Decks Posts

Don’t try to cram cogent arguments into the slides of your deck. Keep the slides simple, visual, and minimal. Put cogent arguments, talking points, and prose in the notes that accompany each slide.

How? Check out Dan Cook’s Laws of Productivity (pdf) for a great example:

(If you don’t see the embed above, see The Laws of Productivity on Scribd.)

You now have a deck that you can send in emails or present in person. An investor can read the slides and notes and imagine a presentation. And you can present the slides while you refer to the notes. Bon Appetit.

Here are the latest great comments from our readers—please keep ‘em coming!

rob_serious.pngRob Lord, founder of Songbird (Sequoia Capital), has some ideas for VC Wear t-shirts:

“Mo’ money, mo’ board seats.
409a a-okay!
“Some of my best friends are EIRs.
Venture debt is a non-starter.”

829918_a630614298.jpgJonathan Boutelle, founder of SlideShare, suggests using SlideShare to share decks privately:

“One safe way to share a PowerPoint deck with potential investors: upload it to SlideShare as private. Share it only with the investor. After 48 hours (or whenever they’ve had time to check out the presentation) simply remove it from slideshare.

“You could also share via a “secret” URL: but that URL could potentially be forwarded to other parties so it’s not a good way to share files with people you don’t trust (which seems to be the challenge we’re speaking of here). Still, you could take the file down after 48 hours, and this approach wouldn’t require the other party to have a login on slideshare. So it might be the more practical option.”

headshot_nabeel_hyatt.jpg Nabeel Hyatt, founder of Conduit Labs (Charles River Ventures), says you shouldn’t send your deck to investors:

“Not worth it. Not because your deck has some amazing information, it probably is pretty high level and isn’t as unique as you wish it was, but because it kills the point of the presentation. What if Steve Jobs posted his Keynote presentation the day before Macworld and then gave his presentation the next day — how much harder would it be for him to get any sense of drama, intrigue, and frankly keep people awake?

“You should send them *something* to entice their interest, but whatever it is, expect it to be widely circulated, and think of it as just a teaser to get the meeting. You should be the main event, not your PDF.”

ted_rheingold.jpg Ted Rheingold, founder of Dogster (Michael Parekh), has some ideas for protecting your deck:

“Don’t forget to convert it to PDF or another read-only format to avoid any funny stuff once it has left your hands.

“And make sure the date is the day or month you sent it, as it then stands as a point-in-time snapshot which is likely out-of-date by the next quarter (in case the slides end up floating around inboxes month later)

“I like the idea of posting the recipients name on each page so it’s clear who leaked it if they do want to pass along.

“I also thinking striping out any slides you think reveal too much is a good compromise. (Ask a trusted person to be the judge of what is too revealing, company founders tend to over value their own IP)”

wsgrwebpicthumbnail.jpgYokum Taku, a partner at Wilson Sonsini, disagrees with us on capping legal fees:

“The statement “Most caps include the fees for both sides” is not accurate. Term sheets typically only say that the company will pay reasonable legal fees of investors’ counsel, capped at $X. (I also disagree with $10K – $20K as a reasonable cap to propose with straight face for investor counsel.) Of course, you can try to discuss a fee cap with company counsel, but almost all competent counsel will not agree to a cap. However, most experienced counsel can provide estimates based on actual data from previous similar transactions. Companies often have neglected corporate cleanup that needs to be fixed in connection with a financing (similar to not going to the dentist for years and paying the price later). In addition, there are always things that occur in financings that are difficult to predict (such as arguments among founders). Finally, capping company counsel fees is a disincentive to provide services after the cap is exceeded.”

dsc_0001.JPG Farbood Nivi, founder of Grockit (Benchmark Capital), thinks raising a good chunk of money is not a bad thing:

“There is an argument that says too much money can cause one to take the foot off the gas.

“I can’t say it’s a false statement. I can say it doesn’t make sense to me or apply in Grockit’s situation. Raising the Series A we did, as opposed to a few hundred K seed round, has given us an engine with a lot more horsepower. That knowledge, if anything, should keep your foot feeling like lead. That said, keep in mind, a more powerful car requires more adept steering, braking and maintenance.

“Money well spent buys time (far more precious than money), quality (translate: scalability and user satisfaction), people (translate: your company), access, resources. Do you need any of these?

“Money is to a business what oxygen is to a human…

“All founders are desperate. The question is what for.

“I would rather be able to pursue my desperate need to create the ass-kickinest app I can over my desperate need to generate revenue for it.

“Money allows you to reduce revenue based desperation and replace it with product building desperation.”

Like we says, keep the comments coming—we’ll highlight the best ones in the next ‘comment’ post.

“I know plenty of VCs that behave the way I do and plenty that don’t.”

Brad Feld, on keeping decks to himself

Summary: A deck can help you get a meeting but it can also get in the hands of the competition. Whether you send a deck depends on who wants the meeting most. If you want the meeting more than they do, provide what they want. If they want the meeting more than you do, provide what you want. Finally, keep your secrets secret.

