You have a great story to tell. Your technology is truly unique and can make a huge difference. All you need is the cash to turn it into reality. You know it, your co-founders know it, your family and friends know it. But what about potential investors?
It’s up to you to help them see your vision. Take your time and put together a compelling pitch deck that will tell your story WELL!
So what does that mean? Follow this template that’s been battle-tested by biotech and medtech startups and take your time to track down any information you’re missing. If you’re winging it, investors can tell. And since you’re only going to get one chance to get an investor’s attention, make it count.
The Magic Recipe
There are two key elements to a pitch deck. Most presentations overdo one and pay little to no attention to the other. The element that’s overdone? Data. Decks are loaded to the hilt with data, figures, statistics, numbers, and more numbers. Don’t get me wrong, they’re all needed. But there is a time and a place for them. And we’ll talk about where and when that is. What’s often ignored? Emotion. Now, you might be thinking, but Sandy, these are cold-blooded investors I’m talking to, emotion does not weigh much into their decision making. Well, I respectfully disagree. Unless your investor is a cyborg, emotion plays a big role in their decision making. And there is a growing amount of research that has demonstrated how we make “emotional” decisions with our subconscious mind and then look for the data to justify them.
Here is another key point to remember: emotions and data don’t mix very well. So if you’re using a slide to evoke emotion, don’t throw in a bunch of numbers for good measure. Keep them separate and let them do their magic.
Lead with Emotion
You really only get one chance to grab your investors’ attention. And that’s at the start. So don’t waste your chance with a bunch of market data or details about your technology. Don’t fake it either. Why are you doing what you’re doing? Do you have a personal story to share that’s the reason you’re here? Are you compelled to develop this technology because of the problem it will solve? What kind of emotion are you hoping to evoke with your investors?
Put some thought into this because it matters more than you think. “I have reviewed hundreds if not thousands of pitch decks, searching for the perfect company to invest in. Initially, I always look for a well-constructed pitch deck that tells a compelling story in a way that leaves me with no choice but to ask for a meeting to learn more,” shares Terri Hanson Mead, Angel Investor and Managing Partner at Solutions2Projects, LLC.
Let’s jump ahead into the future. The deck is done. You feel good about it. It tells your story. Does it? Nope, it doesn’t. YOU need to tell your story. No matter how well-crafted your pitch deck is, the delivery can make it or break it. We’re not going to cover this topic here but I’ve shared my top 7 tips in another blog, Presenting Scientific Data: How to Keep Your Audience Awake.
Now having covered some of the basics, let’s dive into the template.
Let’s assume you’re using PowerPoint. But the same concepts apply to any other presentation application, Google Slides, Prezi, etc. Make sure you have a template design for your company and brand. It does not need to be fancy. In fact, the fancier it is, the more it might detract from the content. A white background with black font and some colorful design elements along the border works best. Add your logo, number your slides (if you’d like), and don’t use “Confidential Information” unless you actually have a signed NDA with whoever you’re presenting the deck to. In the sections below, you will see slides that may contain confidential information. If you do not have an NDA in place, do not share this information. Make sure you consult your legal counsel on what you should and shouldn’t share.
Let me be blunt: nobody is going to fund you because of your awesome template and logo designs. They are supporting actors to your protagonist, your story.
This title slide has all the basic info: your logo, company name, and maybe the presenter’s name and title. You can stand out and deliver key information to your investors by adding your vision or mission statement right on the title slide. A great vision or mission statement should allude to the industry you’re in and what your solution might provide which helps investors calibrate and get in the relevant frame of mind right off the bat. An awesome tagline is also a great addition to the title slide. If you don’t know the difference between vision and mission statements, how to craft them, and how to develop a company tagline, send me a note and I will provide you with some helpful links.
What’s the current state? What problem are you trying to solve? THIS is the slide where you evoke emotion. How can you help investors relate to how painful the problem is? Visuals are best. If you can demonstrate the problem with an image or an illustration, that’d be best. Use few words and avoid numbers and statistics. If you’re using a stock photo, take your time searching for the right one and be strategic about your choice.
The title of this slide can also be used to name the problem. For example, “There is no cure for Alzheimer’s. Memory fades away and health deteriorates.” If the problem you’re solving is well-known, this might be the only slide you need to introduce it. And by well-known problems I mean conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. If your technology addresses a rare disease or some other less known condition, you’ll need another slide here to describe it in more detail. This second slide needs to describe the condition, its impact, its prevalence, current therapies, and unmet needs (how current therapies are falling short). This is not a numbers slide either. We will cover the market opportunity data later. This slide still aims to paint the grim picture of how existing therapies are falling short and to describe the suffering patients experience.
It’s now time for the big reveal. Introducing… your technology! This very first slide about your technology needs to generate excitement, and NOT include every single technical detail about your solution. So keep it high level and make sure my grandma could have followed along. You’ve never met my grandma? That’s ok; suffice it to say, she wasn’t a scientist, engineer, or medical doctor. Point is, avoid jargon, don’t use acronyms or abbreviations, and focus on what your technology can do for patients.
