A woman called me the other day to inquire about my service, writing a pitch-deck for a startup. Following our brief conversation, it strucked me how often the word pitch-deck is being used in entrepreneurial community as a magic tool that will make investors fall over backwards to write you a big fat check. Having a Pitchdeck is absolutely no guarantee that anyone will invest in your new endeavor. I think you will find my conversation with this budding entrepreneur both funny and educational.
Phone conversation: inquiry about Pitchdeck writing service
It’s the mid morning in the office and the phone rings, caller ID displaying a name, not the usual telemarketers the and outbound sales representatives. So, I pick up the phone.
She: I am calling to see if you you write pitchdecks, because I need one for my new business?
Me: Of course!
She: Great! can you send me several pitchdecks you have done before so I can take a look at them?
This is very common question potential clients ask, they would like to see consultant’s previous work.
Me: No, they are confidential property of my past clients. You wouldn’t want me to send proprietary information about your business to anyone that inquires me about potential business relationship?
She: How much will it cost to write a pitch-deck?
Another very common question that is hard to answer….
Me: It’s hard to say… depends on how much work needs to be done, if you have one that needs little modification, or do I need to write one from scratch.
She: Just tell me how much will it cost to write one!
Me: Well, it starts at $3k for straight forward business model.
She: OK, so, for $3k, how many pages do I get? How much does it cost per page?
Me: I cannot tell you how many pages will it be, it’s all about telling the compelling investment story about your business.
She: How many pages? What’s the cost per page?
Me: The pitchdeck has the following information: executive summary, market size, addressable market size, competition, product, business model, team, financial projections
She cuts me off: I DON’T need to hear all of that! All I want to know is what’s the cost per one slide of a pitchdeck.
Me: It’s not about the number of slides, it’s about telling a compelling story to the investors why is your business a good financial opportunity and covering all the important aspects of your business. It will take about 30 slides.
She: 30 slides! That’s too much!
Me: It’s really hard to tell the story about a business with dozen slides and make it visually compelling at the same time (i.e. don’t use crowded slides, I use plenty of white space).
She: That’s too long!
How do I respond to someone that is getting very agitated and also someone that clearly does not understand that Pitchdeck is. Silence…
She: Do you watch Shark Tank?
Me: Of course!
She: Well, then you should know that 30 pages is too long! Good bye! Slams the phone.
Me: What just happened?
Lessons learned: what is NOT a pitchdeck
I have to admit that I was relieved that she slammed the phone, because she wasted only 5 minutes of my time and she immediately eliminated my thoughts of actually pursuing her as a client. Nevertheless, this brief conversation tought me that a number of entrepreneurs still do not quite understand what a pitchdeck is and that is the purpose of such document.
- Pitchdeck is not an elevator pitch. Was my caller looking for a 30-seconds elevator pitch? Because the elevator pitch is what viewers see first at Shark Tank, and almost no one comes with PowerPoint slides. However, an elevator pitch is usually an opening slide in a pitchdeck.
- Pitchdeck does not have a fixed number of pages. Although pitchdecks follow well defined format that covers most important aspects of a business, it doesn’t have a fixed number of pages. However, I usually recommend that verbal delivery of a pitchdeck does not last longer than 20 minutes because no one likes to listen to someone present for 45 minutes or longer. Brevity is key that will open a longer conversation. At the same time, it’s challenging to cover all aspects of a business model in 15 minutes: business model, go-to-market strategy, target & addressable market size, competition, competitive advantage, financial projections, management team. From my experience, most entrepreneurs can use consultant’s help to condense their story into a short and compelling pitch.
- Pitchdeck is not an automatic ticket to getting an investor. Raising money from investors is a long and complex process that forces startup founders to build their business and build relationship with potential investors at the same time. Having a pitchdeck document ticks off just one check mark on the lone list of items that investors have when they perform due diligence.
- Pitcheck is not a public document. Each business is different, unique in its own way, so an entrepreneur cannot just take a cookie cutter template, modify it a little and expect results. I understand that business owners want to see the work of professionals before they commit to a service, but everyone should stay clear of consultants who would be happy to send you examples of their work, because they don’t respect client confidentiality agreements. If they send you the work, you can be guaranteed that your proprietary business secrets will be shown to the next potential customers and you certainly do not want that.
- Pitchdeck is not easy to write. Even though there are numerous templates, guides and examples of pitchdecks available on the Internet to help entrepreneurs write their own pitchdeck, the writing process is never easy, linear or complete.