This post was triggered by another excellent post by Mark Suster (Do you need a PowerPoint deck for a VC meeting? - spoiler: the answer is yes), and a meeting I had today with a client. There is an almost endless amount of different VC pitch settings, each single one requiring a different type of presentation deck (ideally).
Although I have a clear economic interest as a presentation designer to develop the VC pitch presentation of a startup in 10 completely different formats, I won't recommend that approach here. It is however good to be aware of these formats, and in most cases it is relatively simple to adjust your main pitch desk to the context of a specific meeting.
Here we go:
  • The "page down presentation" gets emailed cold to a VC you do not know very well. Hopefully the attached PPT gets opened without you being there to explain and speed read using the PGDN key (probably not in presentation mode, so don't rely on animations). Don't assume that people will bother to read the body of the email (they might after having reached the last page of the deck). Since the reader spends little time on a page, each slide should contain little information (but you can use many slides). The presentation should focus on explaining the basic idea of your startup and the credibility of your team. All other stuff (detailed financials, etc.) can be discussed if you make to the next phase in the VC selection process.
  • The "napkin presentation". You got 15 minutes one-on-one with a VC. Take print outs of a few key slides with you. In a one-on-one you do not need a slide for every topic. The napkins come in handy when you want to explain ideas that require lots of facts. A big map with all competing technologies or competitors on a page, showing how you are different, is one example. There is no use for fluff such as a page with mission statements in this type of presentation.
  • The "phone deck". You find yourself taking someone on the other side of the Atlantic, probably without the help of a remote screen sharing tool such as Go2Meeting or Dimdim. Here the slides should be reasonably dense (you can't ask someone to change the page every 2 seconds) and very organized. Let's talk about the problem, let's talk about the technology, let's talk about the management team, etc. Chances are that your audience is flicking back and forth through the deck while you are talking, and watching the occasional email coming in during the call.
  • The "standup presentation" is needed when you find yourself presenting in a room facing the (entire) partner group. It is the classical deck that should be organized to address all standard issues of a pitch presentation. As per Mark's post, sometimes you don't need it, but the deck is always there to fall back on. Be prepared to deviate from the slide order as questions are fired at you.
  • The "due diligence appendix". This is a large deck with lots of slides with lots of information to be read and digested carefully, probably without a presenter present. Market data, financial data, competitor data, etc. You don't need to invest heavily in the design of the slides, just make sure that the format is more or less consistent, and if you can, don't leave in numbers with a precision of 4 digits after the dot directly from your Excel sheet without rounding them.
Did I forget to mention one? Let me know.