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THE INC. LIFE

Everything You Need to Know About Sending a Pitch Deck to an Investor

Don’t send your deck with lots of tracking tools attached–let investors view it at their leisure.

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BY Mark Suster - 16 May 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

I know you have your document-sending tool to send your fundraising deck to VCs and track who read your deck, which pages they read, and how much time they spend on each page. I know that you can use an email system with this to track my open rate, whether I forwarded the email, the IP address where I read it, whether I was on a mobile device or a wired computer, and you can tell who else read the document. I know all of this because every VC knows this--because we've all either funded companies that have marketing technology or we've seen a pitch with a company that does this.

So while it might seem obvious that you should send your pitch deck via a link, I'd like to make the counter-argument that it is not an obvious choice. I'll explain why in this post. First, it's not the end of the world if you do send links, and I feel confident many people will disagree with me, but let me at least make the case.

1. Your pitch deck should really be your best marketing tool.

Your pitch deck shouldn't contain your deepest, darkest secrets and plans. That would be something you'd only reveal when you're well into the VC process and have established mutual trust and they've proven engagement with you. Whenever you write your deck and send it out, I think you should actually think to yourself, "My competitors are probably going to read this one day and this will be forwarded widely" and if your response isn't "So what?" or "That would be awesome" then I think you're doing something wrong anyway.

In a perfect world your deck shows you in such a positive light that the person in the VC firm who receives it forwards it to the rest of his or her team. Your deck should be so good that a VC asks you for permission to show it to his or her portfolio companies. Your deck should be so compelling that the partner at the VC firm you're talking to reads it multiple times because they keep going back to the thought, "I should really spend more time with this company" and they can't get it out of their head.

VCs are acutely aware that with a link they're being tracked, so those benefits to you may actually limit consumption.

2. You're adding unnecessary "purchase friction."

If your deck is something I should open 3-4 times as I'm contemplating an investment, why add any consumption friction to the reader? No amount of tracking when she reads your deck is going to truly help you get inside her head, so those benefits are oversold.

I'm sure that some VCs and others do love online viewers when they read a deck. They probably think it's efficient because they don't have to download a big file with tons of graphics. Frankly, it should be your goal to build your deck in a way that it isn't more than 10MB, or you're doing something wrong. There are a million ways to make graphics lighter or resize your file without a huge impact on the quality of the slides--after all, you aren't presenting this at TED.

3. What should be in your deck?

  • Team
  • Problem you're solving (Pain)
  • Your unique approach (USP)
  • Why it's extremely valuable to your customers (ROI)
  • Basic technology explanations/differentiated IP
  • Market size (TAM)
  • Competition
  • Unit economics
  • Financial projections--preferably 18-month income statement by month and a 3-5 year projection by quarter (showing the "out years" is a helpful exercise, even though nobody expects good fidelity)
  • Customer metrics or if enterprise sales some key customers and pipeline
  • Amount you're raising
  • Use of proceeds

And all of this should come across as a narrative story rather than a stilted business plan.

4. What should not be in your deck?

  • Detailed roadmap of features you plan to build
  • Detailed customer information
  • Salary information
  • Any other information you wouldn't want seen or known by your competitors or a larger audience

In short, there is nothing in your deck that should give you pause or make you feel like you can't just send the damn file to somebody.

Your detailed financial model? Sure, I wouldn't want that in my competitors' hands, but in a million years I'd never send that before my first meeting, so it shouldn't affect you anyway.

5. VCs like to measure your strategy and progress over time.

I like to download the decks I receive. I like to refer back to them when you come by 9-12 months later for your next meeting, and I like to see how your strategy, your narrative, and your numbers have changed. Many of my colleagues do, too. Because I invest in "lines, not dots" it's actually the delta that I'm investing in. I don't mind if your numbers last year were wildly optimistic--frankly I'd be surprised if they weren't.

And it's not infrequent where somebody mentions a market I'm thinking about and I think, "didn't I just see company X, Y, Z nine months ago who was playing in this space?" I would likely open up your deck, read it again and begin contemplating your company again. If it's in a link in an email with an expired link you can certainly stop a VC from thinking about you again but I'm not sure how that furthers your agenda.

6. Send the deck.

Pitch decks are sales and marketing decks, and like in any sales activity, any great salesperson assumes his or her competition will eventually get their deck. So what? Competition isn't won or lost by your marketing decks--it's won by how you innovate and by how you execute. A deck is a deck. Just send it. It's all upside and limited downside.

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