Looking at 320 pitch decks, here’s what science tells us works best • TechCrunch


Investors will spend 24% less time looking at pitch decks in 2022 compared to 2021. On average, you have just under three minutes to convince her to meet you. Indeed for decks fail To raise money, investors give up in just 2 minutes and 13 seconds. That’s not a lot of time to make a first impression, so you need to make it count.

It’s pretty rare that I speak to someone who’s as big a pitch deck nerd as I am, but when I was finally able to nerd with DocSend’s research lead, how could I not? We’ll dive deep into what the data tells us about what makes a pitch deck successful and what doesn’t.

The biggest trend change in how investors view pitch decks is that investors are spending far less time on slides overall, but Where that time spent shifts.

“This year we know that investors are spending less and less time on pitch decks. That’s not exactly surprising: the number of links sent to pitch decks has increased, and time spent on decks remains very low,” said Justin Izzo, research lead for DocSend. “What surprises me is that we know that Deck’s product and business model areas are really where investors like to lean, especially for early-stage companies. But investors have almost halved the time they spent on these pre-seed tier sections. Investors are still scrutinizing these sections closely, but they’re doing so much faster than ever before. So founders really need to think deeply about their business, but communicate briefly.”

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One of the biggest changes is that investors are spending a lot more time on what DocSend describes as the purpose of a startup slide — the “why are you doing this?” part of the story.

“Founders have to think really hard about their business, but communicate briefly,” laughs Izzo, “I like to call it ‘convincing brevity’. It’s not easy, mind you, but it’s what founders should strive for.”

The timing of fundraising varies. This year, 25% of startups launched in less than six weeks; 58% grew up in less than 12 weeks; 70% grew up in less than 18 weeks; 90% raised in less than 24 weeks. Last year the pace was a bit slower. Graphic Credit: DocSend.

The third most viewed section is the “Purpose Purpose” section (after the “Product” and “Business Model” sections), but Izzo points out that this section usually makes up a very small part of the presentation, often just a line or two of slides one or two of the deck.

“Usually it’s one sentence, a pointed and balanced statement of what the company is. We usually see this at the very front of the deck, often on the intro slide. What shocked me when I first started looking at our latest dataset is that it’s been pretty mediocre in terms of view times over the past few years,” says Izzo. “It’s really skyrocketed this year and investors are using this stretch more as a gatekeeper of sorts. They want to know at a glance if this company has a reason to exist before even going through the rest of the deck.”

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That makes a lot of sense; A business purpose statement is often phrased as “Venmo for fundraising” or “Transform customer experience with human-centered AI” or “Issue-tracking SaaS for Physical Product Developers”. These are all real examples from our Pitch Deck Teardown series, by the way. The great thing is that investors can use these statements to see if the investment might be a good fit with their investment thesis. If you don’t invest in SaaS, or if you don’t care about fintech, or if you don’t give a shit about customer support – this becomes a very quick filter to give a “no” to a startup team without the need to dig deep into the product, team or market size.

“It’s about whether founders can convey a vision and specifics, but what their company does, in a compelling way. Because if you can do that, you know you’re captivating investors, you’re showing that thesis is right, and that’s preparing investors to read the rest of their story,” Izzo says. “And you know, doing that in a sentence, a sentence and a half or something, it’s difficult. But we see it becoming so much more important for early-stage founders.”

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Slides in successful versus unsuccessful decks

The DocSend team analyzed 320 decks and looked at what slides were in each. The only foil that was available in 100% of decks, both successful and unsuccessful, was team, but things start to vary a bit from there.

Successful decks. Graphic Credit: DocSend.

The most interesting difference between successful and unsuccessful decks is the lack of slides; I was surprised that only about a quarter of the startup decks had financials (trust me, you really need an operational plan), but I wasn’t surprised that none of the failed decks had financials.

Foils in unsuccessful decks. Graphic Credit: DocSend.

The other big difference is competition slides; All decks should have an overview of the competitive landscape.

“The first thing that is often missing is a competition slide. Founders often don’t think about including it, or when they do, they use it as a not-so-subtle indicator that there’s no competition,” laughs Izzo. “I always tell them to include some sort of analysis of other players in the field, however you define that field.”

The team at DocSend have created a fundraising playbook of sorts and a State of the Union fundraising report that compares the postponements from 2021 to 2022, making for fascinating, in-depth reading to let you know how you look at your fundraising process.



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