The complete guide to pitching investors

The art of pitching to investors is a fundamental skill to master for any startup founder. Many founders only learn how to build fundraising decks and deliver pitches when they start raising money. But there’s a better way. This guide’s aim is to help founders craft a story — their startup story — that gets a term sheet offer. Whether you’re a first-time founder or raising Series B and beyond, level up your fundraising strategy with our tried-and-true pitch plots, example decks from successful entrepreneurs, and presentation templates.

How to pitch your business idea to investors

How to get started on your business pitch

The road to securing investment begins with your pitch. And the key to a successful pitch is a stellar pitch deck that clearly conveys:

  • Your business idea
  • The market opportunity
  • Your startup’s business model
  • Why your team is the best one to execute
  • The company’s track record

Preparing your pitch deck before contacting venture capitalists and angel investors is key to telling a compelling story for your business. It’s also an exercise that will clarify your fundraising strategy. This chapter will help you distill your message and show you how to craft a pitch for your stage of fundraising, whether it’s pre-seed or Series C.

In this guide, you’ll learn what a successful pitch deck should include, and you’ll discover real-life examples of decks that have stood out to investors — and secured investment. Created with insights from industry leaders on both sides of the investment table, this playbook serves as a founder’s go-to resource for a great pitch deck. 

“Start pitching your business (idea) early to find out what makes people want to learn more — or stop listening. That’s how you’ll develop a story that gets people’s attention.”

Lucia Payo Molina, CTO and Co-founder

The benefits of investing time into clarifying your business idea, your company’s story, your team’s traction, and the market potential extends beyond just impressing investors. Your succinct and accessible business pitch won’t just win over VCs — it’ll also convince other key stakeholders, like business partners, your startup’s early hires, and even potential customers. 

“The best pitch decks are concise, clear, and tell a compelling story.”

David Ongchoco, Co-founder

There isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution to fundraising. Pitch decks need to be tailored to the company’s stage, industry, and target audience. This introductory chapter summarizes experiences from successful founders, as well as tips from investors who’ve outlined the key ideas they’re looking for.

1. Know why you’re raising investment capital

Before we dive into the specifics of building a pitch deck, let’s look at why investment capital may be a strategic next step for your business. Why are you looking for angel or venture capital investment, and why now? 

Most likely, your goal is to achieve rapid business growth. Entrepreneurs normally need access to capital to grow the team, whether it's for product development or customer acquisition. But keep in mind that venture capital is just one way to raise money. For example, companies can bootstrap, take out a loan, receive institutional funding, and even crowdfund an investment round

Before you start working on your slides, you’ll need to have a concrete product roadmap and go-to-market strategy to justify the amount you’re raising from investors. You’ll also need to be able to show how investment will fuel growth and, ultimately, business value.

2. Understand the fundraising landscape

While venture funding in 2021 broke records across the board, 2022 has seen a sharp market downturn. The economic downturn means that with investors becoming more selective about their investment portfolios. These tough conditions will also forge resilient startups with efficient operations, sound scenario planning, and strong business models. Honing a business pitch that highlights the discipline investors are looking for today will help startups continue to secure funding in the coming years.

“Understand which investors focus on your sector and your company stage. It’s important to align your pitch with each investor’s investment thesis.”

Yoko Spirig, Co-founder and CEO

In addition to the financials, investors are also creating new funds to target specific communities, such as female founders, Black founders, and LGBTQ founders. This guide features voices from founders in underrepresented groups as well as from venture capital firms intent on diversifying their portfolios. Startups can — and should — choose which investors they approach for funding. Focusing on the ones that are relevant to your business and aligned with your vision will set your company up for success long after you close your round.

3. Answer three essential questions to start your pitch

Once you’ve confirmed that raising venture capital is the best route for powering your startup’s growth, it’s time to focus on crafting a pitch that resonates with investors.

“Starting with the ‘why’ lets you build the business case for your product. This creates a logical narrative for investors to follow.”

Yoko Spirig, Co-founder and CEO

As you begin to assemble your slides, ask yourself these basic questions:

  1. Who is your investor audience?
  2. Why are you interested in working with that particular investor?
  3. Why should this investor fund your business? 
“The most important questions to address in a pitch deck are the market opportunity and vision: Why this approach? How does it differentiate from competitors? Why this team?”

Mark Kraynak, Founding Partner

When sharing your business idea, be careful not to take an investor’s interest for granted. Your pitch deck needs to help an investor make sense of the market’s size and your product’s unique potential. Instead of overwhelming your audience with a deep dive into your business plan, focus on clear, relatable storytelling. Introduce the pain points your customers face, outline how your product solves their problems, and explain why users are willing to pay for that. In a few slides, you should be able to clearly illustrate to investors:

  • Who your customers are 
  • What their problem is
  • How your product solves their problem
  • Why this target market has value potential

Many pitch decks are too long. So remember, brevity is your friend. To start, you can look through over 90 pitch decks in our Female-Founded Startups collection to see how others tell succinct stories that answer essential investor questions.

Early-stage startups

If you’re raising pre-seed to Series A funding, your deck should focus more on your founders’ stories, evidence of your potential customers’ pain points, and your team’s unique skill sets. Showing traction where possible, such as early user growth or a first client contract, will convince investors your product has revenue potential. 

Growth-stage startups

If you’re raising later stage funding, you’ll need to demonstrate consistent growth. At this stage, investors are looking at key metrics and traction. They want to know how a leadership team is thinking about the company’s position in the market, approaching learnings from the last year to plan for the coming years, and envisioning their product and GTM evolution to accelerate revenue.