In What should I send investors?, we suggested sending investors a deck that describes your business plan. A reader subsequently emailed us and asked:

“Do I really want my business plan floating out there in venture land? What if it gets to my competitors? Is it safe to send my deck to investors?”

First, focus on executing your idea so you can make it public instead of focusing on how to keep it private. Second…

There are pros and cons to sending a deck.

We can’t tell you whether you should send a deck. At times, we have sent decks and, at other times, we have avoided sending decks. There is no right answer but there are pros and cons that you can consider as you make your decision.

The pro is it might help you get a meeting.

The first con is it can lower the effectiveness of your electronic pitch. Sometimes less is more. If you’ve got a great elevator pitch and introduction, do you need to send a relatively long document filled with arguments that are better delivered in person?

The second con is…

Your deck can get in the hands of the competition.

In Spice Girls VC, Rich Skrenta writes:

“So one day a few years ago I’m sitting in a VC’s office having a chat. I had a few ideas rattling around in my head but the VC had his eyes on a then-current space which was hot. He tossed a business plan for one of the leading startups into my lap.

“Where’d you get this?” I asked.

“They gave it to me.”

“He went on to talk about how he wanted to launch a company into the space as well…”

Your deck probably won’t get in the hands of the competition, but you should assume it will.

An investor’s handwritten notes can also get in the hands of the competition. And if an “evil” investor cares enough about your company to email your deck to the competition, he cares enough about your company to schedule a meeting and take notes.

Send a deck if you want the meeting more than they do.

Whether you send a deck depends on who wants the meeting most. Use this simple test:

If you want the meeting more than they do, provide what they want.

If they want the meeting more than you do, provide what you want.

It all comes down to who has the most leverage—that’s it. And leverage comes from traction. Traction speaks louder than plans.

preacher.png

Keep confidential things confidential.

If you do send a deck, keep confidential things to yourself. In What should I send investors?, we wrote:

“Write “Proprietary and Confidential. Please do not distribute. Prepared for Blue Shirt Capital,” on the cover of your deck (some companies write it on every page). Investors are less likely to forward it if their name is on it. And ask any recipients, in writing, via email, to kindly not distribute the deck outside their firm.

“And if you must keep something absolutely confidential, don’t email it to investors and don’t mention it in person. Investors often look at several similar companies at once. Your plans probably won’t get to your competitors, but you should assume they will.”

Finally, you might want to try the private sharing feature on SlideShare. Please leave a comment if you do, we haven’t tried it yet.

Related: Are Watermarks on Presentations Useful?

Summary: Don’t send long business plans to investors. Don’t ask for NDAs. Don’t share information that must remain confidential. Understand that investors care about traction over everything else.

Hola! If you like this article, check out our free e-book on Pitching.

In Parts 1 and 2 of ‘What should I send investors?’, we covered the elevator pitch and deck. In this article, we present a few dos and don’ts of sending collateral to investors.

Don’t send a business plan.

“Nothing slows down a VC as much as a comprehensive business plan.”

David Cowan, Bessemer Venture Partners

Don’t send a 50-page business plan to investors. Nobody reads them and nobody executes them. Investors who want a long plan look bad—so do companies that generate them.

The milestones slide of your deck summarizes the company’s plan for the next 1-3 quarters. Document your detailed plans on a napkin, wiki, spreadsheet, deck, to-do list, or whatever. Share it with investors sometime around your second meeting and make sure they generally agree with your plan.

But don’t send investors a 50-page sales pitch that you call a business plan—an elevator pitch and deck are sufficient. You don’t need an executive summary either—an elevator pitch and deck are sufficient.

Don’t ask for an NDA.

“Because of the large number of business plans… that we review, and the similarity of many such plans… we cannot accept responsibility for protecting against misuse or disclosure of any confidential or proprietary information…”

Sequoia Capital

Getting an NDA from professional investors is almost impossible. It can happen (like a rainbow!), but you shouldn’t bother.

Investors don’t sign NDAs because they don’t want to get sued over them. Competing companies tend to get started at the same time because the market timing is right. Investors don’t want you to sue them if they fund your competitor—so they don’t sign NDAs. Read Why Most VC’s Don’t Sign NDAs by Brad Feld to learn more.

Asking for an NDA creates a barrier to getting funded—aren’t there enough barriers already? And this barrier is insurmountable: your request will be declined or, worse, ignored because you haven’t done your homework.

Accept the fact that your elevator pitch and deck will contain information that you don’t want printed on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Fortunately, they won’t get that far.

Write “Proprietary and Confidential. Please do not distribute. Prepared for Blue Shirt Capital,” on the cover of your deck (some folks write it on every page). They’re less likely to forward it if their name is on it. And ask any recipients, in writing, via email, to kindly not distribute the deck outside their firm.

And if you must keep something absolutely confidential, don’t email it to investors and don’t mention it in person. Investors often look at several similar companies at once. Your plans probably won’t get to your competitors, but you should assume they will.

Traction rules. #

“Do whatever is required to get to product/market fit. Including changing out people, rewriting your product, moving into a different market, telling customers no when you don’t want to, telling customers yes when you don’t want to, raising that fourth round of highly dilutive venture capital—whatever is required.”

