Here you are: an optimistic entrepreneur with a grand vision, grit, and real hunger to turn your idea into reality. Early customers are happy with the product. Bravo. You’ve lined up a few potential co-founders (or not), and they’re confident that this idea will scale. Excellent.
But there’s just one minor hurdle: You’ll need $2 million to get there.
Four years ago, when I set out to start Swing Education with my friends, I had the same burning question that all eager entrepreneurs have — how do you convince investors that you’re actually worth the millions of dollars that you’re asking for?
It all starts with a pitch deck.
For Swing, this meant 14 slides (way too many!), three enthusiastic high-school friends turned co-founders, and to be honest, a little bit of luck. Now, having raised $23 million in venture capital across three rounds of financing, and with over 50 hires under our belt, I’m happy to recommend some key elements for building your first investor pitch deck.
Start with a Big Number
Start with an attention-grabbing number that tells a larger story. Of course, you’ll need to have a slide that highlights your company name, logo, and maybe even a tagline that defines your mission and values. But an attention grabber sets the right tone for your pitch. For us, the slide simply showed $4.6 billion (yes, billion not million): the amount of money that schools were spending each year to find and secure substitute teachers. Do we have your attention?
In essence, the problem slide explains why your business needs to exist. Some refer to it as an “opportunity” or a “pain point.” No matter what you decide to call it, your pitch must define the problem your business intends to solve. For Swing, we decided to focus on three specific problems: the labor-intensive process that schools had to go through to find any subs, the lack of a robust sub talent pipeline, and the inability to focus on the quality of talent.
After depicting a well-defined problem that must be solved, the solution slide re-introduces your company as the hero of the day. Use this slide as an opportunity to elaborate on your product’s unique strengths and competitive edge. On our slide, we emphasized our ability to introduce an easy-to-use, tech-enabled solution to supply vetted and highly qualified substitute teachers for schools.
Your Go-To-Market Strategy
Your go-to-market strategy should outline the steps that you’ll implement to make your business scale exponentially. Most venture capitalists are only looking to invest in startups that have the potential to grow very quickly, so your strategy must reflect your plan to scale aggressively. For Swing, we highlighted the fact that the substitute teacher shortage was not unique to the Bay Area — there were a number of promising markets where we could expand.
All Important Financials
The objective here is to provide investors with simple forecasts, including the number of hires you will need to deliver what you promised in the previous slides (your go-to-market strategy). Although your slide may be simple, make sure you’re prepared to answer specific questions about the amount of money you need to raise and how you’re going to spend that money. For example, we discussed the number of regions we planned to expand into within the next 18 months, and the first eight hires we needed to start the process.
Of course, hitting a home run with your first pitch deck is just one piece of the successful startup puzzle, and I look forward to sharing more about our growth at Swing Education soon. If there’s anything you want to hear about, please find me on @edumiketeng or firstname.lastname@example.org!