Provide evidence and accurate business data

After you’ve put together a solid story outline for your presentation, it’s time to support it with data. This is where you’ll need to get input from your co-founders or wider leadership team. Specifically, that might mean obtaining revenue information (actual and projected) from your CFO, your go-to-market strategy from your CMO, and input from your CTO or CPO about product roadmap and strategy. 

“Narrow down your points to emphasize the key messages and KPIs in your pitch deck.”

Lucia Payo Molina, CTO and Co-founder

Make sure you have evidence for each aspect of your business, from financials to product differentiation. For example, concretely demonstrate how your product stands out from competitors. Share relevant user behavior data, and explain how it informs your product development and vision. Lay out revenue metrics and MRR or ARR milestones if you’re on track to reaching them.

“In the early stage, it’s important to showcase your strengths and your product. If you're in the growth stage, you need to prove you can scale up to meet demand — so be sure to have a financial plan!”

Sebastian Janus, CEO and Founder

While investors expect business and financial projections to be bullish, make sure your information remains grounded so you can back your projections. If you’re already executing a go-to-market (GTM) strategy, build Google Analytics or ChartMogul integrations directly into your main slide deck so you can use the latest numbers. You can find out more about data integrations in our later chapter that walks you through developing a pitch deck outline.

Create pitches for every occasion with a source deck

Fundraising is a full-time job. It’s crucial to stay organized and have the right materials in hand as you go from meeting to meeting. Start by creating a single, polished source deck that can be customized to convince every new investor. 

Ideally, the source deck serves as a presentation aid and works as a stand-alone file that tells your company story when shared. 

“Know if the deck you’re building is going to be read-only or have a voice-over. You want to tailor your deck based on the format.”

David Ongchoco, Co-founder

If you don’t have an in-house designer on the team, you can get started with one of Pitch’s free, professionally designed templates. Companies with in-house designers can create a slide template that ensures everyone using the deck stays on-brand. Having a template and main source deck makes it easy to create consistent versions of your pitch deck. 

However, founders are no longer limited to sharing static PDF slides. With Pitch, you can share a pre-recorded version of your pitch using video recordings and share a custom link with each investor.

With a collaborative presentation tool like Pitch, you can create a tailored deck for each investor you pitch to and save all your pitch decks in a dedicated folder. After your presentation, you can also share that specific deck with a link to allow an investor to review the slides and leave comments. This will also enable you to keep track of how an investor is interacting with your deck.

Tighten your story

Every presentation begins and ends with a good story. After you’ve put together your slides and added your essential data, team information, and growth strategy, it’s time to take a step back. As you put the finishing touches on your deck, check whether your story seems exciting and easy to follow — and share your deck with friends and family for an outside view.

If you need inspiration, check out the slide deck Pitch used to raise $85 million for our Series B round. We kept the story simple with clean visuals that convey the market potential for the problem Pitch is solving: creating and distributing presentations. The short set of slides illustrates how Pitch works and its unique value in the world. Finally, the story concludes by showing which customers and investors have already joined the Pitch journey. 

As you finalize your pitch deck, think about how you can simplify your story. Move your supporting slides, such as those that do a deep dive into your marketing strategy or revenue model, into the appendix section for reference. Distill your slides — and your message — until you have a crystal-clear elevator pitch that anyone could follow.

Present with the KISS method

Once you have polished slides, it’s time to go out and pitch. The key to success is practice — and more practice. Spend as much time on your script as you have on your slides. Practice in front of your team, friends, and family before your first call with an investor. 

“Start by writing your key messages as slide headers — one key message per slide. Pitch your idea to friends and VCs, and iterate with their feedback.”

Lucia Payo Molina, CTO and Co-founder

To focus on your business idea, use the KISS method to keep things simple. Choose words that are easy to pronounce when you explain your product. And use slides that are either static or embed videos directly, so that you can keep your presentation flow straightforward and avoid technical issues. Today, many investors invite entrepreneurs to do a first pitch over a video call, so familiarize yourself with video call shortcuts to give your audience a smooth viewer experience. 

“The best decks aren’t too long; they’re just long enough to explain the ‘how’ of the technology or product. And their design is simple to reflect a focus on substance.”

Mark Kraynak, Founding Partner

Remember that it’s not necessary to answer every question in the first meeting. Your initial pitch to investors is about instilling confidence in your team and your business potential. Good investors will do their due diligence. Focus on selling your business idea so that investors will want to continue the conversation after your first presentation. 

Get a head start on your fundraising

The key to a convincing pitch is a coherent story, backed by data, told in a clear and authentic voice. Throughout this guide, we’ll offer more detailed tips from founders with various backgrounds. You’ll discover different perspectives on strategies that can work for your business irrespective of funding stage, industry, or the background of your founding team.

“Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your pitch is a critical component of your fundraising. Consult great startups and experts to help you craft a convincing narrative.”

Sebastian Janus, CEO and Founder

To maximize your chances of having a successful pitch, start conversations early. While you should formally begin pitching to investors after your slides are polished, getting to know your audience — and even recruiting mentors — before you start to fundraise will set you up for success. The more feedback you can get early on, the better.

“Confidence is key for fundraising, and getting tested early on means you’ll be better prepared to face tough questions in the future!”

Yoko Spirig, Co-founder and CEO

Founders may also access diaspora networks or specific interest groups. Don’t be shy about asking for introductions. Building relationships can help young businesses navigate investment culture and close the fundraising round sooner. Essentially, you’re always pitching!

If you haven’t already, sign up for your free Pitch account and get started on your pitch deck with one of our templates!

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