A Complete Guide to Creating a Killer Startup Pitch Deck


A well-designed and informative pitch deck is a foundational element of startup success. Founders who nail their pitch effectively showcase their company to prospective investors and consistently secure funding. A standout pitch wins customers and partners by defining a company’s value-add, showing proof of concept, and clearly describing how it outshines the competition. In this article, we will break down the core pillars of building an eye-catching pitch deck that will turn heads.

What Is a Startup Pitch Deck?

A startup pitch deck or investor pitch deck should serve as your company’s highlight reel. The goal of the deck is for startup founders to create a visual presentation that can be used to communicate their ideas to potential investors, partners, and customers.

A well-crafted deck should be 10 to 20 slides and includes appealing images, graphs, and charts. 

It’s essential to structure your deck to make you stand out from the rest when pitching to angel investors and venture capitalists. To get this right, remember the basics:

  • Keep it simple
  • Make it memorable
  • Include a clear call to action

The ultimate goal of your deck should be to get into the room and increase your chances of securing a ‘yes’. Oftentimes a pitch deck will be shared over email, LinkedIn, or through an investor’s website before pitching in person.

The Importance of A Pitch Deck for Startups

To effectively outline your pitch, it’s important to put yourself in the investor’s shoes. What are the core pieces of information you would need before investing in a company?

A great way to learn what makes a compelling pitch deck is by researching top pitch decks from companies like Uber, Facebook, and Tesla. By researching what’s worked, you’ll get closer to understanding how you can create a deck that stands out from the crowd.

Pitch decks are designed to quickly communicate a startup’s strengths in a concise manner. They do not overwhelm listeners with jargon or added details. Presentations should also include the most important information about your idea, team, and potential market opportunities for growth.

Winning decks always have the following factors covered:

  • The problem and market opportunity
  • Your solution and why you’re better than the competition
  • Why your company is worthy of an investment

Investors and potential clients view a pitch deck as the business’ first impression.

A great slide deck will be able to convince investors that your product has the potential for success. In order to do this, you need to create an emotional connection with prospective clients and partners with a clean and unified message.

To learn more about creating an effective startup pitch deck, see if you qualify for membership to join Founders Network.

8 Key Components of A Successful Pitch Deck

There are several important components to include in your deck. A good starting point is to follow the Lean Canvas model  to ensure that you’ve covered problems, solutions, key metrics, and competitive advantages in three core slides.

Your full 10- to 20-page deck should include the following eight key components:

  1. The Problem 
  2. The Solution
  3. The Market Opportunity
  4. Your Business Model
  5. Competition
  6. Team 
  7. Financial Projections
  8. Funding Request

And remember, your pitch deck will evolve as  your company becomes more mature and you move from seed funding into Series A, B and C funding rounds.

1. The Problem 

Start by highlighting the problem at hand in a clear and compelling manner. Create a clear narrative that will resonate with your audience and create a lightbulb moment. A problem statement should introduce tension in the market that you have a quick solution to solve.

When crafting your problem statement, you should focus on the potential side effects of it being left unresolved. Make your assertion focused, concrete and straight to the point. You should emphasize the urgency of the problem and look to evoke empathy by making personal connections.

2. The Solution

Take time to get your solution statement right. The shorter and sweeter your fix is, the more memorable it will be for investors. Often founders are too close to their product to hone in on one core value proposition. In this case, step away from the details and look to focus on what makes your customers most satisfied.

Your solution when finished should be as short as a sentence. Your value proposition should not need an explanation and should be concise enough to fit into one slide. Remember to tie your solution directly to the problem you already addressed. Otherwise, if you offer too many solutions, you can quickly look misaligned and not ready for an investment. 

3. The Market Opportunity

Before jumping too far into the details, it’s essential to show that there is a pathway to profit. Investors want to quickly understand the scale of the problem and the market potential.

Set the stage by developing three core personas that wrap into one larger market segment, each bringing a unique angle for your product. To achieve this, create a slide view of the market size and opportunity.

Be sure to tailor your market to your product. If you are focusing on a direct-to-consumer model, include demographics including income, location, and age. For B2B companies, focus on the size of your market through key metrics such as business size, potential market capitalization, location, or potential integrations.

4. Business model

Once you have offered your problem, solution, and how you fit in – show your audience how exactly you will execute your idea.

This section of your deck is where you begin to win investors. Make your business model clear by sharing:

  • Business structure
  • Gross revenue
  • Pricing models
  • Profit margins
  • Marketing and sales plans

Once you have these pieces down you should be prepared to define how you landed on your estimates and how they hold up.

If your business is in a pre-revenue or idea stage, include compelling projections and clear competitor models that underline how your offering is inclined to grow in the market. Remember that angel investors and venture capitalists want to invest in a business that’s sure to succeed.

5. Competitive analysis

When it comes to competition, it’s important to show that there’s no one quite like you. An effective way to do that is to go back to the problem statement to remind your audience that you have the best solution for it.

This part of your presentation is one of the most essential.

