Building a pitch deck is intimidating, regardless of whether it’s your first time pitching your idea or raising subsequent rounds of funding for an existing company.
There’s so much you want to share, but you only have so much time to share it. And when the funding (read: future) of your company is on the line, it can feel like every pixel is important.
To let you take a deep exhale and focus on preparing your presentation, we’ve created this slide-by-slide walkthrough of a startup pitch deck, complete with example slides from startups who’ve successfully raised funds.
I already know what I need in my presentation. Take me right to the free pitch deck templates.
You may need to create several different kinds of pitch decks as a startup founder. The first may be the one you create to pitch potential cofounders to join you on the team. In this type of presentation, you’ll likely want to focus on the company’s mission, the culture they’d be joining (or helping to establish), and the growth potential they have a chance to be a part of.
The second type would be a comprehensive deck, meant to share in-depth details rather than be presented. This type of pitch deck contains all relevant information, with a hefty appendix and more data and text than you would use to pitch it live. You might email a deck like this as a follow-up to a live pitch, send it to someone you’re unable to meet with, submit it as part of an application to a startup pitch competition or accelerator, or present it in the more detailed due diligence process after initial conversations.
The third type of pitch deck is the one we’ll be focusing on: The investor pitch deck, designed to supplement a live pitch to individuals or groups that can help fund your company’s formation or expansion. When it comes to your investor pitch deck, we think Guy Kawasaki, Canva’s Chief Evangelist, summed up some industry best practices pretty well with his 10/20/30 rule: You should aim to pitch your startup in 10 slides, in under 20 minutes, and with size 30 font or larger.
While you’ll hear plenty of founders and investors share their nuanced takes on what a “good” startup pitch presentation looks like, there’s some consensus on the 7-10 key slides needed to knock it out of the park.
While it might just seem like a formality or a placeholder, a title or introduction slide is a stellar chance to make a great first impression. Title slides should be as minimal as possible, and most contain just a few key elements:
Here’s the ultra-minimal title slide that Dropbox used to raise the $1.2M seed round, led by Sequoia, with their killer tagline: “Moving the world’s files.”
Uber’s first pitch deck was slightly more visual, including images of the signature black car and the mobile devices used to hail them :
The problem slide addresses the current need in the marketplace that’s not being met. A problem slide should clearly articulate what’s not working currently, like how Dropbox’s Problem slide succinctly summarized the inconvenience and insufficiency of current file management systems:
The specific problem in your pitch deck will (hopefully) be unique to your product. Still, problem positioning often involves framing the current situation or available “solutions” as inefficient, incomplete, overcomplicated, time-consuming, expensive, or outdated.
Airbnb’s first pitch deck stuck with text to address three different problems: expense, isolation, and inconvenience:
By outlining what’s wrong with the current state and detailing the pain points that your target market is experiencing, you help build a case for the necessity of your solution.
The Problem Slide in Uber’s original pitch deck addressed the challenges for the two benefactors of their double-sided marketplace, namely the outdated technology taxi drivers are stuck with and the inconvenience taxi customers face:
Also called the “Utopia” slide, the solution slide of your pitch deck details how the world could be better than it is now. The Solution slide of your pitch deck is where you share—in general terms—how the problem could be solved.
Here’s how Airbnb broke down the solution to traveler’s problems booking accommodations in the simplest terms:
Dropbox went the Utopia route, describing what consumers would need in a “perfect world” of file storage and transfer:
For more layout examples for this type of slide, check out Canva’s free pitch deck templates
You can also think of the Product slide as a “Your Solution” slide, where you explain how you and your company are solving the aforementioned unmet needs with your product or service.
Think of this as an introduction: a chance to share the critical elements of what you do, how you do it, and how your solution addresses the currently unmet needs of your target audience.
Airbnb gave a perfect 50,000-foot view of their vision with this three-screenshot product slide:
Remember that simplicity is key here. You don’t need to share every possible use case, feature, configuration, or option; just the high-level summary that helps others understand what it is that your product or service offers (or will offer) to its customers.
If you have detailed technical information, scientific data, or additional product visuals to share, add those into the appendix so they’re on hand in case a question comes up.
For more layout examples for this type of slide, check out Canva’s free pitch deck templates
If your company has already launched—even if it’s a limited beta or test group—the Traction slide is where you provide proof of preliminary success.
Traction refers to conversions—whatever that means for your company—not just intent or interest. Many people may be interested in your product, and lots of people might want your product, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll become a buyer or user of your product.
To show investors that there’s traction, you need to focus on the data points that show tangible and measurable success: number of sales, number of orders, total sales, revenue to date, number of users, wait-list signups, pre-orders, and other quantitative success indicators.
But as with most rules, there’s an exception: If your company is pre-launch or pre-product, you may have to approach this as more of a Validation slide and share whatever data you have that indicates your idea will be successful. For example, you could do this with survey results, focus-group data, projections, and other data points.
Airbnb’s Market Validation slide used search data from couchsurfing.com to showcase user demand and temporary housing listings on Craigslist to show the appetite of would-be hosts to open up their homes:
Data visualization is key to making both traction and validation understood. Use simple charts and graphs to simplify your data and bold design to make that data impactful.
