Ultraviolet, at its core, designs products for startups with care & attention to detail and we believe pitch decks should be designed with the same level of focus & precision.
This guide is a tool to focus your vision to present your venture with maximum impact through a perfect pitch deck. This guide will focus your vision, tailor your ideas to the your audience, & get your venture across correctly & effectively.
You’re asking for life-changing partnerships & huge sums of money, it is your responsibility to show you care. A perfect pitch deck is an essential vehicle for first impressions that turn into great pre-seed fundings, series A rounds, & beyond. Most importantly, these pitches can lead to invaluable relationships with great minds and great connections.
Ultraviolet designs pitch decks as a free product of our venture design service. However, we understand that funds can be extremely limited - we’ve been there.
We built this guide for scrappy founders.
While the pitch decks Ultraviolet designs in partnership with strong startups are meant to be next level, this guide has some of the most important attributes we put into every pitch deck we design.
I was once preparing a pitch deck with the head of innovation at the University of Utah Center for Medical Innovation for a new medical device I had the opportunity to help design. The pitch was to investors & alumnus at the University of Utah Health Sciences & Medical School. We refined & revised the pitch to match every word perfectly with slides, all in an attempt to make the presentation seem effortless and confident. I had prided myself on being an avid speaker, I was in toastmasters, I had presented to small teams & large groups of over 100 people on dozens of occasions, but the pitch deck seemed to be a different animal.
We kept making small mistakes here and there, answers to questions were not dialed in, and each presentation had slight inconsistencies. The Director of Innovation said in a mentoring spirit, “no excuses”. This seemingly obvious phrase uncharacteristically stuck with me & I am reminded of it whenever I prepare pitches, whether for myself or the ventures I design for.
Pitch decks are unique. They are, in essence, sales decks. You must be a good salesman. No excuses.
You get one chance to pitch your idea to investors. These pitches can effect not only your chances for funding, but future chances for additional rounds or even new ventures you want funded. It is important to get into the mindset of no excuses.
The best way is to be prepared.
We never assume founders know everything. It's ok not to know everything. If you have no concept of what a pitch deck is, we are here to help. A pitch deck is a presentation given by founders to investors, venture capitalists, limited partners, fund managers, & employees in venture capital firms to "pitch" your ideas & company with a "deck" of slides. Usually, a pitch is given by presentation but it can also be a lunch meeting or a quick zoom call. Whatever opportunity a VC gives you.
Good design starts with good process. A great deck starts with asking yourself the right questions. Where will my pitch be viewed? Who will be handling my pitch? What devices will my pitch be viewed on? What is the most important thing for me to communicate? How can I create excitement for my venture? A good pitch is built in the right architecture. We start with how we choose to get information from our brains to a VC’s brain with the least amount of miscommunication and a great deal of inspiration.
Whatever medium you choose to build your pitch in, be sure to consider how that pitch will be shared, viewed, updated, & even retracted. Often, pitch decks are living slides that can change from quarter to quarter, especially with sharp pivots.
We are fans of using Google slides or other presentation web apps. You can easily update the slides so all parties constantly have the updated version. They are also easy to share & easy to retract in case you want to control where your intellectual property is and what eyes are viewing it. As a startup with IP, it is your responsibility to control who sees your information, and who doesn’t. But make sure you have your presentation downloaded and ready to present without a good internet connection, just in case.
Powerpoint was for your college psychology class, not a tool to pitch. Resist the temptation to use tacky, low grade animations and slide transitions that do not communicate your message, but instead, distract from your vision. Powerpoint is hard to update without dumping 10 versions of your deck into your VC’s inbox. Plus, the beautiful, custom typefaces selected by us designers to create your brand must be packaged before it can be shared. Invariably, everyone forgets to do this and your slides will default to a horrifying mix of bad font choices, sizes, and letter spacing that distracts. Plus, it just increases your file sizes.
In fact, the simpler the presentation the better. We usually default to simple pdf’s. Everyone can view it easily, especially on their phones and it’s easy to share. That being said, never say never. If your team lacks a good designer, powerpoint is viable option. Powerpoint can be an easy default to build your pitch, but a quick export to a pdf will be easier on your VC’s workflow. Absolutely view your deck on multiple devices to ensure a pleasant experience in all mediums and print it out to see how it translates to paper.
