Structure and content

The pitch deck

A pitch deck is a presentation which puts forward only the key features of a business proposal such as a start-up, and which can be concisely delivered in a short time. Pitch decks have proven their value in initial contact again and again, because they serve to succinctly and precisely highlight a company’s benchmark data.

The pitch deck – first impressions count

Start-ups in search of capital have to be able to persuade investors about the merits of their idea. However, a good idea is not enough on its own: without a convincing concept, no VC firm, investor or business angel will be moved to invest. After all, most lenders of capital have an inbox full of requests to consider, month after month. These have to be reviewed for market potential, profitability and opportunities for growth, and from there a determination must be made about whether an investment may be promising.
The way to win potential investors over is with a perfect pitch deck. The pitch deck is the first contact, and as such functions like a business card for a start-up. But what should it look like? How should it be structured?

Pitch deck vs. business plan

While a business plan consists of a mostly textual outlining of the idea at hand, the pitch deck enhances that idea with visualisation supported by images.
A pitch deck is a short presentation which includes the critical takeaways from the business plan. It sets out the key features of a proposal in compressed form: the business idea, essential considerations, long-term vision and basic financing requirements. The pitch deck also outlines the planned implementation of the business idea in brief.
Generally, neither a business model canvas nor a business plan are suitable for these requirements. Pitch decks have now become a well-established tool, particularly for generating interest and giving a brief overview during first contact with a provider of capital. The goal is to initiate discussion with a potential investor, and to persuade the prospective finance provider that the business idea has potential and as such that their investment will be profitable.
The pitch deck offers significant advantages for achieving this purpose. It can be flexibly adapted to the recipient. It should be individually tailored to suit the capital provider’s alignment and interests. A pitch deck targeting an investor should be built on different focal points from those in a pitch deck delivered to a manufacturer, or a distributor if the goal is to be sold in stores.

Making an appointment

First, register for free with the Hamburg Business Workshop, create a “Setting up a business” project, and upload your pitch deck in the “Documents” area. You can then make an individual appointment with your personal expert.

Preparation for creating a pitch deck

The pitch deck should always be created with great care, and its design should also be appropriately appealing. You do not get a second chance to make a first impression. It would be a shame for an idea to fall by the wayside simply because insufficient care and individuality was invested in the creation process. Good investors can tell when this is the case.

1. Preliminary considerations

The design should be aligned towards the targeted person. To achieve this, the start-up should begin by considering the following questions:
  • What information does the investor need?
  • What information do I have about the investor (interests, portfolio, alignment)?
It is important to highlight the right elements such as, “What problem am I solving?”, “What advantages does my solution offer?”, or “How great is its potential?”, and to make the business model appealing to the person viewing the pitch deck. The challenge is to achieve this in 10 to 15 slides, even though the person being addressed is unfamiliar with both the idea and the founder.
Before designing the pitch deck, consider who you are addressing it to and consequently what the focal points should be. An investor expects different information from, for example, a retailer you hope to be listed with. Research the investor’s portfolio and preferences in advance, and use this information to adjust your examples appropriately where applicable. Create a separate pitch deck for every investor!

2. Consider story

The most important thing is to construct a story that conveys all the information and the company. Good storytelling is how you can market your founder story. To do so, ensure that the reader is captivated by your story and build up suspense in such a way that the reader understands your idea, as well as the challenges and how you or your team of founders approach and resolve these with various skills.
Tip: Registered users can find a fantastic video on storytelling in our Business Workshop media library.
Choose an impactful tagline that summarises the business idea and the potential in a single sentence. Use the tagline to convey your mission or message, and to inspire enthusiasm, curiosity and the motivation to keep reading.
Enhance your story with compelling content in the form of images, illustrations, videos and infographics to supplement the information. Text alone is not enough. Tell a coherent story, which functions as a thread which runs through your pitch deck from beginning to end.

Pitch deck structure

Components of a successful pitch deck (the sequence can also be varied; what matters is the storytelling):

The title slide

This is where the company name and a unique company logo should be presented. Design the title slide to be eye-catching, so that you win attention right from the outset. This is the “first” visual contact. This slide should also include the impactful tagline that has already been developed, and which expresses the business idea and its potential in a single sentence.
When you adapt the pitch deck for each potential investor, the investor’s name should also appear here. That will give them the sense that this is something which has been created specially for them. In terms of content, the reader should find the name of your start-up, possibly the logo, and the tagline here.

Slide 1 – Set out the problem

What specific problem are you seeking to solve with your idea? Does this problem relate to a particular industry or does it affect general society? If you are looking at a problem which does not yet exist, or one which perhaps no one knows about yet, you could alternatively illustrate the current status quo here. Highlight the current situation; then, vividly and in a comprehensible way, describe the problem as well as its significance and consequences .

Slide 2 – Your solution

Here you should describe the optimal solution that you are offering, how it solves the problem and the advantages it offers. It is important that your solution can be understood by anyone reading your pitch deck, so avoid including too much specialist terminology or technical detail. At the same time, also emphasise how your solution is distinct from other approaches. Avoid clichés and rhetorical flourishes – it’s facts that count!

Slide 3 – The team

A good idea will only work with a first-class team of founders or a great founder in place. This is where you should set out how you and/or your team are precisely the right choice to realise this proposal. State what skills, experience and expertise each individual brings, and the tasks/roles they fulfil. Even if you are founding a company alone, present your characteristics and qualifications in relation to the product in this section. No matter how great the idea, potential providers of capital will only be convinced if they also have confidence in the person or team founding the company.

