Editor’s Note: This is the second part of a two-part interview featuring Christoph Janz. In the first installment, Janz outlined a smart hiring strategy for founders going after Series A or B.
As a partner at Point Nine Capital, a VC firm based in Berlin that invests all across Europe, Christoph Janz has seen his share of pitch decks, both good and bad. And, because his firm maintains a strong focus on early-stage companies in two specific sectors – SaaS and online marketplaces – he has developed a particular eye for what works well for these kinds of businesses. Because of his specialized experience, Janz has some tactical, actionable advice to to help early-stage founders create a winning pitch deck that will help them get to their Series A or B round.
Make sure your deck is well articulated and self explanatory.
While Janz typically recommends a more-or-less typical deck format that answers the standard questions about product, market, competition, team, and so forth, he emphasizes that a winning pitch deck must be well done in terms of messaging and terminology. It must be polished, well designed, and able to stand on its own merits. “If I look at a pitch deck on my own, without the benefit of additional context that might be provided in a conversation or presentation, it needs to first catch my interest and then do a really good job of articulating the problem,” says Janz. “From there, it needs to make a convincing argument that the company has a great solution to that problem.”
Use your data, but make sure it’s understandable.
“There are a lot of basics for a founder to keep in mind, such as estimated market size,” says Janz. “But in addition to sharing that information, you need to be sure the people you’re pitching can understand how you’ve calculated your figures. What data source did you use? Did you use a bottom-up calculation, or is it a number from some kind of research firm?”
In other words, details matter. “We see decks all the time in which there are charts without axes descriptions and market-size numbers without any cited sources,” says Janz. “That just means we have to ask for additional details, and that causes delays and makes the process more difficult.”
The same goes for companies that have already launched and want to incorporate metrics in their decks. “If a company already has some metrics to share, those numbers should be part of the pitch deck,” says Janz. “But it’s important that the right metrics are shown and that they are easily understandable. Focus on the right numbers and present them so outsiders can understand them.”
While he recommends using data to tell your story, Janz also warns against putting too many numbers in the actual deck. “When you pitch for a series A or a series B, you need to have a lot more data as backup for your pitch deck,” he explains. “You probably don’t want to include all of the data in the deck, but you need to have it ready so you can answer the questions you’ll get once someone has expressed interest. It’s a wise move for founders to prepare all their numbers and data points beforehand because it will allow them to preempt ninety percent of the due diligence questions and ensure that the process goes so much more smoothly.”
Focus on the story, not the showmanship.
Though it may surprise some, Janz and his team don’t put a lot of emphasis on the actual presentation of a pitch deck. “It’s not super important to us,” he says. “We work a little differently than the typical model in which the CEO or founding team present to the VC partnership. That scenario is quite rare in our case. We usually have a series of conversations with the founders rather than a formal presentation.” So, for Janz, it’s less about presentation skills than it is about how smart the pitching team is and how well they understand their market.
As Michael Wolfe of Point Nine Capital explains in this blog post, there is no one formula for a pitch deck, but there is a lot of advice that can be applied to many companies. “Take the time to build a great pitch deck,“ Wolfe writes. “Not only will it help you raise money, but it will help crystallize your strategy and plans, will help get your team on the same page, will give you content you can use to recruit new team members, and will serve as a foundation for future fundraising.”