Understanding your competition is just as important as understanding your product and customer. It is critical to showcase a thorough competitive analysis to show that you know the market and have the potential to outshine the rest.

The Gartner Magic Quadrant is the gold standard for tech startups who are looking to wow investors. It uses a grid format to categorize players across leaders, visionaries, challengers, and niche players.

No matter where you land in the quadrant, it is important to use numbers and facts to prove that you know your market and are the leader of your pack.

6. Team

Once you’ve defined the competitor landscape in the market, introducing your team can be an excellent way to back up your track record for success. Be sure to showcase the strengths and successes that your team, investors, customers, or partners bring to the table. A track record of success will always make it easier to raise funds.

Include the following details to validate your expertise:

  • Background and work history of founders
  • Subject matter expertise and core skills of the team
  • Total years of experience 
  • Management and business skills 

Let’s face it, Mark Zuckerburg was just a name until success came. Whether or not you are already a successful founder, don’t shy away from believing in yourself and putting your best foot forward. Look for ways in which you can entice investors to want to invest in you over others by proving to them that you are the top experts in your core market.

7. Financial projections

Seasoned investors want to be sure that founders have a good grasp of their market and product. In fact, investors often use projections to ensure that founders understand their market and numbers well enough to be worthy of sustaining an investment.

When you create your projections you should demonstrate how your business model will be successful. A helpful approach is to have a tiered model for your forecast. Start by sharing your historical financial records to date. Then, simply include your revenues, gross profits, and net profits, on a month-by-month basis. Always be prepared to back up your assumptions and call out any metrics that could cause pause.

When you craft your projections it’s important to shoot for a 3- to 5-year runway into the future. This will give investors enough time to see their short-term earning potential and a view into how the business will fare in the long run. 

8. Funding request

Asking for funding is the point in your presentation where you must wrap all the pieces into one compelling ask. Go into the funding request with a clear and precise number. You should be able to deftly detail exactly how you landed at your request valuation, the ways it will support the business, and the results the capital infusion will produce.  Remember to detail how the investment will enable key milestones. It’s also important to integrate details on product development, your break-even point, and earning potential.

Many founders think their role is to convince investors to buy into their business. Try a different angle by displaying the money, vision, and accomplishments they will miss out on if they do not invest in your company. At the end of the day, you are likely looking for a strategic partner – not just a capital infusion.

Tips for Creating an Effective Pitch Deck

The core formula for a winning deck is to focus on telling your story in four to five of your slides. For most founders, this can feel impossible due to how close they are to their product.

A helpful tool for sharpening your deck is to open it up to critique. In feedback forums like Founders Network Pitch Practice events, entrepreneurs can get direct feedback on their pitch and investor startup decks. This can include advice on how to structure and organize the deck, how to choose the right visuals and graphics, and how to effectively communicate your message. 

Another tool is to do your research. Look for tools like pre-designed decks or design services like Slidebean or UnicornPitch that help founders nail their decks. This can even enable founders to create a pitch deck in one day. When crafting your deck you can also integrate tracking mechanisms to find out which slides are being viewed and your best process for refining your pitch and following up on your ask.

Throughout the process, remember the basics: keep it simple, make it memorable, and include a clear call to action. Keep your design clean and your text free of jargon. Always review your deck to be sure you’ve included the eight key components of a killer pitch deck, as listed above.

Pitch Deck Best Practices

Once you’ve taken time to sift through pitch decks of some of the largest companies, you’ll likely see some core features that make a compelling deck stand out. Generally, this includes interesting graphics and images, a compelling problem and solution, and a palpable passion for the product.

A few of the top visual best practices are to:

  • Keep branding consistent by using high-quality images
  • A defined color palette
  • Consistent text sizing (free of typos!)
  • A clear and unified voice 

It’s also important to remember the smaller details. For example, always send a pitch deck as a PDF to ensure formatting consistency. And, never forget to add in your copyright. 

Oftentimes a pitch deck is sent digitally. Craft a short and tailored message to each investor you share your deck with to ensure it’s personalized. Offer the opportunity to demo or test your product for free – and be sure to show that you have a market ready for your product.

Some founders will choose to hire companies to help them in landing their deck and initial pitch which can pay off in the long run. Whether outsourcing or keeping development in-house, make a point to review the deck monthly for consistency.

What to Avoid

At the same time, when sifting through multiple pitch decks and investor decks – you will find some tactics and approaches that fall short.

Here’s a quick and non-exhaustive list of what to avoid:

  • Never make the pitch deck more than 20 slides long. Less is often better. 
  • Don’t bash your competitors. You never know who may be in the room.
  • Don’t provide excessive financial details, as that can be provided in a follow-up.
  • Don’t try to cover everything in the pitch deck. The pitch deck should be what gets you into the room to do the explaining. 
  • Don’t use a lot of jargon or acronyms. Always aim to simplify.
  • Avoid a poor layout, low-quality graphics, or pixelated images. Hiring a graphic designer to polish off your deck can be the difference between landing and missing the deal.