Most VC’s have guidelines for what they want so be sure to follow them. Firms will be annoyed if your pitch deck increases their administrative time & interrupts their workflow.
This seems basic, even menial, but this is where details matter. Presenting to a room full of VC’s on 16:9 projector verses a Zoom call screen share at 16:10 ratio on a Mac (3:2 on less common Google & PC’s) will change how your presentation looks and feels. A full-screen presentation without wasted space for black bars feels purposeful and smart.
Your pitch deck must be tailored to the investors you are presenting to. Even if that means changing your entire pitch deck for each and every firm you pitch.
A quick email asking what presentation mode will be preferred is simple, shows attention to detail, and helps prepare your mental model of how your presentation will look.
We like to dial in the timing to perfectly match the time restraints of each VC, however, if the pitch time is a little foggy, you should have your deck distilled to 5-7 minutes. You should be able to easily explain your company, your problem, your solution, your data, and your vision in an energetic six minutes. The rest of the time, usually 30-45 minutes, should be given to discuss your startup. Your timing is an essential part of any good presentation or speech. Good preparation can help iron out nervousness at presentation time.
Pitch presentations should flow and your slides should reflect that. We don’t necessarily put a limit on slides. You could have a deck of 30 slides that moves quickly, includes a lot of images, has short hero statements to get your message home, and slide into the five minute mark easily. If you’re on a slide longer than one or two minutes, we might break it up.
It is good practice to have a few decks at different time lengths like 5 and 10 minutes depending on the model required. We also prepare our startups with refined & quick elevator pitches for impromptu meetings that surprisingly happen more than expected. It’s a good habit to get into.
This is simple but overlooked. The story arc is an incredibly valuable tool that good designers use in their process. Use it to build anticipation and excitement. Don’t be too dramatic. You’re not entertainment but your pitch should be entertaining.
Don’t explain your company, inspire and show your dream. Often, as founders, there is an inherent obsession in what we build. Be sure to show that unobnoxious excitement. Still, a good VC can see through the fluff so be sure to be optimistic but not dishonest or disconnected.
Your deck slides must each be refined and fitted to the words you are using. A pitch deck slide should not contain every word you say, rather it should be a snapshot of the main ideas you are getting across. The right information is essential as your VC’s review your deck as they screen ventures for possible interviews. Your deck must also perform well as it is reviewed at a later time or as it is being shared with investors, LP’s, managers, and other VC’s. There should be enough information to highlight key aspects of your business so as to inform firms and entice them to invite you to pitch. Your information in the deck also should perform well after your pitch to remind investors of what you discussed in the pitch. It’s ok to leave detailed information out. If a VC is interested, there will be plenty of opportunities to explain the details. However, don’t leave information out that a VC needs to know to make an informed decision.
Again, people don’t read the fine print, leave it out. Your initial pitch meeting is to convey your business model, accomplishments, & to see if your venture can provide a valuable return based on acceptable risk they are willing to take.
Deck slides are to be decided by your startup. We choose to design each deck unique to the startup it's for. We never use the same outline. Your deck should be built to follow your story arc. Control the information in a way that builds excitement.
As a guide, we consider the following slides to be required in any pitch deck.
We also consider putting the following in our decks.
The point of your pitch deck is not to be the best looking pitch deck there is. As you are aware, design is not just how something looks, it’s how it performs. While the pitch decks we design here at Ultraviolet are built to look as good as they work, not every startup has these resources, nor do VC’s care completely about having a beautifully kerned pitch deck.
That being said, looking at a beautifully designed presentation can greatly effect perceptions and interest, even with VC’s. In fact, having a good design sense can add value to your venture. To help you, we have included some basic design principles to aid in your design.
Never use grainy or low quality images or logos in any part of your deck. Ever.
Never transform, stretch, squeeze or distort images, logos, or icons. Ever.
Don’t put too much information on one slide.
Animation should contribute to your vision, not be a distraction. If in doubt, leave it out.
Don’t use more than one typeface choice or only use the typefaces designed and outlined in your company brand guidelines (if you have one yet) unless you have taken a typeface masterclass from David Wolske.
