Startup Studio: The Pitch Deck



Interested investors don’t look at pitch decks for very long—just an average of 3 minutes and 44 seconds.

A pitch deck is a compilation of text and images that illustrate a venture’s story and business model. Pitch decks do three things: get people to understand, get people interested, and get people to take action. Entrepreneurs use pitch decks to raise money, build partnerships, sell products and services, and recruit employees. Pitch decks are one of the most powerful tools in an early-stage entrepreneur’s toolbox. They represent everything that is valuable about the startup including the vision, the team, the core elements of the business model, insights into consumers and perspective of the industry that the venture plans to disrupt.

I have recently served as a judge for the Wharton Business Plan competition, Columbia Business Plan Competition and the Cornell Big Idea Competition. Most business-plan competitions require the same building blocks for a pitch deck. Here’s the format I prefer and the version I teach as part of my Entrepreneurship class at Columbia University:

  1. The Hook I refer to it as the “wow” statement. Get their attention early (see two-sentence pitch)
  2. Opportunity – What problem is the venture trying to solve
  3. Solution – Product or service description
  4. Market – Size of market and target customer segments
  5. Competition – Overview of competitive landscape and what sets you apart
  6. Business Model – Costs, revenue and path to profitability
  7. Go to Market Strategy (marketing plan, sales, customer acquisition, plan to scale, fundraising)
  8. Management Team – Placed either near the beginning or near the end
  9. Status & Milestones – Current status, accomplishments and upcoming milestones

A pitch deck also represents the company and is often the first formal document that a prospective investor, partner, customer or employee will see. Take the time and effort to make it smart, concise and the story compelling. Pitch decks can be easily revised and customized to your audience.



Reprinted by permission.

Image credit: CC by Web Summit

About the author: Grant Son

Grant Son built a previous startup into top 10 sports website that was acquired by ESPN.  He is currently the CEO of Greater Good Ventures, providing venture services to early stage ventures, large corporations and Ivy League Universities.  Grant also teches Entrepreneurship at Columbia University and Sports Marketing at Columbia Business School.  He serves as a Mentor and Entrepreneur in Residence at Cornell, Columbia, Wharton, and Johns Hopkins.  Grant also recently served as judge for business plan competitions at Columbia, Wharton and Cornell.  

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