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Starting a Business

Five Best Pitch Decks of All Time

They are synonymous with start-ups at almost every stage of their business life-cycle
Five Best Pitch Decks of All Time
Image credit: Shutterstock.com
Partner and creative lead, HighSpark
6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

 

When startups are pitching for investments to generate explosive growth for their business idea, or even just making sense of their product to prospective customers, pitch decks are a must.

How do founders even begin to put together a persuasive pitch deck that gets funded? We look into five of the best pitch deck examples of all time for their secrets to success.

1. Airbnb

Airbnb is a community marketplace for people to list, discover and book unique spaces around the world through mobile phones or the internet.

Before they were catapulted into success, Airbnb’s thriving business started with just an idea and three team members.

This company needs little introduction as one of the most well-known and successful startups in the current landscape.

The company raised $650,000 successfully in their seed round.

Clear Messaging and Design

The Airbnb pitch deck was clear. They used key visuals, diagrams and headlines to communicate messages on each of the slides.

Believable Market Sizing

Their market projections using Total Available Market (TAM) and Servicable Available Market (SAM) have since become popularly reproduced by today’s founders in their pitch decks.

Comparison to Adjacent Marketplaces

The problem with creating something disruptive or fairly new is that you might not always have a point-of-reference. They used similar concepts such as Craigslist.com and Couchsurfing.com to show market potential and possible uptake of Airbnb.

2. Buffer

Buffer is a simpler and easier way to schedule posts, track the performance of your content, and manage all your accounts in one place. Buffer’s pitch deck is not one of the most visually impressive. But they did get some things right and secured $500,000 in seed funding.

Impressive Traction

The Buffer team let their impressive traction shine in their pitch deck.  It speaks lengths to the capabilities of the team with early numbers like 800 paying users, $150,000 in revenue and a 97 per cent margin. Investors would be crazy to not consider the investment seriously.

Sharing an ‘Inevitable Shift’ versus Just a Problem

Instead of adhering too closely to a boilerplate structure of problem and solution that most startups use, Buffer started their pitch off with an inevitable trend called social sharing.

A Clear Vision and Plan Ahead

The Buffer deck also included a piece that most startup pitch decks lack: a clear plan and vision of the future.

In their “Milestone” slide, they committed to specific quantifiable goals like user growth and traffic pegged to a timeline.

They also shared that their vision was to be “the sharing standard” across various aggregators and apps.

3. Contently

Contently is a New York City-based technology company. Its software helps brands create, manage content and connect with freelance writers, photographers and videographers.

With an impressive $9,000,000 raised, the Contently team walks the talk in demonstrating their storytelling abilities.

Referencing Existing Software to Explain Product

In instances where you develop a product with similar features to an existing solution that may not be in the same market, you can use examples of those solutions to help investors better understand your product.

Using Credibility Signals Effectively

Contently strategically used social proof like key media mentions in Forbes and various notable brands on their platform to boost the image of Contently by association. This helps to put them in the same league as the companies they work with.

Tracking Features to Funding Rounds

In new fundraising rounds, it always helps to inform your investors of how the company has grown or evolved since the previous rounds.

Contently provides a clear plan of the new features that they plan to introduce with the next round of investment. This indicates to investors that they already know what to do with the money and have a track record of success.

4. Dwolla

 Dwolla is a US-based e-commerce company that provides an online payment system and mobile payments network. A contender with some of the biggest payment giants, Dwolla managed to hold its own.

It’s not the most succinct but managed to raise $16,500,000 in Series C funding.

Comparing Old and New Models of Payment

The Dwolla deck had two slides comparing different models of payments from a back-end point-of-view. The older model of payment took a week while Dwolla’s model of payment took a few seconds.

 This effectively communicates Dwolla’s value proposition, displaying technical depth without getting too deep into the details.

Good use of Social Proof

At the start of the pitch, the Dwolla team showcased their existing user categories that included governments, businesses and individuals.

This not only reinforces that they have diverse user demographics, but also shows that they are Dwolla’s captive audience. These users have made transactions with each other exclusively via Dwolla’s platform.

5. Linkedin

LinkedIn is now the largest professional networking site that allows its members to create business connections, search for jobs, and find potential clients.

Their Series B deck is an oldie-but-goodie pitch deck that leaves nuggets of success from the mind of Reid Hoffman way before Linkedin got acquired by Microsoft.

Accountability in Improving Numbers

The deck included actual growth numbers overlaid on projected numbers. Its actual growth far exceeded its projections. This is a clear indication to investors that funds raised are managed well and that the team is accountable and focused on growth.

Deep Foresight and Justified Predictions

This deck was made way back in 2004 meaning that very few of us actually had any idea what use of the Internet would look like in 10 years.  The deck detailed Linkedin’s hypothesis that the internet would evolve in specific ways that would make Linkedin the best product-fit for the needs of users.

On Linkedin’s founder Reid’s blog, he also speaks of his “investment thesis”, which is a high-level idea or theme that relates to how he sees the direction of the company and how the funds play a part in that.

He repeats this thesis: “Find and Contact The People You Need Through People You Already Trust” at the start and the end of the presentation, clearly summarising where the business is going next.

Round-specific Focus and Thesis

As Series B rounds are way different from seed or Series A rounds in terms of how investment pitches go, founders need to be careful not to lose sight of what is important to investors.

The project at this stage has already found product-market fit and should, at this point, be exploring expansion opportunities or a new product-stage that could lead to exponential growth.

 

Your pitch deck will either support your pitch to investors or turn them off if prepared without a plan. So, be prepared, always.

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