Great post, Steve. We just pulled back from an angel raise for just this reason… our deck has too many hypotheses and not enough demonstrable, product-specific data. The only way you can convince an investor to part with hard-earned money in 10 slides and 30 minutes is to show proven traction. That means download numbers, usage data or (the best) revenue/profit. We could have raised some money on trust/reputation, and we could have flogged the deck around Boston/SF to find some angel follow-on. But we’d rather wait a couple more months until we actually have some user data. If Yesware works, our valuation will be higher and the raise will be quicker. And if it doesn’t, we shouldn’t have taken the angel money anyway.
Very timely post! I’m preparing a slide deck after 8 years of thinking and talking with customers. I’ll use the lessons learned slide deck to get out of the “Thinking Out Loud” Slide Deck that I was developing to flesh out the detailed features of the services offered.
Powerful premise, Steve. Having seen it happen, I can vouch for the transformation from a pile of disjointed assertions into a story that one can’t help but nod along with.
I’ve also seen second-time entrepreneurs start out with the _last_ startup’s deck, and then try to shoehorn the new idea into the same format. Talk about disaster. The assumption was that the length and format of the old deck (you know, fitting into the VC-approved pacing) mattered more than the content.
Heck, I’ve seen visuals recycled three or more times through multiple startups, with obvious mental contortions to get the latest idea to make sense in the context of an old visual. Bizarre, right?
What you’re really taking on here is the notion of a pitch format as some sort of talisman to use against VCs, instead of the output from arduous exploration, head-scratching, and humility.
A pitch is a sale orientated environment.
In human sales relationships interaction and engagement is key – to an extent, the person becomes the vehicle for belief in the product. This quite rightly transfers to a pitch. Nobody wants to hear a pitch that feels like a lecture, the more slides you have the less personal it will feel.
An entrepreneur must sell both the product and himself with help only from slides that prove indispensable in this communication process.
As I read your post I cringe at what I’ve presented over the years. Great post – especially the point about using the longer deck to gather & shape your ideas/hypotheses.
I feel you omit one important factor though. First time entrepreneurs tend to sweat the small stuff (& I’m a world champion at this) and often lack the confidence to omit detail. Second or third time around, you’ve seen a lot of this stuff before & you’re confident in your own ability to deal with it & omit from your slide deck.
I’ve only recently discovered your writings & want to compliment you on the incisiveness of your analysis & the clarity you bring to the science of entrepreneurship.