Avery Sonnenberg, Principal at Two Bear Capital, recommends emphasizing the impact of your solution: “What does the world get if you’re successful? This is best communicated as a “before and after” comparison. One mistake I see is too much focus on a new solution or technology – the “after” – without fully describing existing approaches, inadequate as they may be. The most exciting ideas are those that clearly address an unmet need. The difference between the status quo and your proposal is a measure of your impact on the world and the value of your solution.”
This is the “show me” slide. What preliminary data do you have that show your solution works? Show off what you have in a couple of slides, which means you only show the most important results you have as concisely as possible.
And MOST importantly, please spell it out for your audience. They’re not in your head, and your data is not as obvious as you think. Put the conclusions on the slide and don’t expect your investors to figure them out on their own by looking at your beautiful data figures.
Your Company and Traction
Include all the basics:
- When the company was launched
- How many employees you have
- Where you’re headquartered and where you have facilities/labs
- Facilities details if applicable (e.g., GMP lab, square footage if impressive, specialty equipment, etc.)
- Business successes to date (e.g., # of patents, grants, awards, customers, revenue, major collaborators, etc.)
- Funding raised to date.
On this slide, you can also repeat your vision or mission statement and show your company values, if applicable. Include a great visual about your company, maybe a photo of your lab or the building you’re housed in. If you have team members in those photos, that’s even better.
If your business successes to date are significant, consider including a separate Traction slide in your deck. “The traction slide should discuss any proof of concept, pilots, paying customers, letters of intent, pre-orders, partnerships, etc. Many companies tend to shift their focus to forecast on their traction slide. I look at tens of companies weekly, and I have yet to see a company that has shown poor projections in their deck. Therefore, I don’t care to see the projections. I want to see the actual traction, even if it’s very limited,” advises Elena Gantvarg, Principal at Flint Capital.
Every investor wants to know who’s behind the company. Include high quality photos of each team member and their key qualifications and accomplishments. Remember, it’s not a resume, but just their title doesn’t say much either. If you have a large team, focus on key team members. That doesn’t necessarily mean that key team members are the management team. You may want to highlight a key technical person, for example, with a special skill set or background. If your team is very small, you can include advisors or key collaborators on the same slide. Otherwise, dedicate a slide to your advisors, key collaborators, board members, and key investors, if applicable.
The Market Opportunity
This is probably one of the hardest slides to put together. Partly because the data available is always somewhat limited and partly because investor expectations about this slide vary wildly.
So what’s one to do? First, do your research. Create a spreadsheet where you capture all your data and do your analysis. Only a subset of information you capture in the spreadsheet will make it onto the market opportunity slide, and that’s ok. You want to have the full picture in detail for when investors ask for a deeper dive. The pitch deck is just a teaser to stir interest. During due diligence you’ll be asked for a lot more details about the market opportunity, and you need to be prepared and not scramble at the last minute. Ok, so here are a few pieces of information you should put together.
There are essentially two main methods of sizing your market opportunity: a top-down and a bottoms-up approach. Top down is where most people start and, unfortunately, stop. However, investors often prefer the bottoms up approach or would like to see both, so take the time to put the numbers together. “I am much less interested in seeing the top-down market size numbers. They don’t provide any information about the market that can be addressed by the company, especially when there are big players in the market like Amazon, Google, and others,” shared Elena Gantvarg, Principal at Flint Capital.
Your spreadsheet should include all your references and, very importantly, all your assumptions. You will be testing these assumptions over time and make adjustments as needed, so this is very much a live document.
The market opportunity slide needs to include your TAM, SAM, and SOM, your expected market share (in year 1 as well as down the road), and your revenue projections (typically, 3 or 5 years). Remember, realistic, well-substantiated numbers trump impressive numbers that are a long shot and based on wishful thinking.
You may firmly believe that what you’re developing is unique without any competition. However, investors know that there is always competition. In this slide, you need to demonstrate that you have done your competitive landscape research.
Competition may come in different flavors: nearly identical products or services (why are you doing this again?!?), similar products or services that miss certain capabilities you offer, alternative products or services that do not meet the market needs, or nothing. Nothing is also competition. If people have been getting along with doing nothing, you will need to overcome this inertia and convince them to do something, which is not trivial. This can be a significant barrier to market entry that investors are going to focus on and will want to find out how you will overcome.
A side-by-side table showing your product or service along with your top competitors often works well. In this comparison table, focus on features and benefits your customers care about, not just what your offering is better at. If you’re only focusing on a couple of factors, an x-y graph may work well. Develop a visual that gives investors at a quick glance a solid understanding of how crowded the competitive landscape is and how you compare.
You may also want to separate out well-established from upcoming competitors that are still in early stages. This segmentation will show investors that you have been diligent in your competitor analysis and that you are keeping an eye on emerging competitors.
