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

In 2022, investors spend 24% less time viewing presentations compared to 2021. On average, you have just under three minutes to convince them to meet with you. In fact, for decks it is failure to raise funding, investors submit in just 2 minutes and 13 seconds. It doesn’t take long to make a first impression, so you have to take that into account.

It’s pretty rare that I get to talk to someone who is as big a nerd as I am, but when I finally got to talk to a researcher at DocSend, how could I not? We’ll dive into what the data tells us about what makes a presentation successful and the indicators of what works less well.

The biggest changing trend in how investors view presentations is that investors in general are spending much less time on slides, but where that the time spent varies.

“This year, we know that investors are spending less and less time on presentations. This is not necessarily surprising: the number of links sent to presentation boards has increased, while the time spent on decks remains very low,” explains Justin Izzo, head of research at DocSend. “What surprises me is that we know that the product and business model sections of decks are really where investors like to lean, especially for early-stage companies. But investors almost halved their time spent on these sections at the pre-seed level. Investors are still paying attention to these sections, but doing so at a much faster rate than ever before. Therefore, founders should really think deeply about their business, but communicate briefly.”

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

“Founders have to think really deeply about their business, but keep it short,” laughs Izzo, “I like to call it ‘convincing brevity.’ Mind you, it’s not easy to do, but founders should strive for it.”

Fundraising terms are different. This year, 25% of startups raised less than six weeks; 58% grew in less than 12 weeks; 70% grew in less than 18 weeks; 90% grew in less than 24 weeks. Last year, the pace was slightly lower. Graphic credit: DocSend.

The third-longest viewed section is the Company Purpose section (after the product and business model sections), but Izzo notes that this section is typically only a very small portion of the slides, often just a line or two of text per slide or two logs

“It’s usually one sentence, a sharp and balanced statement of what the company is. We usually see this at the very beginning of the deck, often on the intro slide. When I first started looking at our latest data set, what shocked me was that it was kind of average in terms of watch time over the last couple of years,” says Izzo. “It’s really jumped this year, and investors tend to use that section as kind of a gatekeeper. They want to know at a glance whether this company has a reason to exist before they look at the rest of the deck.”

This makes a lot of sense; a business goal is often phrased as “Venmo for fundraising” or “Transforming the customer experience with human-centric AI” or “SaaS issue tracking for physical product developers.” By the way, these are all real-life examples from our Pitch Deck Teardown series. The great thing is that investors can use these statements to see if an investment could potentially fit their investment thesis. If you don’t invest in SaaS, or if you don’t care about fintech, or if you don’t care about customer support, this becomes a very quick filter that gives the startup team a no without needing to dig deep into the product, team, or market size.

“It’s important if the founders can convey the vision and specifics, but what their company does, in a compelling way. Because if you can do that, you know, you attract investors, you show that this thesis fits, and then it prepares investors, you know, ready to read the rest of their story,” Izzo says. “And you know, doing it in one sentence, a sentence and a half, or something like that is difficult to do. But we’re seeing it become much more important for early-stage founders.”

Slides in successful decks vs. unsuccessful decks

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

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 financial metrics (trust me, you really need an operating plan), but I wasn’t surprised that none of the failed decks had financial metrics.

Slides in failed decks. Graphic credit: DocSend.

Another big difference is the competitive slides; all decks should have an overview of the competitive environment.

“The first thing that is often missing is a competition slide. Founders often don’t think to include 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 analysis of the other players on the field, however you define that field.”

The DocSend team has created a fundraising guide of sorts and a ‘state of the union’ fundraising report comparing the changes from 2021 to 2022, making for a fascinating in-depth read to see how you’re looking at your fundraising process.

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