How to Build a Great Series A Pitch and Deck
by Janelle Tam
A Y-Combinator original article
As YC’s Series A Program Manager, my job is to help YC founders raise their Series As. After spending hundreds of hours working 1:1 with founders to workshop their pitches and decks, I’ve found myself giving the same feedback repeatedly. I’ve decided to compile that feedback into a single post and make it available to any founder looking to put together a great Series A pitch and deck. Every single piece of feedback given here is something we’ve told one of our founders internally.
What’s the purpose of a Series A pitch?
The purpose of a Series A pitch is to show investors why they should invest in your business. It should provide a clear and concise overview of the business you’ve built, and then paint a picture of where that business could go and why raising money will help you get there.
Let’s break this down:
- “Why they should invest” – This is an investor pitch, not a customer pitch. Investors may not have encountered the problem you’re solving, and won’t intuitively understand how your product solves it. That’s why good pitches do 3 key things: they explain the problem your customers face and the impact it has on them, they show how your product solves this need and makes your customer’s life better, and they demonstrate why doing so is a good business.
- “Clear and concise” – Think of investor attention as a limited resource that you need to spend wisely. Making your pitch as simple and straightforward as possible minimizes the time required to understand your business. Investors should be able to glance at each slide and immediately understand the point that is being made. The best pitchers use plain English and avoid jargon as much as possible. Where jargon is necessary, they define each term clearly the first time they use it (and modulate this based on how much domain expertise their audience has.)
- “Overview”: Your goal is not to download everything about your business, but to tantalize investors with enough information to keep them interested. Leave room for questions. A successful pitch lays the groundwork for a subsequent productive, in-depth conversation. Pitches should be 15-20 minutes, with the goal of setting the stage for the subsequent 40-45 minute discussion. On that note, if investors aren’t asking questions or engaging at all, that’s a red flag — it likely means your slides are too complicated for them to understand enough to even be curious about what you’re saying.
- “Of the business you’ve built”: Start by talking about what you’ve already built. Compared to your seed round, it’s harder to raise an A based purely on promise. Investors will want to know what you have to show for the time and money you already had.
- “Paint a picture of where it’s going”: Getting investors to believe your vision starts by showing how your present reality is trending towards it. Once you’ve established that you’ve already built something impressive, then you have the credibility you need to show how it could grow into a massive company. Venture capitalists are looking for outsize returns, so they have to believe your company can get there.
- “Why raising money will help you get there”: The deck should make clear that the obstacle to your growth is actually money (not incompetence, poor product quality, a lack of product-market fit, etc.). The deck should end by making this explicit and showing how you plan to invest that money to get you to the next level.