscape and, obviously, the customer are the three pillars that you should stick to in your startup pitch deck, so always make sure to provide a brief summary of those. The team may not prefer to put everything on a slide, but should definitely be prepared to answer detailed questions beforehand - comments Dikelk Dayinarli.

Losing the main value of your startup presentation

Before creating your pitch deck determine the mission statement of your startup project that you want to pass through - and stick to it during the whole pitching. Ask yourself what problems are you solving? What added value are you bringing? As discovering that is the key to successful pitches and products/services - explains Michał Rokosz. It is necessary to focus on the value your startup is delivering to your clients, instead of talking broadly about your product, features, and technology, etc. that sometimes is hard to understand by an investor audience.

Obviously, there is a lot you want to share with your potential investors concerning your startup project ideas, but don't let yourself lose control and make things complicated by concentrating on secondary strands. Focus on the main value of your startup and what makes it unique, distinguishable on the market, and defensible. Explain what problems are you solving and, more importantly, how.  All VC funds want to see your startup pursuing a huge market opportunity, so show investors the global potential of your project, a solid business model and clear customer acquisition strategy. However, remember to stick to the general points - time for discussing the details will come later - adds Ewa Chronowska from Next Road Ventures.

Undermining your pitch deck’s credibility

Credibility is a key to success - you need to gain investors’ trust and prove that your statements are based on reliable sources and solid research. Through traction, we want to find out whether you have customers, opinions, references, if you are undergoing some pilots, demonstrations, have any strategic partnerships, publications, awards or other achievements. We want to see that you, as a founder, have validated the business idea on the market, conducted specific research, and thus have tests, opinions and references to prove the value of the startup - indicates Agnieszka Poznańska from Shape VC.

Conclusions and analysis based on the presented numbers are often pointed by the experts as one of the most relevant factors in the startup pitch deck. I would definitely say that the worst mistake you can make while preparing a pitch deck is putting numbers out of thin air. Investors do not want to read unrealistic forecasts which present multi-million dollar projections to be achieved within two years. It is worth refining the business model based on reliable financial assumptions, verify prices on the market, compare prices with competitors, trace the financing of similar companies, etc. - claims Agnieszka Poznańska. Dilek Dayinlari shares this opinion as well, indicating that the pitch deck pages allocated to financial projections and target milestones justifying them are a tricky section. Even though they represent a critical part of the pitch deck, they should be prepared purposefully. If you can’t justify the projections in a few sentences, credibility issues may arise - she adds. 

Michał Rokosz points out that founders often present big numbers concerning the market while they address only a part of it. Understand your market, choose the most relevant information and moreover, consult where data ends and opinion starts. The strong importance of presenting proper data underlines also Basar Yenidunya from 212. He advises to carelessly calculate the numbers that are presented in the pitch deck, as your future assumptions and projections really matter to investors. So, study well the numbers you share in your presentation and know how they are calculated.

Bassar Yenidunya touches also on another aspect of credibility that definitely should not happen - mixing up the presentation for investors with the one for your clients. He comments: In the presentation you shared with the investor, unlike those you share with the client, "details" such as the amount of the investment you are looking for, the reason, the results you foresee, etc., need to be included.

Underrating the team value

Remember that you are not coming through the startup development process alone - always make sure to include co-founders and important team members in your startup pitch deck.  Basar Yenidunya highlights that presentations that do not contain details about the team should be definitely revised. If you are an early-stage startup pitching to an investor, one of the most fundamental points to tell about at the beginning should be your team. Explain why they should invest in your team over others? Who are the team members? How did they come together? What experiences have they had before? - he adds.

Different perspectives and approaches along with experience are an added value that really matters to investors. They [investors] usually aim to find out if the startup team members have previous experience and network in a given area, some projects or successes on their account, complementary competencies, and whether they have previously cooperated on other projects - confirms Agnieszka Poznańska.

Although the team slide may not seem very challenging, many founders often fail there. VC funds pay big attention to the startup team estimating the probability of the project’s potential success. Despite the cutting-edge idea your startup still needs to prove that it has the right team worth betting on. So if you are a successful employee or entrepreneur with a great track record of building and launching exceptional products or exiting a successful startup don’t shy out and underline it in your pitch deck right from the start - advises Ewa Chronowska.   

So always make sure to describe the key members of your management team, highlight mentors, advisors, board members and investors, their experience, knowledge and previous successes that they bring to the table. Even if you don’t have a complete team yet, point out the strategic positions you still need to fill. It is ok to point out “holes” in your team. You just have to convince investors you recognize them and have a plan to fill the gaps with the right talents and funds - adds Ewa Chronowska.

Negligence of a pitch deck technicalities

No matter how well-prepared you are, the technical aspects’ negligence may make you look untrustworthy. Pay attention to your writing, grammar, and quality of your presentation - underlines Basar Yenidunya. - The first impression is critical. Also remember that it is not advisable to prepare presentations in .key file format. Not every VC uses Apple products, so don't make it difficult for them to open your presentation. Moreover, make sure not to send a presentation larger than 10MB and in PPT format - comments Basar Yenidunya. Investors pay attention to visuals - so, using graphics from other presentations in your presentation is a huge mistake. It is advised to spend some time on the presentation's visuals and include references. Otherwise, it provides the reader with the perception that you don't care about them or, even worse: you are lazy.

Negligence shows you in a bad light, so always take care of the details as every startup presentation you make, every document and email you share, showcases your team and business. 

Choosing the wrong investor for your startup

At the end of the day, your role is to pick the right investors that will feel the connection between their investment focus and your startup idea and business goals - chemistry and mutual understanding is key in this relation. Don’t send exactly the same emails to your potential investors, a list of many VC funds in CC reaching hundreds of email addresses seems desperate and lowers your chances of getting funded. Try to build a relationship with investors that seems like a good match for your business, instead of presenting a pitch deck to many ones with a completely different investment strategy. Focus on quality not quantity and make sure you’re reaching the right target - underlines Ewa Chronowska.

Pitching a Pre-Seed idea to a Series A investor won’t get you the financing you need - adds Michał Rokosz. - Moreover, before pitching your idea to the dream investor, test your pitch in front of smaller investors and friends. You will have the chance to perfect your pitch based on the feedback and learn what questions to expect. This trick will definitely help you look professional and truly engaged in what you are trying to achieve.

 

To sum up investors expect to receive pitch decks that contain complete information about the product, team, competitive advantages, traction, business model, R&D agenda, budget & schedule and size of the round. They would like to see more professionally prepared materials along with well-thought-out financial plans - it is worth spending more time on preparing materials, refining graphics and branding, calculating financial plans, and developing a product roadmap - underlines Agnieszka Poznańska. - A very useful tip is to look at the examples of pitch decks from the companies that have already raised investment rounds in the past and to consult the project with experienced entrepreneurs, it will all pay off in the long run.

Keep in mind that pitching is an iterative process that will be optimized in time - points out Dilek Dayinlari. Collecting feedback from investors and updating a deck will improve the way of the startup pitching and increase the chances of successful fundraising

To discover more VC funds, check out our VC list - a complex database of the best early-stage venture capital funds investing in innovative startups across different verticals. Read More.

Related Posts:

How To Create A Pitch Deck That Will Get Your Startup Funded (by Ewa Chronowska, Partner, Next Road Ventures)

How To Write Elevator Pitch For Investors (by Ewa Chronowska, Partner, Next Road Ventures)

A Bunch Of Tips On Pitching Your Startup To Investors (by Olga Chechłacz, Editor, Vestbee)

 



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