Slide 4 – A precise description of the product/service

Building on the previously presented solution, the start-up’s product should be set out here. This is most effectively done with images or screenshots of the product. Explain the most important functions in detail and show a prototype or demo using video/images/webpages or software. If there is not yet a product to show, or it does not yet look sufficiently professional, mock-ups may be used here (mock-ups are non-functioning replicas of the product). What you should be presenting here is your vision for the product, not the current stage of development.

Slide 5 – The market

This slide should show the size, market potential and growth, as well as the target group. Illustrate facts and figures with the aid of graphics and analyses. Depending on the market and industry, it may be helpful to demonstrate the entire market potential as well as the specified target market that can initially be reached. Stay realistic and be serious in your estimations, while showing the potential behind your product/service.

Slide 6 – Unique selling point (USP) and competitors

Investors are not so keen to finance product ideas or services that already exist on the market. With this in mind, it is important that you clearly and plausibly spell out your USP and corresponding added value. What makes your product/service unique? What can your product offer better, faster, more appealingly, more easily, at lower cost, or more scalably than the competition? Who are your potential competitors and how are you differentiated from them? It is very rare that your single idea will create a new market; similar products almost always exist. A declaration that “We have no competitors” is almost always inaccurate and implausible! Passion for your own idea must not make you blind to the competition – who is offering the same or alternative solutions, and therefore represents a current or future threat to your business model? Investigate this carefully – including in other industries with similar products/services.

Slide 7 – Proof of concept and milestones

This is where you should set out proof that the business model is feasible. This proof may be in the form of initial sales, your own research, or first users. The priority here is to demonstrate that the product or service has already been proven in practice – and is also practically feasible. This is an important point for many investors. If you do not have any of this available, you could alternatively include initial feedback from discussions with potential customers, or implement a survey within the target group and report on the results of that. You should also set out what the next steps, i.e. milestones, look like. Seek to impress the reader with any successes you have achieved so far, for instance in user behaviour, sales, contracts, awards, positive ratings, prestigious early customers, competitions won, or reports in the media. 

Slide 8 – Business model and forecast

Without a business model, you will not generate any sales. On this slide you should show how you will create a profitable business with your product/service, whether by means of a licensing model, traditional sales, or an affiliate system. Set out how and from what point revenue will be achieved. If you have several ideas for income sources, focus on the essential revenue drivers. Demonstrate the potential, the sales you expect in the next five years, and justify your forecast (relevant key figures: sales, costs, cashflow, for some businesses potentially also manufacturing costs (cost of goods sold, cost of sales), etc.). Use evidence (for example with research or statistics) to show that your estimation is realistic.

Slide 9 – Customer acquisition

This is where you should describe your customer acquisition strategy. Address all the currently used and/or planned sales and marketing channels. It is fine to use keywords such as SEO (Search Engine Optimisation), SEM (Search Engine Marketing), direct sales and telesales here, as investors are generally familiar with the corresponding strategies.
In later financing phases, you should also address key figures such as CAC (Customer Acquisition Cost).

Slide 10 – Call to action (for investors: capital requirement)

Use this slide to directly address the pitch deck recipient with what you would like from them (listing in retail, capital, etc.). As pitch decks are most frequently sent to investors, that is the scenario we have used for this guidance.
A provider of capital has to know how much capital is needed, otherwise they ultimately cannot provide any cash. Specify the exact investment required, what it will be used for and what it is intended to achieve. If you have other investors already on board, they must also be mentioned.

Concluding slide

Last but not least is the concluding slide. Proceedings can be wrapped up with a “call to action” – which should be a defined request. Ask the reader to perform a specific action, such as making contact with you. You should of course also include your contact details here.

Tips on the pitch deck

  • Ensure you use a professional layout and that the slides follow a uniform structure.
  • Meticulously check spelling and grammar.
  • There is no such thing as a universal pitch deck which works for every instance. So be clear at the outset who your pitch deck is aimed at, and what you want from your readers/audience!
  • When setting out the problem and the solution, try to inspire an emotional response from your audience so that you light the spark of your business idea in them!
  • Keep it short and simple! Every aspect that does not count toward the essential core of the concept is distracting and inhibits understanding.
  • Underpin statistics and figures with source information!
  • Additional content that may become important can be included as an annex to your pitch deck. That way you can access it immediately.

Tips for a live pitch

  • Practice the pitch in front of your family and people you know! Giving a good presentation within the specified time is an art.
  • Achieving the greatest impact depends on how you deliver what you have to say! The audience will first notice your facial expression and demeanour – your words will be secondary to those.
  • Make full use of the questions round (questions and answers – “Q&A”) at the end of your presentation! Take note of audience questions and feedback and use these to make improvements.
  • Be ready for the unexpected – a power failure, the wrong adapter, unexpected attendees, a poor atmosphere, etc. All of these things can happen. But not being flustered when they do is real proof of professionalism.
  • Keep in mind how much time you have for your presentation! This will often be five minutes plus a five-minute Q&A. As well as longer pitches such as sales pitches, you may also encounter presentations with much shorter time specifications (30 seconds for an “elevator pitch”, or two or three minutes). Adjust to these, including giving a shorter pitch deck where needed!
Do you have additional questions or do you want feedback on your pitch deck? You are very welcome to get in touch!