Marc Andreessen

Whether they’re reading an elevator pitch or listening to a presentation, investors care most about actual traction in a seemingly large market.

If you have incredible traction in what seems to be a large market, you can raise money no matter what the product and team look like—although a good product and team will improve your terms.

If you don’t have incredible traction but the market seems large, your product and team are both critical to raising money.

If the market doesn’t seem large to them, investors won’t care about your product or your team.

Traction is demonstrated profit, revenue, customers, pilot customers, or users (in order of importance), and their rates of change, and the rates of change of the rates of change, and the rates of change of…

Read The only thing that matters by Marc Andreessen to learn more. Also see Brendan Baker’s post on traction.

Got a question for us?

Send your questions to ask@venturehacks.com. We read every question and answer the most interesting ones here!

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“PowerPoint plans greatly increase your chance of getting a term sheet, or at least the dignity of a quick no.”

David Cowan, Bessemer Venture Partners

Summary: An introduction and elevator pitch are critical to getting a meeting. You can also provide a “ten-slide” deck that tells a compelling story about your team, product, traction, and plans.

Bonjour!: If you like this article, check out our free e-book on Pitching.

A PowerPoint plan (“deck”) is less important than an elevator pitch, and an elevator pitch is less important than an introduction. Read What should I send investors? Part 1: Elevator Pitch for tips on crafting an elevator pitch. Many investors will just skim a deck and take a meeting if the introduction and elevator pitch are good.

But you can still send a deck. A deck lets investors learn more about your company. It demonstrates that you’ve thought about the company in detail. It’s an industry norm. And you need one for presentations anyway.

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Include a “ten-slide” deck with your elevator pitch.

The best deck template in the universe is David Cowan‘s How To Not Write A Business Plan—use it. There are other templates from excellent sources on the Web, but this is the best.

Read David Cowan’s article and apply these headings and minor changes:

  1. Cover.
  2. Mission.
  3. Summary. Summarize the key, compelling facts of the company. You can steal the content from your elevator pitch.
  4. Team. Highlight the past accomplishments of the team; if your team has been successful before, investors may believe it will be successful again. Don’t include positions you intend to fill—save that for the Milestones slide. Put yourself last: it seems humble and lets you tell a story about how your career has led to the discovery of the…
  5. Problem.
  6. Solution. Include a demo such as a screencast, a link to working software, or pictures. God help you if you have nothing to show.
  7. Technology.
  8. Marketing. Include market size estimates here or in the Problem. If you haven’t launched, discuss your plan to acquire users or customers.
  9. Sales. If you don’t have sales, discuss your business model and prospective customers. Ignore the cost of customer acquisition unless you have some insight into the issue.
  10. Competition. Describe why users or customers use your product instead of the competition’s product. Describe any competitive advantages that remain after the competition decides to copy you exactly.
  11. Milestones. Don’t build a detailed financial model if you don’t have past earnings, a significant financial history, or insight into the issue. Instead, include your current status and milestones for the next 1-3 quarters for product, team, marketing, sales, and quarterly and cumulative burn.
  12. Conclusion. This slide can be inspirational, a larger vision of what the company could do if these current plans are realized, or a rehash of the Summary slide.
  13. Financing. Dates, amounts, and sources of money raised. How much money are you raising in this round?

These slides tell a story.

This sequence of slides tells a story:

We have a mission and a team that is taking us there. Why? We discovered a large problem and solved it with a product that has this amazing technology inside. We’re going to market and sell it to these customers, with these advantages over our competitors. In particular, we’re working towards these milestones over the next few quarters. In conclusion, this financing is a great investment opportunity.

The product isn’t revealed until the fifth slide of this methodical sequence—that’s annoying. Fortunately, the elevator pitch and Summary slide kill the suspense by summarizing your company and product before an investor jumps into the deck.

Put pictures in the slides and text in the notes.

Keep the slides simple, visual, and minimal, with 30 point or larger font. The slides will look great when you present; see Gates, Jobs, & the Zen aesthetic. (We’ll cover presentations in a future article, this article is about the deck you send investors.)

Put talking points, reasoning, and prose in the notes that accompany each slide. Don’t try to cram cogent arguments into bullet points on the slides; see The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint.

Email a PDF that combines each slide and its notes on a single page; slide on top, notes on bottom. Please don’t email a PowerPoint file unless your deck contains critical animations or movies.

You now have a single file for emails and live presentations. An investor can read the slides and notes together and imagine a presentation. And you can present the slides while you refer to the notes.

Finally, try Keynote if you’re on a Mac. It makes beautiful decks and it’s fun to use.

Business plans, NDAs, and Traction.

Read What should I send investors? Part 3 for suggestions on sending business plans, asking for NDAs, and what investors care about most.

Got a question for us?

Send your questions to ask@venturehacks.com. We read every question and answer the most interesting ones here!

Self-Promotion: If you like this article, check out our e-book on Pitching.

Image Source: kimcm.dk.