The Traction slide from BuzzFeed’s original pitch deck was text-only. While 2.5 million page views and 30 million impressions may be great, it’s hard to contextualize those numbers or see momentum without visuals:
Buffer’s Traction slide is a little bit more visual, with a graph showing some kind of growth in the background, but without labels on the chart, it doesn’t quite have the impact it could:
Contrast those text-based approaches with these more visual Traction slides:
In Parsec’s original pitch deck, bright contrasting colors show a sharp increase on a chart, and key stats pulled out on the right to focus attention:
And in WeWork’s pitch deck, they demonstrated their geographic distribution and their traction with bright yellow bubbles whose size corresponds to the size of the location it represents:
The Market Size slide is the perfect follow-up to the traction slide, giving you a chance to build on your growth momentum by explaining the size of the potential audience for your product or service.
The goal of a market size slide is to get investors excited about your growth potential, so they can more easily understand the potential returns they stand to see, should they decide to invest in you.
A Market Size slide usually includes three key data points:
Focus on visualizing these data points in a way that emphasizes the potential. (If you need some help, we’ve got a graph and chart creator tool that makes data visualization super easy.)
Uber’s “Overall Market” slide did the trick for them, but sharing so many rows of data in such a small font can make a slide feel a little dense:
By contrast, the market data in Airbnb’s pitch deck take a more visual approach to share the TAM, SAM, and SOM of their service:
This slide can go by a few different names, depending on the stage of your company; you might hear it referred to as a Competitor Slide, Advantage Slide, or Differentiator Slide.
But name aside, the purpose of this slide is the same: to show where you fit into the current market, compared to others who may be trying to solve this same problem.
Consistent with the rest of their slides, Uber’s original pitch deck took a text-only approach to share what sets them apart, listing their “Key Differentiators” clearly and simply to show how they stack up:
Dropbox showed that they had the upper hand with a “Technical Advantage” slide that laid out why they stood to win amongst the competitive landscape:
Competitor slides often list any major competitors and note critical differences. The most compelling way to show how you stack up to the competition is to create some sort of visual comparison.
Buffer did this by organizing competitors’ logos based on their in-market positioning:
In our original pitch deck, we used an XY axis to show how we were filling a gap in the existing marketplace when you compared cost and creative freedom:
Dropbox used green checkmarks and red Xs in a simple grid, showing all the features they offer, compared to the other options:
Build compelling comparison charts to differentiate your company from your competitors and highlight gaps that you can consider as strategic opportunities to target and explore with your product or service.
The decision to invest can have as much to do with the team as it does the company they are building.
Sometimes this slide only includes details about the founder—especially if the company is pre-product or in the very early stages—but it most often has other leadership team members. For younger startups or first-time founders, including advisors on your Team slide can help fill out the page and add third-party credibility.
Buffer’s original Team slide included the two founders as the primary focus but also listed their advisors and some investors who had worked with them before:
The choice to go with photos, illustrations, or no visuals of the team is up to you, but including names and titles is vital. Where possible, adding a few brief biographical points can also help build confidence in the team.
WeWork did this with their team slide, titled “Leadership and Vision,” listing prior experience of each member of the executive team as well as an impressive Board of Directors:
Here are some examples of the types of biographical points that can help build your credibility and increase confidence in your team:
At this point in the pitch, it’s time to talk about money. And your Financials slide might come in one of three forms:
A Business Model slide helps investors see where current and future revenue comes from. You can do this very simply, even with just text, as Dropbox did in their deck:
A Financial Projections slide breaks down expected growth in detail—typically over 1-3 years. WeWork’s original pitch deck has a great example of a 5-year financial projection (although you might want to reserve this level of detail for the appendix and try a more minimal version in your 10-slide deck):
A “Use of Funds” slide shows how much money you’re raising and how it will be deployed. Here’s how we broke down our investment terms in our first deck, alongside the milestones we planned to achieve:
You might be tempted to ditch the contact slide in favor of adding in additional company-focused slides. But what good will that added information do there’s no means of connecting to continue the conversation?
Closing your startup pitch deck with a clear contact slide makes it easy for investors to follow up with you and ensures that anyone else who gets their hands on the pitch deck can reach out to you, too.
Most often, contact slides simply include your startup’s website and a contact email, which could be the founder’s or a more general email address like team, hello, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s the contact slide from BuzzFeed’s original pitch deck, for example:
A phone number is also a common addition, and occasionally you might need to include a business or mailing address. Still, the goal of the contact slide is to keep it minimal so you can guide folks toward the action you want them to take next.
Perhaps the most minimal contact slide out there is this one from Buffer’s pitch deck:
Of course, the ten slides we just discussed aren’t the only possible slides to include if you’re pitching investors for funding, so here’s a quick list of five others to consider adding to your appendix or in a more comprehensive follow-up deck.
Target Market: Explain in detail exactly who your product or service is for (and not for) as we did with this handy pyramid in our original deck.
Company Details: Describe how the company was born, its history to date, or offer a slightly more detailed company overview. WeWork’s pitch deck included this slide that acts like a baseball card for the company, offering quick facts about history, employees, membership, key markets, and growth.
Timing: Share why the time is right for your product or service, the way Dropbox did in this “Why Now” slide in their original pitch deck.
Roadmap: Detail the key future milestones and planned progress. Buffer combined some achieved milestones alongside the upcoming ones in their pitch deck.
If you’re looking for some more inspiration or want to see the example slides we shared in their original context, you can dive deeper into the complete pitch decks of each below:
You don’t have to be a seasoned designer to create a pitch deck worthy of earning investment. But the consistency of visual elements is key to making your pitch deck look professional.
Pair the perfect pitch with an impressive pitch deck presentation designed from professionally made templates you can easily customize for free. Start creating your presentations with Canva now.
Here are a few of the pitch deck templates we recommend:
Looking for something a little different?Browse the pitch deck template gallery and start designing in seconds.