Startup Pitch Decks

A few weeks ago, Alex Iskold of TechStars NYC asked me to talk with the Winter 2017 class about constructing an effective fundraising pitch deck. I jumped at the chance because this is an important topic that often comes up with first time and even repeat entrepreneurs when they’re about to embark on a fundraising process. In my short career as a VC, I’ve reviewed thousands of pitch decks and helped hundreds of founders refine their pitches. Additionally, I’m often approached by founder friends to provide feedback on their slides before they go to market. Given pitch decks are frequently discussed and they’re essential in the fundraising process, I thought it would be useful to create a simple guide to building an effective pitch deck.

Our goal with ‘Startup Pitch Decks’ is simple: to provide founders with a simple framework and reference guide that can be utilized before kicking off a fundraising process or when you’re in the throes of drafting your pitch deck. We dive into a number of topics including the ideal format, a sample build process, tips and tricks, advice from RRE founders, and even things to avoid. We’ve tried to make the guide as comprehensive as possible but realize it’s impossible to include every piece of advice and address every question. As such, we’d love to hear your questions, suggestions and feedback. Our aim is to evolve ‘Startup Pitch Decks’ with your help and input so it gets more useful over time.

All that said, it’s my pleasure to present Startup Pitch Decks. Hope you find it useful, thought provoking and perhaps even inspiring.

(Finally, I’d like to thank my colleagues at RRE — Jason Black, Alice Lloyd George and Cooper Zelnick — for providing feedback and adding some polish to the final product)

Tinybop: Educating Kids In Every Country

Several years ago when I was at Lerer Ventures, Sam Gerstenzang, our summer intern, recommended  that I meet with Raul Gutierrez, Founder CEO of a Brooklyn-based creative studio called Tinybop.  When Sam explained that Tinybop was building educational apps for kids, I was immediately skeptical because I’ve seen hundreds of companies in the space and my identical twin brother founded a children’s media studio, CloudKid.  After some back and forth with Sam, I begrudgingly agreed to meet with Raul but promised that I would keep an open mind. Over the course of the next two years, Raul and I spent countless hours talking about the future of children’s media and his vision for building the next great education brand.  To Raul’s credit, he was able to transform me from a skeptic to a believer.  Despite the space being hyper competitive with thousands of app publishers, I truly believe that Tinybop is the one percent of the one percent.  That’s why I’m incredibly excited and proud to announce that RRE has led Tinybop’s Series A Financing with participation from TwoSigma, KEC, Brooklyn Bridge Ventures and Kapor Capital.  

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Why Saying No Is Hard

Being an investor isn’t easy for a number of reasons. But the hardest part for me is saying “No.” I meet hundreds of entrepreneurs each year, and at RRE Ventures we invest in only a small percentage of them. VC’s generally invest in less than 1% of companies they meet. So if you do the math, you know I have to say “No” a lot.

There are countless reasons why we choose not to back an early stage venture. Market size. Wrong team. Bad timing. Competition. Traction. Lack of monetization. Little or no competitive advantage. Outside our expertise. Valuation. I could go on. 

But regardless of whether I exchange a quick email with a founder or spend hours getting to know him or her, passing is the worst. It’s the only part of my job that I truly hate. And it’s not just because I lose the option to invest down the road. I hate passing because my daily work with entrepreneurs has given me a good look into their struggles…what founders sacrifice daily to ensure that their company is in a better place tomorrow than it is today. It becomes personal, emotional…it's only human to feel for the founders who…

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My Goals for 2014

A mentor once told me that I should always jot down my intentions and goals so I can hold myself accountable and track my progress in life. Despite this sound advice, I’ve never taken the time to write down my personal and professional goals even though I always enjoy discussing them with others during the holiday season.  

With 2014 less than a day away, it’s time to finally buck this trend and put the proverbial pen to paper.  I’m doing it for three reasons.  First, I intend to check this list throughout the year to see how I’m doing relative to what I think is important right now.  Second, if I make my goals public, I’ll likely feel a big sense of failure if I don’t tackle everything I set out to accomplish.  Finally and most importantly, I hope you’ll get to know me better based on the areas I’m focused on and the things I’d like to achieve in 2014. 

Without further ado: 

Life    

  1. Read one book per month: Because reading tech and business blogs alone doesn’t really feed my brain.   
  2. Travel to two new countries: I’ve found the best way to learn about the world is by experiencing it. 
  3. Volunteer twice per month: Adopt a non-profit and contribute on a monthly basis so I can give back and feel good about it. 
  4. Attend two intensive classes: Explore areas of interest such as painting, cooking, and graphic design.  
  5. Spend less time working at home: Throughout 2013 I spent more time at home working than being focused on my life. 
  6. Get rid of clutter and focus on quality: I find the more “stuff” I get rid of the happier I become (e.g. clothes, twitter followers, etc.).
  7. Build a long term financial plan: I’ve been fortunate to save some cash but now I need to devise a long term investment plan. 

Work

  1. Blog monthly: I’ve had a longtime phobia of writing and it is time for me to get over it. 
  2. Take fewer meetings: In 2013 I took thousands of meetings so I’d like to cut that number in half and spend more time thinking, researching and creating. 
  3. Find a coach / mentor: It has been years since I have had a formal mentor and my gut tells me now is the time to find one. 
  4. Help a founder daily: assist a new founder every single day and expect nothing in return.  
  5. Launch a resource for NYC Tech: I’d like to create a new resource for the NYC tech ecosystem (think online community, newsletter, etc.). 
  6. Invest in fewer companies: I plan to be hyper selective in 2014 so I can focus on providing high-touch support to my founders. 
  7. Build RRE brand: I’m going to implement a half dozen ideas to foster community within the RRE portfolio as well the NYC tech ecosystem. 

QUESTION(NY)AIRE With Steve Schlafman At Lerer

New York City’s Silicon Alley has claimed a place among the ranks of top tech-hubs across the country such as Boston, Dallas, Seattle, and of course, its namesake and the “mothership”, Silicon Valley. While each of these start-up communities boasts its own set of advantages, Silicon Alley benefits from New York’s buzz and density people, which, in the past few years, has played into the hands of the social media phenomenon. Yet in many ways, the most important feature of any tech boom-town is the availability of funds.

Enter: the venture capital firm. Steve Schlafman is a principal investor at one of these firms, Lerer Ventures, which focuses on funding companies in the “seed-stage”. That is, Lerer trudges through the weeds of all start-up hopefuls to find entrepreneurs with “product vision, consumer insight, focused execution, and unwavering ambition.” Although he is now in the position of the lender, Steve is no stranger to the experience on the other side of the table. His work experience spans from startups such as Stickybits and Turntable.fm, to more traditional environments such as The Kraft Group and Microsoft.

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