Startup Pitch Deck: Structure & Mistakes to Avoid
Updated: Jul 3
At Capital Pilot, we've seen many pitch decks. In the process, we've built up some valuable insights on typical errors and omissions, as well as approaches that are better than others.
To create a perfect pitch deck, you need to know what investors look for in a startup. It doesn't matter if you are looking for angel investors or venture capitalists; there is critical information that all investors look for in early-stage companies.
Here's our list of the 10 most common pitch deck mistakes we encounter in our assessment process. By knowing what to avoid, we hope growth companies can apply better strategies when formulating their pitch.
10 Common Startup Pitch Deck Mistakes
Your pitch deck is targeted at your customers not at investors. Investors have pretty specific and standard information requirements. Ensure you address these elements and aren’t just selling your customer/client story.
Your presentation does not stand out as an introduction to your business. Your pitch deck is likely the first document a potential investor will review – typically delivered by email. It must convey your critical investor-focused messages beautifully, concisely, and powerfully.
You haven't highlighted what is unique about your business within its target marketplace or, importantly, why you and your team are the right people to execute your plan. Your pitch deck is your chance to concisely explain why your particular business model is unique and why the team delivering it is the best. You can't "do it all" in an investor pitch deck, but you should try to convey a good idea of your team's relevant experience and background(s).
You can't demonstrate traction with customers.Traction and validation are what separate an idea from an investable business opportunity. Your pitch deck needs to include evidence that your target customers will buy what you're selling. It doesn't matter what stage you're in; evidence of early traction is vital information to include in your pitch deck to strengthen your proposition and bolster your investment case. These can consist of customer survey data, testimonials, sign-ups, letters of intent, growth in user numbers or subscribers (free or pay), and of course, revenue. It is important to ensure your traction is consistent with the stage of maturity and longevity, or even better ahead of expectations relative to the stage!
Your financial model does not demonstrate revenue over time, critical drivers of growth, or enough detail on costs. Your business model should support your pitch deck and explain the dynamics of revenue and expenses over a three-to-five-year projection period. Investors learn a great deal about you by focusing on how logical and reasoned your projections are. They want to see your model demonstrate your value growth potential. See our resource page for more suggestions.
You've lumped sales, marketing, and your go-to-market strategy together. Digital Marketing and Social Media strategies are not sales or go-to-market strategies. How will you communicate with, engage with, and sell to your target customers or clients? And what element of your addressable market are you going to target initially? Address your sales, marketing and go-to-market strategies separately in your plan for growth.
Your pitch deck looks terrible. First impressions count, and not making an effort to make your presentation look good sends the wrong signal. Many free or low-cost resources are available to help you get your messages across powerfully in a well-designed presentation. Have a look at Canva for ideas. If design isn't in your wheelhouse, consider hiring a graphic designer to design your pitch deck. You certainly don't need a design agency at this point, but a trained eye with flair in storytelling can take a pitch deck from good to great. Taking the time to design your pitch deck is definitely worth the extra effort. However, a great looking pitch deck does not make up for weak content and a weak investor proposition.
Too many words on too many slides. It's an investor pitch deck, not a research paper. Keep your audience in mind — the investor wading through a mountain of presentations. Communicate the key points concisely and in a visually compelling way. Images and charts are often better at illustrating your ideas than dense text. While it can be tempting to throw everything but the kitchen sink at your pitch deck, keep it simple. Initially, an investor wants a cohesive and complete view of your business in a digestible format. Your deck needs to stand out from the other 30 they are looking at that morning.
You haven't talked about your competition or the market players you will challenge. It can be tempting to only talk about your business - but what about your competition? Including an objective assessment of your competition demonstrates that you have done your homework and have realistic expectations. Explain why your business model or customer proposition is unique (and better) from established players in your target market.
You haven’t included details of your fundraise: Potential investors want to see and understand the big picture in your pitch deck. You should include the amount you seek to raise and other factors affecting funding such as SEIS or EIS eligibility. Describe how you will use the proceeds and define the milestones you'll aim for following the round. These details are the building blocks of your value growth story, and they're fundamental for telling your story.
Fundraising is never easy, and it is always competitive. By avoiding common errors, you ensure you are not needlessly reducing your chances of success. Remember, investors are looking for a great business, not just a great idea or solution. Make your first impression count!
Where Can I Learn More?
Capital Pilot is here to help founders value their startup. For more information, check out all our Startup FAQs here. Or, if you are ready to get your investability assessment and rating, click here.