There’s always something that can be improved in every deck. Investors review hundreds of decks each month. In fact, a recent study found that potential investors spend about three minutes and 44 seconds looking at a pitch deck when it is not presented to them. Strive for greatness, and remember – when pitching to an investor, your deck may be one of 30 they’ve seen that week. Make sure you stand out.

3 Examples of Winning Pitch Decks From Successful Startups

While you may have found your own pitch deck favorites, we have ours too. Check out the list below of three different companies whose pitch decks enabled them to secure investor funding across Seed, Angel, and VC stages. 


Uber is the top tech giant known as the inventor of on-demand ride-sharing. Their original 2008 pitch achieved success by offering a quicker and easier alternative to cabs. Their proposal quickly gets to the meat of solving a market gap by offering consumers a ‘1-click hailing’ solution. Even more powerful is the clean, clear, and compelling way they were able to easily detail their pitch by using less than 100 words on each slide.


In 2009, short-term home rental leaders at Airbnb used their minimalistic pitch deck to secure $600,000 from Sequoia Capital and Y Ventures. Their methodology was clear: Use visuals, not words to tell the story. As a company with users active at the time of their pitch, they also made good use of testimonials, press, and product demos to show the proof of concept for their design.


Cloud storage platform, DropBox, built a deck that secured a small $15,000 Venture Capital investment that quickly grew to a $16 billion dollar company. Their pitch deck includes the eight core pillars of a successful deck, and artfully displays a feature ranking table to easily establish them as a leader against their competitors. While the presentation is not as aesthetically appealing as Uber or Airbnb, DropBox understands that less is more by using large fonts and few words.

You can explore lists of additional successful decks on TechCrunch, Piktochart and CirrusInsight.

FAQs About a Startup Pitch Deck

Ready to get started on your pitch deck? If so, take a look at our FAQs to ensure you’re ready to hit the ground running.

How much does it cost to make a pitch deck?

Making a pitch deck is free. Despite this, it is important to spend time and energy on getting it right. Some investors may choose to hire an experienced designer to polish the deck for up to $4,000. You can also work with a communicator and designer which can cost up to $10,000. It is also a great idea to attend events like Founders Network Pitch Practice and Office Hours events to get feedback directly from investors.

How many slides are in a startup pitch deck?

A startup pitch deck or investor deck should have 10 to 20 slides.

How do you structure a pitch deck?

A pitch deck should be structured as a 10 to 20 slide deck with the following eight components:

  1. The Problem 
  2. The Solution
  3. Target Market and Opportunity
  4. Your Business Model
  5. Competition
  6. Team 
  7. Financial Projections
  8. Funding Request

You may find other, similar models for pitch decks. As long as you cover the pieces above, your deck has the essentials for success.

Does a pitch deck include financials?

You should always include financial details when they help to illustrate your success. Financial data should include your expenses, revenue/income, KPIs, and core projections. Find the numbers investors like to see most here.

What legal disclaimers should a startup pitch deck include?

A pitch deck is intended to inform investors about your product. You should include factual information in your pitch presentation. You do not need to include any legal disclaimer on a pitch deck. Despite this, be sure to list if your product has a copyright, patent, or trademark.

What are the contents of an idea-stage startup pitch deck?

An idea-stage startup pitch deck is similar to any other pitch deck. Your presentation should include the following:

  • Problem: Describe the problem your company solves
  • Solution: How you solve it
  • Market opportunity: Your business model
  • Competitive analysis: Your value proposition
  • Roadmap: Proof of concept from case studies and examples
  • Team: Founders and investors
  • Financial projections: Where you plan to meet the market
  • Funding Request: A clear number that will help you reach your next milestone

What should you avoid putting on a startup pitch deck?

Startup founders should avoid pitch decks that are over 20 slides and not well designed. Many times founders over-explain and use too much jargon in pitch decks. Most importantly, don’t put any reason for an investor, partner, or customer to say no in your deck. Don’t point out your weaknesses. Highlight your strengths. 

Which accounting statements do I need for my startup pitch deck?

You should have five financial documents prepared to share. These may show up as an appendix or once requested as a follow-up:

  • The assumptions sheet 
  • The balance sheet 
  • An income statement
  • Cash flow statement 
  • A statement of shareholders’ equity

Do your research to learn more about the accounting statements you should prepare.

Are you ready to nail your Pitch Deck?

A clear and compelling pitch deck is a foundational element to any startup’s success. Founders who craft investor pitch decks that effectively showcase their vision consistently secure funding. A killer pitch wins customers and partners by defining a company’s value-add, showing proof of concept, and clearly describing how it outshines the competition. By incorporating the tips found in this article, you are sure to craft a deck that will win investors.

Ready to test your luck? Take the first step by enrolling in a local pitch competition or see if you qualify for membership to  attend one of Founders Network’s investor pitch practice and office hours events.

Founders Network offers tech entrepreneurs a community of ideas, support, and mentorship. Whether  you are crafting your first pitch, looking to connect with investors, or simply interested in connecting with a like-minded community – we offer support for founders at all stages.

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