There were thousands of pitch decks, but only a few winners. With an avalanche of businesses and visions of greatness starting every year, this is the math of the VC market right now. Because VCs are inundated with pitches, it is vital to create the right deck and connect with a reader in the short seconds you have their attention. So, how can you create a deck that cannot overlook? To find a solution, we gathered a team of three great venture capitalists on the Extra Crunch stage at TechCrunch Disrupt 2021, who have collectively read more decks than any group of people, should ever asked to. Mar Hershenson is the founder and managing partner of Pear VC, Mercedes Bent is a Lightspeed partner, and Saba Karim is the head of TechStars’ global startup pipeline.
In our debate, we examined how deep tech startups should think about presentations, what’s happening with pitches as the world goes toward a hybrid in-person and virtual pitch model, and how each panelist analyzes decks — and what it means for entrepreneurs who don’t want to be ignored.
At the start of the panel, we went right to the point: how does it feel to read pitch decks in 2021? There is always more under the sun for Hershenson:
The number of pitches we receive skyrocket and continues to climb at an exponential rate, in my opinion. We need to improve our efficiency in sorting and reading through these decks. The individual deck’s reading has not altered, but the pace and volume greatly increased.
Bent stated that the quality of the decks she reads has improved. In terms of design, the decks are getting better and better. More and more people, I believe, are realizing that the visual representation of your deck is just as essential as the substance and data inside. An investor glances at your deck for a few moments and virtually makes a hasty decision about whether it is even worth looking at. Unfortunately, this is not how things should be, but we are all human. Therefore, I am seeing decks that are quite polished, and I am not sure where everyone gets these fantastic visuals, but they are incredible.
The majority of pitch decks are based on templates, which introduces a critical trade-off: How much should you rely on a template vs being “unique,” but possibly more difficult to read? Karim pointed out that being unique might occasionally pay off:
The finest pitch deck I have ever received in a new format was from a firm that just accepted into TechStars – it was a podcast version of their pitch deck with my face on it. “Hey, Saba, here’s my pitch,” it stated as I went into Apple Podcasts. That was incredible! However, because I have seen it before, the second or third time it happens, it might not be as remarkable.
VCs can focus on what makes each firm distinctive, according to Hershenson, if entrepreneurs stick to the usual models.
It is critical for us to have the pitch in a manner that allows us to ingest it quickly. There are several designs available online, and we all know what should be included in a deck. Therefore, as a founder, your goal is to hit those in a 10- to the 15-slide deck and perform the hard work of distilling your business in a concise way. I believe you may be unique, yet being unique can sometimes work against you.
I can tell you about my personal experience. When we initially started fundraising for Pear, we decided to do something different: we would deliver decks to LPs using Prezi. In addition, it was a complete blunder, because it is almost as if they are asking, “What did they just send me?” The emergence of Notion as a method of fundraising has been one of the most intriguing trends to emerge in the previous year. Our panel’s responses were hushed. The notion, according to Hershenson, is not a justification for not being concise.