The most important thing for startups – second only to coming up with a great idea – is attracting investors. That’s why having an effective pitch deck is critical.

But what does an effective pitch deck look like? What slides should you include? And how do you get investors invested in your idea?

There are a lot of opinions on what works, but after helping raise tens of millions of dollars in funding, and hundreds of millions in exits, I’ve found two things necessary to designing a profitable pitch deck: keeping it to 10 slides or less and treating it like you’re telling a story.

Yes, a story. Like everything else with your brand, your pitch deck should be approached like you’re telling a story. A good pitch deck sets the scene for the hero (you and your product or service) to swoop in and save the day. A great pitch deck also makes the investor envision themselves as part of that story.

Today we’re going to tackle what 10 slides every pitch deck needs to create this winning combination.

10 slides every startup pitch deck needs

But before we get into what slides you need, we should address the elephant in the article. I’m not going to talk about your title slide. I don’t consider your title slide as part of the 10 slides. It’s not that impactful. Your title slide should be minimally designed with your company name and product/service name.

Ideally if you’re presenting in person or virtually, this slide is up until you start your presentation. If you’re sending it to an investor, they’re not going to pass over your idea because your title slide took the count to 11. (Trust me.)

Now that that’s out of the way, here are the actual slides your pitch deck must include, starting with the executive summary.

01. The executive summary

Having an executive summary as your first slide is the key to designing a compelling pitch deck. Why? Your first slide sets the stage for the entire presentation – some investors can even tell if they’re interested or not from the first slide of your pitch deck. People remember the first and last thing you say, so it’s important to dive in with the primary message you want to get across.

02. The problem

Companies exist to solve a problem for their customers. The bigger the problem, and the better you are at solving it, the more successful you’ll be. On the flip side, big, drawn out explanations on the problem you solve won’t impress investors. They don’t need to understand every nuance in your pitch, just need a high-level understanding of the problem to decide if they’re interested.

Use your “problem” slide to clearly and concisely state the problem you solve. I like to make this one to two sentences. Once an investor is interested and wants to hear more, then you can go into more detail.

03. The ‘why care’ slide

Most startups skip this slide and go straight from the problem to their solution. Big mistake. You see, once you state the problem the natural question investors have next is “why do I care?”. If you skip answering that, you miss a huge opportunity to make the problem sound profitable.

Investors need to know why they should invest, and if there’s a chance they’re going to recoup their investment. They’re not in the business of solving problems for free.

A great way to approach the “why care” slide is to briefly touch on who the problem affects and explain what’s at stake if the problem is not solved. Make your audience understand the risks (or pain) of not embracing the change your product or service brings. This sets the stage for your solution because the investor will understand how important it is.

04. Why now

After getting your potential investor to care about the problem, your pitch deck must create a sense of urgency to solve the problem now. Remember, investors get pitched every day. If a problem exists today, it will likely still exist in a year – or three years. There needs to be something driving them to take that next step now. Otherwise, they may choose to wait to invest until later. Leaving you without the funding you need.

05. The solution

So far, your pitch deck has done a great job of getting the investor to understand the problem your customers face, why they should care, and that customers need a solution now – not later. The investor is hooked. They’re ready to hear how you’re the hero in this story. They’re ready to hear your solution.

Tell them. In one slide, tell them how your startup’s product or service solves the problem better than anything else on the market. Be the hero in your own 10 slide story.

Kasa pitch deck solution slide

Make sure you explain your solution in terms an uninitiated investor will understand. Not everyone is an expert.

06. Features slide

The next step is to show them the features that make you stand out. I like to do this by making the features slide as visual as possible. Don’t waste space on words you can say.

Videos, mockups, and prototypes do a great job of breaking down your product to highlight key features. If you’re pitching a service, a flow chart or video showing the before and after can be a powerful visual. (Especially if you’re pitching to the end user.)

Whichever way you go – use the features slide to show, not tell your solution.

07. The proof

While they’re swooning over your features, I like to keep them hooked by showing proof your product or service works. That’s when we break out testimonials, case studies, or media buzz. Whatever you have, add it to your deck. The more you have to back up your solution, the more credible you’ll seem.

But remember, we only have one slide for proof. So, your pitch deck should include a single slide that highlights one statement element (e.g., a pull-out quote, an article screenshot, etc.) and uses links to learn more.

08. The take action slide

There’s nothing more awkward than a presentation that leaves your audience unsure what the point was. That’s what you’ll get if you don’t include a slide that tells the investor exactly what you’re looking to get from them. What “action” you want them to take.

Are you looking to sell? Raise funds? Create a partnership? Get an endorsement? Use the “take action” slide to briefly explain your request. A trick I like to use is to create this slide first. This helps you keep the end goal in mind while designing your entire pitch deck.

09. Contact slide

Yes, every startup pitch deck needs a contact slide. Business cards get lost. Emails are forwarded and clipped. PowerPoints are uploaded to the cloud for multiple stakeholders to view. And maybe more surprising, some people still prefer talking business over the phone rather than email.

The point is, everyone who sees your presentation needs to know how to get in touch with you. Make it easy by letting them reach out straight from your pitch deck. Include your name, company name, email address, phone number, and your social media channels. The more ways they can reach out, the more likely they will.

10. Appendix slide(s)

Don’t underestimate the closing power of an appendix slide. The truth is, most investors, like Guy Kawasaki agree, their attention span dips after more than 10 slides. However, investors understand the business of business and may want further information before opening their wallets.

Including things like your go-to-market plan, your executive team, financial projections, or other key metrics in your pitch deck can distract investors during your pitch. But including them at the end of your pitch deck gives the opportunity to dig deeper, if needed.

Make it easy for investors to contact you. The more ways you give them, the more likely it’ll happen.

Kasa pitch deck contact slide

How long should your presentation take?

Speaking of Guy Kawasaki, he has a famous formula for pitch decks called the 10/20/30 rule.

A pitch deck should be no more than 10 slides, take no more than 20 minutes, and contain no font smaller than 30 points.

So, by his theory – your pitch presentation should take no more than 20 minutes. And after doing hundreds of pitch decks for startups and companies, I agree with Guy. 

I can’t state this enough – investors may have a lot of capital, but they don’t have a lot of time. You should respect that by creating a concise presentation that provides all the information needed in minutes. Once hooked, they’ll want to give you more time (and ideally, funding).

Design a profitable startup pitch deck

There’s a lot riding on your pitch deck; don’t just entrust it to your first-year design intern. You need a profitable pitch deck to secure investors. My team and I have helped Silicon Valley companies raise millions of dollars from VC funds and private investors. We specialize in presentation design that infuses energy and excitement.

So, whether you’re seeking funds for your new startup or going into another round of funding – treat it like this is your big chance. You never know who’s going to be at the table. Contact me to design your next high-earning presentation.

Kasa pitch deck business model slide