What We Learned From 100+ Presentations of Startups
Everything you need to know before going out to pitch to your potential investors
Whether your pitch deck will receive investment or not depends fiercely on how convincing the presentation looks.
To find out how to create a successful pitch deck, my team reviewed and analyzed more than 100 presentations of successful startups from 1999–2018 (you can see the full list of companies and download presentations here).
We discovered several interesting facts and patterns, to say the least.
I hope our findings help you build a presentation that will impress investors and accelerate you to the next round.
Fact 1. Most startups are services
The most common startup format is service delivery. This type is known for its relatively simple implementation — no serious knowledge of the technological side is required, and the potential customer is, in fact, anyone with access to the internet.
Fact 2. Only a handful get an IPO
Over two-thirds of all startups in our sample stayed open for business. Only four companies from our sample managed to go public, while almost every tenth startup was closed. Another 18 companies were bought by strategic investors or merged with other companies. These include LinkedIn, YouTube, Soundwave, and others.
Fact 3. The most successful areas are “Technology” and “Analytics.”
All technology and analytics startups from our sample continue to work either independently or as a part of another company. They seem to succeed more often, judging by the incidence of them going public.
Innovations in the sphere of goods and services appeared to be less demanded: only one company from our sample was listed in the stock market, and almost every fifth startup was closed.
Fact 4. The seed round is critical for the future startup
If we analyze the distribution of pitches from our sample by financing rounds, then two-thirds (or 67) of them belonged to the seed round, 14 to series A, 9 to series B, and 4 to series C. Two pitches from the sample received IPO pre-financing, another pitch belonged to the earliest (pre-seed) stage.
Although somewhat obvious, the seed round is critically important for a future startup. If one doesn’t impress investors at this stage the next rounds simply won’t happen. This is difficult because, at this early stage, a startup often doesn’t even have a prototype of its solution yet. There is only an idea.
This is where a “perfect” presentation comes in. The right words and a visual story matter at this stage more than any other.
Fact 5. Each pitch slide makes an average of $477,000
The total amount of attracted investment in the sample was $882 million. 2015 accounts for 42 percent of this amount (mainly thanks to the corporate giant “WeWork,” which collected $335 million in a Series D).
In 2012, nine companies attracted $3 million. In 2017, another seven startups received $6 million. This was partly caused by the fact that the vast majority of them were in the seed round.
The total average investment per slide for all pitches was $477,000
At the same time, almost one out of 10 startups from our sample raised an average of over a million dollars per slide!
Fact 6. The number of slides in pitches grows in the initial rounds.
With each new round, the amount of money at stake is growing. Startups put more and more effort into convincing investors that their ideas are promising and that they are ready to develop a product. They disclose the details of the project but also show the intermediate results.
According to our sample, growth takes place in the initial rounds of funding. On rounds A, B, C, and D, the average number of slides in the pitch deck remains stable — from 22 to 25.
Fact 7. There are “mandatory” pitch elements needed to raise funds.
There are many approaches to structuring a pitch deck but there seem to be a few “necessary” pitch elements.
Recommendations on the usage of individual semantic blocks (i.e., words) usually repeat and overlap. We formed a list of the most “popular” presentation sections in order to evaluate how often they were used in our sample.
“Project team” is the most frequent section (87%), then “solution” (84%), and then a tie between “market” and “target audience” (81%).
The least popular blocks are “competitors” and “roadmap.” Even though one of the main goals of the pitch is to get investments, the required amount was indicated only in 41 percent of the presentations.
One can notice that over time startups began to pay more attention to the description of the business model and financial performance, leaving aside the uniqueness of the product and the presentation of the team.
Every year up to 2017, the market and the target audience were studied more and more often. That is, the focus is gradually shifting from the description of “who” makes the product, to “how” and “for whom” it is made. There are no stable trends for the remaining sections.
Every pitch deck by the startups in our sample that have gone public by now described three key pieces: the market, the target audience, and the uniqueness of the product. They also paid less attention to the team, competitors, metrics, and solutions than other types of startups.
- According to our sample, the most common category of startups is service delivery.
- More than 2/3 of startups continue to work, technology and analytics companies are the most successful of them.
- The seed round is the most important for the stable development of a startup.
- The average amount of attracted investments of one pitch slide is $477,000 and almost every tenth startup has attracted more than $1 million per slide.
- The number of slides in a pitch deck is highest in the initial rounds.
- Several semantic blocks that were always present in the pitches of startups that IPO’d were absent in the presentations of the least successful companies (i.e., those who shut down). These terms are mentioned in the following point.
- All sample pitch decks of the startups that were listed on the stock exchange described the market, the target audience, and the uniqueness of the product.
How to increase the chances of receiving an investment using this data:
- If a startup can be categorized as technology or analytics, the probability of not shutting down and even going public is significantly higher.
- Make sure your pitch deck contains information about the market, the target audience, and the uniqueness of the product. This is exactly what all those who managed to go public did.
- Each pitch slide can theoretically bring in about half a million dollars or more. Of course, no one can guarantee this. But it means it’s worth spending the extra time to make them just right.
Expert in visual communications, presentations and startup pitch decks