Your Value Proposition
Let’s start with what your value proposition is not. It is not your product’s features. It’s not even a long list of all the benefits your product or service provides. It’s all about what your customers will get for what they pay you, that they -hopefully- cannot get anywhere else. So if you have a unique differentiated advantage over your competition, this is where you want to highlight it and scream it from the top of the mountain. Please note that I did not say a unique feature of your product or service. It is a unique advantage for your customers. Which means that this particular benefit solves an unmet need or a key customer pain point.
So structure your value proposition clearly around this advantage customers can’t get anywhere else very prominently on your value proposition slide, and then you can also list some other key benefits that you think are important. If this list starts getting to more than 3-5 other benefits, it’s has now become a laundry list that will not impress and may not even be read.
If you want more tips on how to build your value proposition, check out my blog article on the topic.
Your Technology and Product Roadmap
While investors will evaluate and invest in what you currently have brewing and are either selling or getting ready to sell, they also want to see that you have a vision for your company and healthy technology and product pipelines.
First, let’s clarify the difference between a technology and a product pipeline, or roadmap as it’s often called. You might be more familiar with a product roadmap that is essentially the types of products you are planning on launching at a given date. The way you display this plan may vary but typically you show the name of the product and/or a brief description of what the product or service is about (especially if you don’t have a name for it yet), what stage in development it currently is (idea stage, prototyping, testing, in clinical trials, etc.), and when it is expected to launch.
The products (or services) may be continuation or expanded capabilities of the first product or completely different products. There are pros and cons either way you go. If your whole roadmap is just expanded capabilities, you may be perceived as a one-trick-pony type of company that lacks significant growth and revenue opportunities. If you show a wide breadth of very different products on your roadmap, investors might get concerned that you will spread your company (and their investment) too thin and not get anywhere. There is no right or wrong answer here. Your vision is your vision. How you communicate it though matters so think about that and get feedback from your advisors, so it comes across well balanced.
Your technology roadmap is different than your product roadmap but the two are often tied closely together, especially in startups and small companies. New product development sometimes entails the implementation of new technology that has not yet been developed and/or tested in that particular application or use case. That’s where a technology roadmap comes in. It works in parallel to the product roadmap where you allocate some R&D time to developing the technology so that by the time the new product development project is kicked off, that technology has been derisked and will not become a roadblock and major delay. So technology development projects lead new product development, enable ground breaking features and benefits, and mitigate risks. Technology roadmaps most likely contain confidential information so be careful about what you share and consult your intellectual property counsel.
Showing both your technology and product roadmaps to investors indicate that you have a vision for growing your company and mitigating risk.
Your Go to Market Strategy
You’ve told a beautiful story so far of what your company is all about and what you could do. And you’ve now reached the point of needing to share how you will do it. That’s your go to market plan. The contents of this slide will vary depending on the type of product or service offering, what you have already accomplished, and what remains to be done. But in its essence, you need to share how you will actually make money. Who will sell your product, to whom, when, for how much, how much profit you will make, how you will market to your target customers, etc. It may also include outstanding items before you are ready to sell, for example getting regulatory approval, partnering with a manufacturer, etc.
This slide demonstrates to investors that you have thought this all the way through and have a plan for how you will make money.
Now that you have shared your full story, it is time for your ask. What do you need to make it all happen? This slide may need to be customized depending on the individual or group of investors you are presenting to. Be transparent about the total investment that will be required all the way to revenue, even if you are raising an early round such as pre-seed, seed, or Series A. Investors want to see the whole picture and where they might fit in. If you have already raised some money in the round, share the details (if you can). If you are looking for a lead investor, let them know.
Don’t be coy in your ask slide. Be clear, honest, and transparent. Because it’s the right thing to do and because you want your investors to do the same with you.
Highlight the amount of investment you are looking for, the timing, the type of company involvement you expect (board seat?), the terms of the investment opportunity, potential investor exit strategies, and details about how you will use the investment funds. Be specific here. Using the funds for new product development is probably too generic. Hire a mechanical engineer, pay a CRO to run a phase I clinical trial, etc. are much more specific asks.
Whew! You’ve made it to the last slide. Include your contact information but don’t stop there. Reinforce what you’ve been talking about. Repeat your vision or mission statement, emphasize your company tagline, or have some other compelling call to action.
Your main pitch deck should not be more than 10-15 slides. Which means that you have a lot more you would like to share that won’t fit. That’s what the appendix is for!
Here are a few examples of information that can reside in your appendix slides:
- References, especially if you have a lot of them that don’t fit well in the main deck.
- In depth data slides about any of the slides you’ve presented (preliminary data, market opportunity, competition details, revenue projections, product cost/pricing, etc.).
- Information that will help you answer an investor’s question. Anticipate questions and be prepared with specific slides that demonstrate that you’re not making up answers on the spot.
- Financial details.
- Confidential information that you only show if you have an NDA in place.
- Videos. You may avoid using videos in the main deck (to reduce file size, technical difficulties, presentation time) but can have them in the appendix and use them as needed.
If you think I could be of help, reach out at info(at)accessbiomedsolutions.com. I’d love to hear about what you’re working on!