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The storyline that will get you funded

November 1, 2022
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Written by Nikola Yanev and Roberta Tihomirova. Based on the learnings of the Eleven team.

All pitch decks are the same, you might say. They tell the story of the past, present, and future of your business in a coherent manner with a specific goal in mind – be it to bring you an investment, partner, client. There is one big difference between great and not so great pitch decks though – the second ones have all the right ingredients but facts are scattered around and you make a big effort to piece them together. They do not add up to a good story.

The storyline that will get you funded should make investors wish they are part of it. It is clear, logical, convincing and flows easily. At Eleven we have reviewed a lot of pitch decks over the years and seen both good and bad practises. Here are our learnings summarized in a playbook, hoping they will help you with your stories.

This playbook is about questions. The questions you should ask yourself about your company, product, market, customers, business model. Should you be able to answer them clearly and in a concise manner, you will have your story and make it flow. Good stories always have some mystery around them, some timely and necessary details, and they are never boring. Good luck with yours – building it, presenting it, living it.

This article is intended to support early-stage founders in their pre-seed and seed rounds of financing. Some of the advice might not be as applicable to later-stage entrepreneurs.

Slide 1: Summary 👀

The key here is to provide investors with a summary that will make us want to hear more.

Points to include:

  • The big opportunity: trend + market.
  • Your strong team: main expertise.
  • The technological (or other) advantage: why are you better than the competitors?
  • The traction: why customers are ready for your solution.
  • Seeking X for Y.

Slide 2: Team 👫

Your team is your critical asset. We will be looking at all your stories through the lens of who you are. Tell us how you assembled that team, what is your story? How long has this team been together at this start-up or at previous gigs? What are their current roles and responsibilities? And needless to say, your LinkedIn profiles.

Slide 3: Your company’s purpose 🎯

Here comes the core of your story and the heart of your presentation – everything you present should tie back here.

  • Why do you do what you do?
  • What brought you together and why do you keep going?
  • How did everything start?
  • What is the moonshot that your company is striving for?

Investors care about your purpose, so convince them that you are in this business for the right reasons. You can start from any one of these answers and build your story from there.

Slide 4: The market opportunity and problem 🌎

Usually the problem is discussed in isolation stated alone on a slide. We would like to see it weaved in the presentation, discussed both in the context of the market, as well as in the context of the customers. This is an analytical slide that shows how well you know your playground.

  • What is the problem you are solving in the context of the market?
  • Which is the market for which you are solving a problem?
  • Why did you choose it? Why now?
  • What is the market’s value chain?
  • What are the trends you are riding and why do they help your case?
  • What are the forces that shape the market?

Slide 5: The customer 🤷‍♂️

Here you make your customer the hero and you show that you know them well.

  • Describe your ideal customer – be specific with geography, industry, micro-segment, whatever is applicable. 
  • What are the different use cases of your product and what customer segments are you addressing with each use case?
  • What is your ideal customer’s needs, pains and the jobs he wants to use your product for? What is important for them? How do they measure value?

Make sure you are very specific and narrowly focused in describing your ideal customer. In the B2B context the buyer persona is always more important to you than the user persona.

Slide 6: Value proposition and compelling reason to buy 📢

  • How are you solving the defined problem of your ideal customer? 
  • What is the compelling reason to buy for the different customer segments and buyer/user personas?
  • What are the key value drivers for your customer? Is the value you create quantifiable? What do you promise them you will do?

Slide 7: Value creation - Whole product 📱

Here we are looking to see if there is a product-market fit, or at least do you have an idea how to get there. 

  • Product characteristics.
  • What is the whole product offering (what is needed beyond the core product to deliver the value proposition for your target segments)?
  • Who are the main participants in the defined whole product and what are their roles, what is the value chain (how money flows), and where do you fit in?

Whole Product = Core Product + Key Enablers

Slide 8: Value capture - Business model & Pricing 📈

Business model: 

  • Common mistake: Value Creation <> Value Capture mismatch. Prevents you from “trading in the same currency”.
  • Key question: Does your success scale with the success of your customers? 

Always get back to your customer and what’s in it for them. What is the value chain of your market – how does the money flow between all stakeholders? 

Pricing:

How do you price, package and bill your product?

  • What are the key features that ideal customers need to solve their problem and are willing to pay for?
  • What is the expansion and upsell path? 

Profitability analysis:

  • What is the expected profit margin on each package and customer segment when you consider direct costs such as infrastructure, support, etc.?

Slide 9: Value delivery: GTM ✅

  • What are the distribution channels?
  • How are you going to generate leads for each of those channels?
  • What are the conversion steps for each channel (e.g. from visitor to deal)?
  • How long is the sales cycle and onboarding process?

Slide 10: Competitive landscape and differentiation 🌟

Think about your competition in broader terms – define what business you are in and look for alternatives.

  • Who are the main competitors in each customer segment based on similarity in value proposition, not product only?

  • What is your competitive position, how are you different/better in terms of pricing & licensing, GTM plan, product, or other differentiators?

Slide 11: Market sizing💰

This is where you have to explain how you will get to 30% market share. More on the topic here.  

  • Your market size is heavily dependent on your business model. If you don’t have a business model (yet), you don’t have a defined market opportunity in terms of $$$.
  • You compete for customers on the basis of value proposition, not on the basis of product.
  • Don’t obsess about being a rounding error in someone else’s market – aim to be the dominant player in YOUR market, a market where you are significantly differentiated with your value proposition and its derivatives (product, business model and GTM strategy).

Slide 12: Traction and key learnings 🚀

Show that the business has some life in it – could be your sales funnel, PoCs, clients, users, etc.

Slide 13: Funding needs 💸

Summary of your cash flow and P&L.

  • How much funding do you need?
  • What will you use it for?
  • What are the terms?

Here you can find more information about how to calculate valuation for early-stage startups.

The end. 🙌

All these questions and steps might seem overwhelming at first, but having clarity on them will give you an edge. It will also make your conversations with investors much more fruitful.

Every pitch is a learning opportunity. Dive deeper into the questions above and perfect your storyline.

While speaking of opportunities – if you are running an early-stage startup Eleven Alpha might be a good fit for you.

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