Ask @StartupCFO: how do I make my pitch stand out to investors?

Photo courtesy Jeffery Beardall

The blogosphere is littered with posts on how to prepare an investor pitch. Many VC firms have even posted their preferred format. As an example, here is Sequoia’s:


Imagine if you’re a VC hearing three pitches a day, five days per week. That’s over 700 pitches per year! If every one followed the same format, you’d tune out.

Yes, having the same format allows you to check off the boxes and screen. But I think there’s room for more here.

The best pitches, and the best investment opportunities, are based on a clear, simple insight about a market opportunity. An insight that will seem obvious in retrospect.

So, rather than just mindlessly following the proposed format, the best pitches tell a story about that insight. A story about a future that only this management team sees. A future that they are uniquely positioned to go after.

I have seen a trend in recent years, to bring design elements into pitch decks. In the same way that UX and UI have taken on a bigger role in company success, UX is making its way into pitch decks.

It makes sense. If you’re raising many millions of dollars, why not invest in making a kick ass deck? Extending that logic, why not take the time to craft a unique story and tell that story in your own unique way? Why just follow the same format everyone else does?

One of our clients is raising a second round right now. Their deck is among the best I have ever seen (in almost two decades of fundraising). It doesn’t follow the format, and that’s a good thing.

Two caveats if you go off script and tell your story in your own unique way.:

    Regardless of HOW you tell your story, it must touch in the same elements that an investor needs to look at in all pitches (vision, opportunity, problem and solution, market size, team, business model, etc).

    I strongly encourage CEOs to not send decks in advance. Send a teaser if you must. But make your pitch a performance. Control the message. It’s hard to do that if the investor has the full thing in advance.

Syndicated with permission from Mark MacLeod’s StartupCFO blog.

Photo courtesy Jeffery Beardall


Mark MacLeod

Since 1999, Mark MacLeod has been helping fund, grow and exit venture-backed startups. Mark has over 14 years of experience as a CFO for leading companies such as FreshBooks, Shopify, Tungle, and many others. In addition, Mark spent three years as a General Partner for Real Ventures. Mark now runs SurePath Capital Partners the leading investment bank advising the SMB software and commerce markets.

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