Font size should be large enough for eyes in the back of the room.
Stay consistent, use the only two font sizes throughout the whole pitch, one for heading, and one for sub headings.
Don’t crowd the plate. Leave enough white space from the edges and throughout each slide.
We like to leave the first page of our presentation black so we can control when the presentation starts and where we want the VC’s focus to be.
Color should be used sparingly and only to make a point. Colors should always follow your brand. If you don’t have a brand designed yet, use simple colors or stick with black & white.
Every slide of your deck needs to have your company logo and name. Don’t let them forget who you are. Put it in the footer.
Every slide of your deck needs to have a “Confidential and Proprietary. Copyright Ⓒ by [Name of Company]. All Rights Reserved.” text. Put it in the footer next to your logo.
Every company is different, every revenue strategy is different. Your pitch deck is not meant to display your financial records, it is used to give a correct snapshot of where your company is at and where you plan on taking it. Your financials will be under a microscope during due diligence. Rather than explain what financial information to put into your slides, we focus on the right KPI’s to illustrate your growth & vision. A Key Performance Indicator measures your company’s success based on your revenue models. Importantly, KPI’s change from company to company to match their business model.
That being said, consider the following KPI’s in your deck.
Financial data goes as deep as your VC’s want it to. Consider having some of the following data in your deck or on the top of your head. If in doubt, reach out to your VC for the financial data they require in your pitch.
Your KPI’s can be misleading. In fact, you could show good KPI’s and be cash poor and need an investment. It is imperative you understand your financial situation to successfully communicate your need for a VC partnership to take you to the next level.
Honesty is key when discussing your startup. While optimistic and insightful results are always important when pitching, VC’s will end your chances if there is any sign of hyperbole or stretching, especially with financial data. This is always a red flag. Honesty is always the best policy.
Know your numbers. No excuses.
The most important aspect of your pitch is to show what value you have. Your value should be built into an innovative & lucrative business model, incredible or innovative (and protected) IP, market changing ideas, or you can show traction. If your company does not have any of that, you need to pivot.
A good pivot can actually show your team and leadership has value that VC’s want to partner with.
Mike & Jake Adams perfectly illustrated this with their smooth 2020 pivot of their Zoom tool, Grain. Initially, Grain was being built as a comprehensive web tool and video conferencing app to record, transcribe, clip, and share video in real-time. Then Covid-19 hit and the 2020 work from home revolution began with Zoom taking the lead, as we all experienced. Grain’s incredibly apt pivot to build their IP for use in Zoom led to incredibly growth. Grain is even a tool we use.
Their successful pivot created a value spike which no-doubtedly primed them for success & their next series of investments.
A venture capitalist will see your value, or lack thereof. If you have value, show it in your deck. If you don’t, find it and build it.
Good venture capitalist’s not only want high returns for their investments, but also strive to mentor & build people. Be the team that wants to learn & grow.
This is one of our best kept secrets. Good sales pitches control the narrative to the direction they want. Do this with a good final slide.
In your final slide, summarize everything you talked about in your pitch to help keep information flowing as you enter the second stage of information exchange. This slide should not be jam-packed. For example, List your top three KPI’s, revenue, asking price, & other leading financial data. Don’t forget to ask for the funds in the amount you desire and at what valuation. Don’t leave that up to the VC’s to provide unless it is a pre-determined round known by both parties.
Be sure to include your company name, logo, and names of key team members (we strongly recommended pictures of team members next to names) and any other positive information you can lead discussion with.
This slide should look like an end slide and not like another slide in the deck to prevent awkward transitions from end of pitch to beginning of discussions. End your pitch, turn the time over to the VC’s, and transition to your final slide.
Don’t forget to say thank you.
After all you have done to get to this point, be sure to keep a level head. If after all this work, time, & thought energy, you’re not the right fit for a certain VC or firm, it’s OK. Your need for funds does not outweigh your need for unhealthy, unproductive, & uninterested partnerships. While you should fight to show your startup deserves to be funded, sometimes, it just isn’t the right fit. And sometimes, you don’t want to be part of a certain VC’s portfolio, & that’s OK too. Follow your gut.